Abstract The effects of dimethazone [FMC 57020; 2-(2-chlorophenyl)methyl-4,4-dimethyl-3-isoxalidinone] on the growth and ultrastructure of cowpea ( Vigna unguiculata L.) were examined. Seeds were imbibed in 0.5 m M dimethazone for 1 day and grown for 4 to 5 subsequent days in darkness without the herbicide. The herbicide stunted etiolated hypocotyl growth and retarded greening under 150 μmol · m −2 · sec −1 white light. No effects of dimethazone on the in vivo absorption spectrum of the etiolated primary leaf was detected. The herbicide caused some reduction and disorganization of prothylakoids in etiplasts. After 3 hr of white light chlorophyll accumulation was greatly reduced in treated leaves and ultrastructural development of the chloroplasts of herbicide-treated tissues appeared to be retarded. Pronounced thylakoid disruption was noticed in some cells after 12 hr, was more common after 24 hr, and was found in all cells by 72 hr. Maximally affected plastids lacked thylakoids, had irregular envelopes, and contained numerous vesicles.