Zygotic and somatic embryos are purported to follow similar developmental sequences, but few investigations have thoroughly compared the two processes. Developing pods of Cercis canadensis L. (redbud) were collected from trees on the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee once or twice per week from 28 March to 8 August 1991. At least 10 ovules/sample date were fixed in FAA to evaluate zygotic embryo ontogeny. A minimum of 40 ovules/sample date were aseptically excised and placed on SH medium supplemented with 9.0 μM 2,4-D and 5 mM ammonium ion to initate somatic embryogenesis. Zygotic and somatic embryos were prepared for histological examination using standard paraffin techniques. Somatic embryos developed primarily from cotyledons and epicotyls of zygotic embryos mat were cultured between 6 June and 19 July. Somatic and zygotic embryos were subtended by multiseriate suspensors and progressed through recognizable globular, cordate and cotyledonary stages of development. Cotyledon morphology was similar for both embryo types. However, many somatic embryos failed to differentiate dome-shaped shoot meristems exhibited by their zygotic counterparts.