Although Arabidopsis is an important system for studying root physiology, the localized growth patterns of its roots have not been well defined, particularly during tropic responses. In order to characterize growth rate profiles along the apex of primary roots of Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh (ecotype Columbia) we applied small charcoal particles to the root surface and analyzed their displacement during growth using an automated video digitizer system with custom software for tracking the markers. When growing vertically, the maximum elongation rate occurred 481 +/- 50 microns back from the extreme tip of the root (tip of root cap), and the elongation zone extended back to 912 +/- 137 microns. The distal elongation zone (DEZ) has previously been described as the apical region of the elongation zone in which the relative elemental growth rate (REGR) is < or = 30% of the peak rate in the central elongation zone. By this definition, our data indicate that the basal limit of the DEZ was located 248 +/- 30 microns from the root tip. However, after gravistimulation, the growth patterns of the root changed. Within the first hour of graviresponse, the basal limit of the DEZ and the position of peak REGR shifted apically on the upper flank of the root. This was due to a combination of increased growth in the DEZ and growth inhibition in the central elongation zone. On the lower flank, the basal limit of the DEZ shifted basipetally as the REGR decreased. These factors set up the gradient of growth rate across the root, which drives curvature.