In all terrestrial and aquatic plant species the primary cell wall is a dynamic structure, adjusted to fulfil a diversity of functions. However a universal property is its considerable mechanical and tensile strength, whilst being flexible enough to accommodate turgor and allow for cell elongation. The wall is a composite material consisting of a framework of cellulose microfibrils embedded in a matrix of non-cellulosic polysaccharides, interlaced with structural proteins and pectic polymers. The assembly and modification of these polymers within the growing cell wall has, until recently, been poorly understood. Advances in cytological and genetic techniques have thrown light on these processes and have led to the discovery of a number of wall-modifying enzymes which, either directly or indirectly, play a role in the molecular basis of cell wall expansion.