Because plant cells do not move and are surrounded by a rigid cell wall, cell division rates and patterns are believed to be directly responsible for generating new structures throughout development. To study the relationship between cell division and morphogenesis, transgenic tobacco and Arabidopsis plants were constructed expressing dominant mutations in a key regulator of the Arabidopsis cell cycle, the Cdc2a kinase. Plants constitutively overproducing the wild-type Cdc2a or the mutant form predicted to accelerate the cell cycle did not exhibit a significantly altered development. In contrast, a mutation expected to arrest the cell cycle abolished cell division when expressed in Arabidopsis, whereas some tobacco plants constitutively producing this mutant protein were recovered. These plants had a reduced histone H1 kinase activity and contained considerably fewer cells. These cells were, however, much larger and underwent normal differentiation. Morphogenesis, histogenesis and developmental timing were unaffected. The results indicate that, in plants, the developmental controls defining shape can act independently from cell division rates.