Cannaceae seeds have been analysed regarding seed coat structure, germination and macromolecular composition of the seed coats. Data of several mass spectrometric techniques were combined with those of microscopic and histochemical techniques to acquire insight into the functions of the seed coat. Cannaceae seeds have an exotestal layer of Malpighian cells with a hydrophobic and a hydrophilic part. The hydrophobic part is mainly responsible for the impermeability of the seed and contains silica, callose, lignin as water repellent substances. Water can only enter the seed after a certain temperature-induced opening of an imbibition lid. During imbibition the hydrophilic part of the Malpighian cells swells and the seed coat ruptures due to differences in pressure in the upper and lower part of the Malpighian cells.