Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) is a powerful tool for physical mapping in human and other mammalian species. However, application of the FISH technique has been limited in plant species, especially for mapping single- or low-copy DNA sequences, due to inconsistent signal production in plant chromosome preparations. Here we demonstrate that bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) clones can be mapped readily on rice (Oryza sativa L.) chromosomes by FISH. Repetitive DNA sequences in BAC clones can be suppressed efficiently by using rice genomic DNA as a competitor in the hybridization mixture. BAC clones as small as 40 kb were successfully mapped. To demonstrate the application of the FISH technique in physical mapping of plant genomes, both anonymous BAC clones and clones closely linked to a rice bacterial blight-resistance locus, Xa21, were chosen for analysis. The physical location of Xa21 and the relationships among the linked clones were established, thus demonstrating the utility of FISH in plant genome analysis.