Of the eight nuclear genes in the plant multi-gene family which encodes the small subunit (rbcS) of Petunia (Mitchell) ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase, one rbcS gene accounts for 47% of the total rbcS gene expression in petunia leaf tissue. Expression of each of five other rbcS genes is detected at levels between 2 and 23% of the total rbcS expression in leaf tissue, while expression of the remaining two rbcS genes is not detected. There is considerable variation (500-fold) in the levels of total rbcS mRNA in six organs of petunia (leaves, sepals, petals, stems, roots and stigmas/anthers). One gene, SSU301, showed the highest levels of steady-state mRNA in each of the organs examined. We discuss the differences in the steady-state mRNA levels of the individual rbcS genes in relation to their gene structure, nucleotide sequence and genomic linkage.