The authors report depth-resolved optical properties of excitonic and phonon-assisted transitions in ZnO epilayers by photoluminescence (PL) and cathodoluminescence. A weaker free exciton (FX) emission than its first longitudinal optical phonon replica (FX-1LO) is observed at elevated temperatures (T > 150 K) for interior area, while a stronger FX than FX-1LO is seen at all temperatures for top surface area of the sample. The authors exclude out a possible self-absorption process by PL excited at back surface of the sample. Therefore, the authors conclude that the different intensity ratios of FX and FX-1LO depending on the sample depth are strongly associated with extrinsic features of ZnO. (c) 2006 American Institute of Physics.