Abstract Cotyledon explants of Panax ginseng zygotic embryos directly produced somatic embryos on Murashige and Skoog medium without growth regulators. Somatic embryos were formed only near the proximal excised region of cotyledons. Multiple and/or single embryos were formed and the frequency of these formations differed according to the degree of maturity of the zygotic embryos used as the explant source. When cotyledon explants pre-plasmolysed (1.0 M sucrose for 24 h), the frequency of single embryo formation was enhanced regardless of cotyledon maturity. In addition, the distribution pattern of somatic embryos changed markedly because the embryos were formed over the whole surface of the cotyledons. Histological observation revealed that plasmolyzing pretreatment broke the plasmodesmatal connection between cells and when the embryogenic cell divisions commenced, plasmodesmatal strands were hardly observed except for newly formed cell walls. This indicates that the enhanced single embryo formation over the entire surfaces of cotyledon explants might be the result of an interruption of cell–cell interaction by plasmolyzing pretreatment.