In the present study, the transient, free convective, boundary layer flow of a couple stress fluid flowing over a vertical cylinder is investigated, and the heat and mass functions for the final steady-state of the present flow are developed. The solution of the time dependent nonlinear and coupled governing equations is obtained with the aid of an unconditionally stable Crank–Nicolson type of numerical scheme. Numerical results for the time histories of the skin-friction coefficient, Nusselt number, and Sherwood number as well as the steady-state velocity, temperature, and concentration are presented graphically and discussed. Also, it is observed that time required for the flow variables to reach the steady-state increases with the increasing values of Schmidt and Prandtl numbers, while the opposite trend is observed with respect to the buoyancy ratio parameter. To analyze the flow variables in the steady-state, the heatlines and masslines are used in addition to streamlines, isotherms, and isoconcentration lines. When the heat and mass functions are properly made dimensionless, its dimensionless values are related to the local and overall Nusselt and Sherwood numbers. Boundary layer flow visualization indicates that the heatlines and masslines are dense in the vicinity of the hot wall, especially near the leading edge.