A hypothesis exists that external and internal factors affect the orientation of cortical microtubules in as much as these lead to changes in cell elongation rate. Factors that stimulate elongation are proposed to lead to transverse microtubule orientation, whereas factors that inhibit elongation lead to longitudinal orientation. The elongation rate is equal to the rate of longitudinal irreversible strain in cell walls. Incubated epidermis peeled from sunflower hypocotyls does not extend unless it is stretched by loading and the pH of the incubation medium is appropriately low. Thus, peels provide a convenient model to investigate the relationship between longitudinal strain rate and cortical microtubule orientation. In the present study, it was found that peeling affects microtubule orientation. Peels were incubated for several hours in Murashige & Skoog medium (both unbuffered and buffered) to attain a steady state of microtubule orientation before loading. The effects of loading and pH on strain rate and orientation of microtubules under the outer epidermal walls were examined in three portions of peels positioned with respect to the cotyledonary node. Appropriate loading caused longitudinal strain of peels at pH 4.5 but not at pH 6.5. However, no clear effect of strain rate on microtubule orientation in the peels was observed. Independent of applied load and pH of the incubation medium, the microtubule orientation remained unchanged, i.e. orientation was mainly oblique. Our results show that strain rate does not affect cortical microtubule orientation in isolated epidermis of the sunflower hypocotyl model system, although orientation could be changed by white light.