A plant's ability to produce and respond to ethylene is essential for its vegetative growth. We studied whole-shoot ethylene emission and leaf growth responses to applied ethylene in four Poa spp. that differ inherently in leaf elongation rate and whole-plant relative growth rate. Compared with the fast-growing Poa annua and Poa trivialis, the shoots of the slow-growing species Poa alpina and Poa compressa emitted daily 30% to 50% less ethylene, and their leaf elongation rate was more strongly inhibited when ethylene concentration was increased up to 1 muL L-1. To our surprise, however, low ethylene concentrations (0.02-0.03 muL L-1) promoted leaf growth in the two slow-growing species; at the same concentrations, leaf elongation rate of the two fast-growing species was only slightly inhibited. All responses were observed within 20 min after ethylene applications. Although ethylene generally inhibits growth, our results show that in some species, it may actually stimulate growth. Moreover, in the two slow-growing Poa spp., both growth stimulation and inhibition occurred in a narrow ethylene concentration range, and this effect was associated with a much lower ethylene emission. These findings suggest that the regulation of ethylene production rates and perception of the gas may be more crucial during leaf expansion of these species under non-stressful conditions and that endogenous ethylene concentrations are not large enough to saturate leaf growth responses. In the two fast-growing species, a comparatively higher ethylene endogenous concentration may conversely be present and sufficiently high to saturate leaf elongation responses, invariably leading to growth inhibition.