Green leaf volatiles (GLVs) are a diverse group of fatty acid-derived compounds emitted by all plants and are involved in a wide variety of developmental and stress-related biological functions. Recently, GLV emission bursts from leaves were reported following light–dark transitions and hypothesized to be related to the stress response while acetaldehyde bursts were hypothesized to be due to the ‘pyruvate overflow’ mechanism. In this study, branch emissions of GLVs and a group of oxygenated metabolites (acetaldehyde, ethanol, acetic acid, and acetone) derived from the pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) bypass pathway were quantified from mesquite plants following light–dark transitions using a coupled GC–MS, PTR-MS, and photosynthesis system. Within the first minute after darkening following a light period, large emission bursts of both C5 and C6 GLVs dominated by (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl acetate together with the PDH bypass metabolites are reported for the first time. We found that branches exposed to CO2-free air lacked significant GLV and PDH bypass bursts while O2-free atmospheres eliminated the GLV burst but stimulated the PDH bypass burst. A positive relationship was observed between photosynthetic activity prior to darkening and the magnitude of the GLV and PDH bursts. Photosynthesis under 13CO2 resulted in bursts with extensive labeling of acetaldehyde, ethanol, and the acetate but not the C6-alcohol moiety of (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl acetate. Our observations are consistent with (1) the "pyruvate overflow" mechanism with a fast turnover time (<1 h) as part of the PDH bypass pathway, which may contribute to the acetyl-CoA used for the acetate moiety of (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl acetate, and (2) a pool of fatty acids with a slow turnover time (>3 h) responsible for the C6 alcohol moiety of (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl acetate via the 13-lipoxygenase pathway. We conclude that our non-invasive method may provide a new valuable in vivo tool for studies of acetyl-CoA and fatty acid metabolism in plants at a variety of spatial scales.