Alterations in the detection of cell wall polysaccharides during an induced abscission event in the pedicel of Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) have been determined using monoclonal antibodies and Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) microspectroscopy. Concurrent with the appearance of a morphologically distinct abscission zone (AZ) on day 5 after induction, a reduction in the detection of the LM5 (1→4)-β-D-galactan and LM6 (1→5)-α-L-arabinan epitopes in AZ cell walls was observed. Prior to AZ activation, a loss of the (1→4)-β-D-galactan and (1→5)-α-L-arabinan epitopes was detected in cell walls distal to the AZ, i.e. in the to-be-shed organ. The earliest detected change, on day 2 after induction, was a specific loss of the LM5 (1→4)-β-D-galactan epitope from epidermal cells distal to the region where the AZ would form. Such alteration in the cell walls was an early, pre-AZ activation event. An AZ-associated de-esterification of homogalacturonan (HG) was detected in the AZ and distal area on day 7 after induction. The FT-IR analysis indicated that lignin and xylan were abundant in the AZ and that lower levels of cellulose, arabinose and pectin were present. Xylan and xyloglucan epitopes were detected in the cell walls of both the AZ and also the primary cell walls of the distal region at a late stage of the abscission process, on day 7 after induction. These observations indicate that the induction of an abscission event results in a temporal sequence of cell wall modifications involving the spatially regulated loss, appearance and/or remodelling of distinct sets of cell wall polymers.