The coleoptile of rice (Oryza sativa L. cv. Nippon-bare) emerges from an imbibed seed on day 2 after sowing. Then, it matures and senesces rapidly. For analysis of the senescence pattern within individual coleoptiles, we monitored the distribution of chlorophyll (Chl) in entire coleoptiles and in cross-sections of coleoptiles by recording the autofluorescence of Chl. Degradation of Chl was apparent at the tip of the margins of opened-out coleoptiles on day 4, when the overall levels of soluble protein and Chl per coleoptile had reached maximum values. Then, senescence proceeded from the tip to the base and from the inner mesophyll cells towards the outer epidermis, excluding tissues along vascular bundles. Further analysis of cellular senescence using samples embedded in Technovit 7100 resin revealed that the senescence of each green mesophyll cell followed an identical program, which consisted of the following steps: (i) degradation of chloroplast DNA; (ii) condensation of the nucleus, decrease in the size of chloroplasts, degradation of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase and chloroplast inner membranes; (iii) disorganization of the nucleus; (iv) complete loss of cellular components, distortion of the cell wall. Although the timing of each step and the rate at which each step was completed differed among cells of different locations within the coleoptile, this sequence was observed in all mesophyll cells in the coleoptile.