Plant cells perceive forces that arise from the environment and from the biophysics of plant growth. These forces provide meaningful cues that can affect the development of the plant. Seedlings of Arabidopsis thaliana were used to examine the cytoplasmic tensile character of cells that have been implicated in the gravitropic response. Laser-trapping technology revealed that the starch-containing statoliths of the central columella cells in root caps are held loosely within the cytoplasm. In contrast, the peripheral cells have starch granules that are relatively resistant to movement. The role of the actin cytoskeleton in affecting the tensile character of these cells is discussed. To explore the role that biophysical forces might play in generating developmental cues, we have developed an experimental model system in which protoplasts, embedded in a synthetic agarose matrix, are subjected to stretching or compression. We have found that protoplasts subjected to these forces from five minutes to two hours will subsequently elongate either at right angles or parallel to the tensive or compressive force vector. Moreover, the cortical microtubules are found to be organized either at right angles or parallel to the tensive or compressive force vector. We discuss these results in terms of an interplay of information between the extracellular matrix and the underlying cytoskeleton.