Using time series measurements of velocity, carbon dioxide and water vapour concentration, and temperature collected just above a 15 m tall even-aged pine forest, we quantify the role of organized motion on scalar and momentum transport within the nocturnal canopy sublayer (CSL). We propose a framework in which the nocturnal CSL has two end-members, both dominated by organised motion. These end-members represent fully developed turbulent flows at near-neutral or slightly stable stratification and no turbulence for very stable stratification. Our analysis suggests that ramps dominate scalar transport for near-neutral and slightly stable conditions, while linear canopy waves dominate the flow dynamics for very stable conditions. For intermediate stability, the turbulence is highly damped and often dominated by fine scale motions. Co-spectral analysis suggests that ramps are the most efficient net scalar mass-transporting agent while linear canopy waves contribute little to net scalar transport between the canopy and atmosphere for averaging intervals that include complete wave cycles. However, canopy waves significantly contribute to the spectral properties of the scalar time series. Ramps are the most frequently occurring organised motion in the nocturnal CSL for this site. Numerous night-time runs, however, resided between these two end-members. Our analysis suggests that when radiative perturbations are sufficient large (>20 W m−2 in net radiation), the flow can switch from being highly damped fine-scale turbulence to being organized with ramp-like properties. We also found that when ramps are already the dominant eddy motion in the nocturnal CSL, radiative perturbations have a minor impact on scalar transport. Finally, in agreement with previous studies, we found that ramps and canopy waves have comparable length scales of about 30–60 metres. Consequences to night-time flux averaging are also discussed.