The effects of humidity on water permeability of astomatous, isolated cuticular membranes and leaf disks of Citrus aurantium L., Vinca major L., Prunus laurocerasus L., Hedera helix L. and Forsythia intermedia (Thunb.) Vahl. were investigated by a new method using 3H2O. With isolated cuticular membranes of P. laurocerasus the isotope method resulted in values similar to those obtained by a well-established gravimetric method. Cuticular water permeability significantly increased by factors of 2 to 3 when air humidities increased from 2 to 100%. Plots of permeances vs. air humidity were non-linear and the slope increased with increasing air humidity. Permeances of intact leaf disks showed a response to increasing humidity similar to those of isolated cuticular membranes. When cuticular water permeability was measured using wax-free, isolated polymer matrix membranes that had been methylated, the effect of air humidity was significantly suppressed compared to non-methylated polymer matrix membranes. From this observation it is concluded that non-esterified, free carboxyl groups present in the cutin polymer matrix significantly contribute to the effect of humidity on cuticular water permeability. These and other polar groups sorb water, which in turn increases the water permeability of polar domains of the cuticle. This humidity-sensitive, polar path of cuticular water permeability is arranged in parallel with the major, dominating and humidity-independent, non-polar path of cuticular water permeability formed by the lipophilic wax components of the cuticle. This conclusion is supported by the fact that cuticular transpiration can be increased by orders of magnitude upon (i) wax extraction, (ii) increase in temperature or (iii) the action of plasticizers, none of which influenced or only marginally influenced the permeability of inorganic ions penetrating plant cuticles across humidity-sensitive polar pores.