The remarkably short storability of recalcitrant seeds has prevented their inclusion in programs of ex situ conservation. The causes of their desiccation sensitivity and rapid decline in viability during storage are not fully elucidated yet. In this study the highly recalcitrant, fully viable embryos of the tree species Inga vera subsp. affinis were stored under various conditions and analyzed physiologically and cytologically at intervals, in order to obtain more insights in their loss of viability during storage. Embryos stored fully hydrated at 5ºC fully lost viability in 18 d. Sealed storage of partially dehydrated embryos slightly prolonged their viability, with 95% germination being attained after 14 d of storage. However, after 30 d of storage, viability was completely lost. Storage of hydrated embryos in a solution of polyethylene glycol (PEG) at -1.7 MPa water potential was capable of maintaining high germinability until 30 d of storage. When added to the PEG solution, abscisic acid showed a strong temperature-dependent interaction, with a positive effect on the longevity of embryos stored at 20ºC and a negative effect on embryos stored at 5ºC. In any case, embryo viability could be maintained no longer than 50 d. Embryos from seeds collected from the same trees in the following year showed better storability and still attained 45% germination after 62 d of storage. Analysis of cellular alterations during storage and viability loss of the embryos showed disappearance of starch granules and various damages to the cells, such as cell wall folding and cytoplasm fragmentation.