(±)-Abscisic acid (ABA) at 10(-5) M was added to the transpiration stream of leaves of 16 species (C3 and C4, monocotyledons and dicotyledons). Stomatal responses followed one of three patterns: i) stomata that were wide and insensitive to CO2 initially, closed partially and became sensitive to CO2; ii) for stomata that were sensitive to CO2 before the application of ABA, the range of highest sensitivity to CO2 shifted from high to low intercellular partial pressures of CO2, for instance in leaves of Zea mays from 170-350 to 70-140 μbar; iii) when stomata responded strongly to ABA, their conductance was reduced to a small fraction of the initial conductance, and sensitivity to CO2 was lost. The photosynthetic apparatus was affected by applications of ABA to various degrees, from no response at all (in agreement with several previous reports on the absence of effects of ABA on photosynthesis) through a temporary decrease of its activity to a lasting reduction. Saturation curves of photosynthesis with respect to the partial pressure of CO2 in the intercellular spaces indicated that application of ABA could produce three phenomena: i) a reduction of the initial slope of the saturation curve (which indicates a diminished carboxylation efficiency); ii) a reduction of the level of the CO2-saturated rate of assimilation (which indicates a reduction of the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate regeneration capacity); and iii) an increase of the CO2 compensation point. Photosynthesis of isolated mesophyll cells was not affected by ABA treatments. Responses of the stomatal and photosynthetic apparatus were usually synchronous and often proportional to each other, with the result that the partial pressure of CO2 in the intercellular spaces frequently remained constant in spite of large changes in conductance and assimilation rate. Guard cells and the photosynthetic apparatus were able to recover from effects of ABA applications while the ABA supply continued. Recovery was usually partial, in the case of the photosynthetic apparatus occasionally complete. Abscisic acid did not cause stomatal closure or decreases in the rate of photosynthesis when it was applied during a phase of stomatal opening and induction of photosynthesis that followed a transition from darkness to light.