The spatial distributions of net deposition rates of water soluble carbohydrate-free dry matter (WSC-free DM) and WSC were evaluated within and above the elongation zone of tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) leaf blades during light and darkness. Imported DM used for WSC-free DM synthesis during darkness (67% of the total in experiment I and 59% in experiment II) was greater than during light (47% in both experiments), suggesting that the 65% higher leaf elongation rate during darkness was accompanied by higher rates of synthesis of cellular structural components. Deposition rates of WSC in the basal and central part of the elongation zone (0-20 mm from the ligule) were similar during light and darkness, but above 20 millimeters WSC deposition occurred during light and WSC loss occurred during darkness. WSC deposition and loss throughout the elongation zone and the recently expanded tissue were mostly due to net synthesis and degradation of fructan. Fructan was predominantly low molecular weight and contributed about 50% of the total osmotic partial pressure of WSC. In the most actively growing region, where fructan synthesis was most rapid, no diurnal change occurred in molecular weight distribution of fructan. WSC solute concentrations were diluted in the most actively growing tissue during darkness because net monosaccharide and fructan deposition were unaltered and sucrose deposition was decreased, but growth-associated water deposition was increased by 77%. Net rates of fructan synthesis and degradation were not related to tissue sucrose concentration, but appeared to respond to the balance between assimilate import and assimilate use in synthesis of cellular structural components (i.e. WSC-free DM) and deposition of monosaccharides. Fructan synthesized in tissue during most active elongation was degraded when the respective tissue reached the distal limit of the elongation zone where assimilate import in darkness was insufficient to maintain synthetic processes associated with further differentiation of cells.