Ethylene and other olefinic compounds cause apples and other climacteric fruits to ripen. Propylene, which fruits do not produce, was employed to determine, 1) the stage of maturity apples must attain to autocatalytically produce ethylene, and 2) the effect of O2 tension on autocatalysis. ‘Red Delicious’ apples harvested at developmental stages representing 52, 58, 65, and 75% of maturity were gassed with propylene at concentrations of 0, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1000 ppm for 1 week at 20°C. Propylene induced ethylene synthesis at all stages of maturity. Its ability to stimulate ethylene production, however, increased progressively with fruit maturation, although rate of production following treatment with 500 ppm propylene was constant. A shorter lag time to the onset of autocatalytic production was observed in more mature fruits which reflects a natural increase in sensitivity. Propylene administered at 6.5% O2 or less did not induce ethylene production, but an anaerobic atmosphere was necessary to completely inhibit ethylene synthesis in fruits once autocatalysis began.