The aim of this research was to develop a convenient polymerase chain reaction-based assay that would allow intraspecific chloroplast variability to be detected. Our approach is based on the detection of length polymorphism within chloroplast mononucleotide microsatellite loci. Information from the fully sequenced rice chloroplast genome was used to identify 12 regions with a minimum of ten uninterrupted mononucleotide repeats. Primers flanking these repeats were used in conjunction with polymerase chain reaction to examine levels of polymorphism in six wild and 14 cultivated rice accessions. A total of six of the primer pairs revealed length polymorphism with between two and five size variants being detected. Diversity indices varied between 0.07 and 0.72. The length variation detected at multiple, physically linked sites was used to identify 15 unique haplotypes with an overall diversity index of 0.90. This level of polymorphism is sufficiently high to allow chloroplast variability to be studied at the intraspecific level. An additional 47 Oryza sativa accessions were also assayed with 31 unique chloroplast haplotypes being detected. The distribution of these haplotypes is described in relation to isozyme groupings and subspecies differentiation. The relevance and implications of these results for plant population genetics and the management of germplasm collections is discussed.