Light has an important role in modulating seedling growth and flowering time. We show that allelic variation at the PHYTOCHROME C (PHYC) photoreceptor locus affects both traits in natural populations of A. thaliana. Two functionally distinct PHYC haplotype groups are distributed in a latitudinal cline dependent on FRIGIDA, a locus that together with FLOWERING LOCUS C explains a large portion of the variation in A. thaliana flowering time. In a genome-wide scan for association of 65 loci with latitude, there was an excess of significant P values, indicative of population structure. Nevertheless, PHYC was the most strongly associated locus across 163 strains, suggesting that PHYC alleles are under diversifying selection in A. thaliana. Our work, together with previous findings, suggests that photoreceptor genes are major agents of natural variation in plant flowering and growth response.