The factors controlling lignin composition remain unclear. Catechyl (C)–lignin is a homopolymer of caffeyl alcohol with unique properties as a biomaterial and precursor of industrial chemicals. The lignin synthesized in the seed coat of Cleome hassleriana switches from guaiacyl (G)– to C-lignin at around 12 to 14 days after pollination (DAP), associated with a rerouting of the monolignol pathway. Lack of synthesis of caffeyl alcohol limits C-lignin formation before around 12 DAP, but coniferyl alcohol is still synthesized and highly accumulated after 14 DAP. We propose a model in which, during C-lignin biosynthesis, caffeyl alcohol noncompetitively inhibits oxidation of coniferyl alcohol by cell wall laccases, a process that might limit movement of coniferyl alcohol to the apoplast. Developmental changes in both substrate availability and laccase specificity together account for the metabolic fates of G- and C-monolignols in the Cleome seed coat.