Species from productive and unproductive habitats differ inherently in their relative growth rate (RGR) and a wide range of correlated quantitative traits. We investigated the genetic basis of this trait complex, and specifically assessed whether it is under the control of just one or a few genes that can act as 'master switches` by simultaneously affecting a range of traits in the complex. To address this problem, we crossed two Hordeum spontaneum lines originating from two habitats that differ in productivity. The F-3 offspring, in which parental alleles are present in different combinations due to recombination and segregation, was analysed for RGR and its underlying components ( leaf area ratio, unit leaf rate, photosynthesis, respiration), as well as a number of other physiological and morphological parameters. For this intra-specific comparison, we found a complex of positively and negatively correlated traits, which was quite similar to what is generally observed across species. A quantitative trait loci (QTL) analysis showed three major and one minor QTL for RGR. Most other variables of the growth-trait complex showed fewer QTLs that were typically scattered over various locations on the genome. Thus, at least in H. spontaneum, we found no evidence for regulation of the trait complex by one or two master switches.