In the animal kingdom, maternal control of early development is a common feature. The onset of zygotic control over early development, defined as the maternal to zygotic transition (MZT), follows fertilization with a delay of a variable number of cell divisions, depending on the species. The MZT has been well defined in animals, but investigations remain in their infancy in plants. Recent evidence suggests, however, that in plants as in animals, the MZT also occurs several division cycles after fertilization. The likely convergent evolution of the MZT in the animal and plant kingdoms is fascinating and raises major questions regarding its biological significance, particularly with regard to its importance in genome reprogramming and the acquisition of totipotency by the embryo.