The revolutionary growth in our ability to identify the 'parts list' of cellular infrastructure in plants in detail, and to alter it with precision, challenges us to develop methods to quantify how these parts function. For components of metabolism, this means mapping fluxes at the level of metabolic networks. Advances in experimental, analytical and software tools for metabolic flux analysis now allow maps of the fluxes through central metabolism to be obtained from the results of stable-isotope-labeling experiments. Such maps have led to notable successes in understanding and engineering metabolic function in microorganisms. Recent studies in plants are giving insight into particular fluxes, such as those of the pentose phosphate pathway, and into general phenomena, such as substrate- or futile-cycles and compartmentation. The importance of experimental design and statistical analysis have been illustrated, and analyses of fluxes in heterotrophic plant tissues have been carried out recently.