Mutant lines of Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh., which are characterized by symptoms of withering and the absence of seed dormancy, showed much lower levels of endogenous abscisic acid (ABA) in developing seeds and fruits (siliquae) than the wild type. Reciprocal crosses of wild type and ABA-deficient mutants showed a dual origin of ABA in developing seeds. The genotype of the mother plant regulated a sharp rise in ABA content half-way seed development (maternal ABA). The genotype of the embryo and endosperm was responsible for a second ABA fraction (embryonic ABA), which reached much lower levels, but persisted for some time after the maximum in maternal ABA. The onset of dormancy correlated well with the presence of the embryonic ABA fraction and not with the maternal ABA. Dormancy developed in both the absence and presence of maternal ABA in the seeds. In this respect maternal ABA resembled exogenously applied ABA which did not induce dormancy in ABA-deficient seeds. However, both maternal and applied ABA stimulated the formation of a mucilage layer around the testa, which could be observed during imbibition of the mature seeds. In the mature state, ABA-deficient seeds germinated in the siliquae on the plant, but only when the atmosphere surrounding the plant was kept at high relative humidity. In younger stages germination in siliquae occurred after isolation from the plants and incubation on wet filter paper. Therefore, it seems that limited access to water is the primary trigger for the developmental arrest in these seeds.