The photoperiodic sensitivity 5 (se5) mutant of rice, a short-day plant, has a very early flowering phenotype and is completely deficient in photoperiodic response. We have cloned the SE5 gene by candidate cloning and demonstrated that it encodes a putative heme oxygenase. Lack of responses of coleoptile elongation by light pulses and photoreversible phytochromes in crude extracts of se5 indicate that SE5 may function in phytochrome chromophore biosynthesis. Ectopic expression of SE5 cDNA by the CaMV 35S promoter restored the photoperiodic response in the se5 mutant. Our results indicate that phytochromes confer the photoperiodic control of flowering in rice. Comparison of se5 with hy1, a counterpart mutant of Arabidopsis, suggests distinct roles of phytochromes in the photoperiodic control of flowering in these two species.