Leguminous plants in symbiosis with rhizobia form either indeterminate nodules with a persistent meristem or determinate nodules with a transient meristematic region. Sesbania rostrata was thought to possess determinate stem and root nodules. However, the nature of nodule development is hybrid, and the early stages resemble those of indeterminate nodules. Here we show that, depending on the environmental conditions, mature root nodules can be of the indeterminate type. In situ hybridizations with molecular markers for plant cell division, as well as the patterns of bacterial nod and nif gene expression, confirmed the indeterminate nature of 30-day-old functional root nodules. Experimental data provide evidence that the switch in nodule type is mediated by the plant hormone ethylene.