Screening species-rich communities for the variation in functional raits along environmental gradients may help understanding the abiotic drivers of plant performance in a mechanistic way. We investigated tree leaf trait variation along an elevation gradient (1000–3000 m) in highly diverse neotropical montane forests to test the hypothesis that elevational trait change reflects a trend toward more conservative resource use strategies at higher elevations, with interspecific trait variation decreasing and trait integration increasing due to environmental filtering. Analysis of trait variance partitioning across the 52 tree species revealed for most traits a dominant influence of phylogeny, except for SLA, leaf thickness and foliar Ca, where elevation was most influential. The community-level means of SLA, foliar N and Ca, and foliar N/P ratio decreased with elevation, while leaf thickness and toughness increased. The contribution of intraspecific variation was substantial at the community level in most traits, yet smaller than the interspecific component. Both within-species and between-species trait variation did not change systematically with elevation. High phylogenetic diversity, together with small-scale edaphic heterogeneity, cause large interspecific leaf trait variation in these hyper-diverse Andean forests. Trait network analysis revealed increasing leaf trait integration with elevation, suggesting stronger environmental filtering at colder and nutrient-poorer sites.