Sucrose, raffinose and stachyose accumulate in soybean [Glycine max L. (Merrill)] embryos during seed maturation. To determine the relationship of plant maternal composition on seed composition, soluble carbohydrates in three 1-cm2 leaf punches at three plant growth stages (R2, R3, R6) and in seed coat cup exudates in planta were analysed at four 30-min intervals on soybean plants (R5) with low-raffinose, low-stachyose (LRS) seeds expressing the mutant stc1 phenotype; low-raffinose, low-stachyose and low-phytin (LRSP1, LRSP2) seeds expressing the mutant mips phenotype; or normal raffinose, stachyose and phytin (CHECK) seeds expressing the Stc1 and Mips phenotype. Leaf sucrose (23.6 μg cm− 2), myo-inositol (9.3 μg cm− 2), d-chiro-inositol (6.7 μg cm− 2), d-ononitol (0.76 μg cm− 2), d-pinitol (50.1 μg cm− 2) and total soluble carbohydrates (107.1 μg cm− 2) were not significantly different between phenotypes. d-chiro-Inositol, myo-inositol, d-pinitol and sucrose were unloaded from soybean seed coat cups in planta at decreasing rates over the four sequential periods of sampling. Unloading rates of sucrose and myo-inositol were highest for LRS, d-pinitol was highest for LRSP2, and d-chiro-inositol was not different between LRS, LRSP1, LRSP2 and CHECK. Free cyclitols were 60% of total soluble carbohydrates in leaves and 20% in seed coat cup exudates. Except for sucrose and d-pinitol, seed phenotype had little influence on the composition of compounds unloaded from seed coats to maturing embryos of low-raffinose, low-stachyose seeds. Maternally supplied cyclitols may contribute, in part, to changes in the composition of cyclitol galactosides stored in mature seeds.