The desiccation sensitivity of seeds of Inga vera Willd. subsp. affinis, a recalcitrant-seeded tree from Brazil, was analysed, focusing on water relations and cell-cycle aspects, including DNA content and the microtubular cytoskeleton. Seeds were collected at four developmental stages, dried to different moisture contents (MCs), assessed regarding water activity and set to germinate. Samples of fresh (non-dried) developing and mature seeds were used for assessment of DNA content by flow cytometry. Immunohistochemical detection of microtubules (MTs) was done in mature seeds at different MCs. Slight desiccation of immature seeds increased germination, but further drying resulted in a quick decline of germinability. During seed development the desiccation sensitivity decreased slightly, but DNA content of the embryonic axis cells remained constant, suggesting no relation between those two parameters. Embryonic axis cells of mature seeds showed abundant cortical microtubule arrays, which were not affected by mild desiccation, but broken down by further drying. It appeared that, upon rehydration, damaged cells were not able to reconstitute the microtubular cytoskeleton. The failure of germination of Inga vera seeds after drying could not be attributed to cellular damage to DNA synthesis and mitosis, since the radicle protruded by means of cell elongation, without a need for cell division. However, the breakdown of MTs during desiccation, and their subsequent inability to reassemble upon rehydration, may be related to the decreased germination, since MTs are required for cell elongation.