Zygotic embryos of three Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. mutants lacking an embryonic shoot apical meristem (SAM), shoot meristemless (stm), wuschel (wus) and zwille/pinhead (zll/pnh) were used as explants to establish embryogenic cell cultures. Somatic embryos of all three mutants showed the same mutant phenotypes as their zygotic equivalents. These results provide genetic evidence that the developmental program of somatic and zygotic embryos is indistinguishable. They also suggest that a functional SAM is not required for somatic embryogenic cell formation in Arabidopsis.