The force for poleward chromosome motion during mitosis is thought to act, in all higher organisms, exclusively through the kinetochore. We have used time-lapse. video-enhanced, differential interference contrast light microscopy to determine the behavior of kinetochore-free "acentric" chromosome fragments and "monocentric" chromosomes containing one kinetochore, created at various stages of mitosis in living higher plant (Haemanthus) cells by laser microsurgery. Acentric fragments and monocentric chromosomes generated during spindle formation and metaphase both moved towards the closest spindle pole at a rate (approximately 1.0 microm/min) similar to the poleward motion of anaphase chromosomes. This poleward transport of chromosome fragments ceased near the onset of anaphase and was replaced. near midanaphase, by another force that now transported the fragments to the spindle equator at 1.5-2.0 microm/min. These fragments then remained near the spindle midzone until phragmoplast development, at which time they were again transported randomly poleward but now at approximately 3 microm/min. This behavior of acentric chromosome fragments on anastral plant spindles differs from that reported for the astral spindles of vertebrate cells, and demonstrates that in forming plant spindles, a force for poleward chromosome motion is generated independent of the kinetochore. The data further suggest that the three stages of non-kinetochore chromosome transport we observed are all mediated by the spindle microtubules. Finally, our findings reveal that there are fundamental differences between the transport properties of forming mitotic spindles in plants and vertebrates.