Plant peroxidases (class III peroxidases, E.C. 126.96.36.199) are secreted glycoproteins known to be involved in the mechanism of cell elongation, in cell wall construction and differentiation, and in the defense against pathogens. They usually form large multigenic families in angiosperms. The recent completion of rice (Oryza sativa japonica c.v. Nipponbare) genome sequencing allowed drawing up the full inventory of the genes encoding class III peroxidases in this plant. We found 138 peroxidase genes distributed among the 12 rice chromosomes. In contrast to several other gene families studied so far, peroxidase genes are twice as numerous in rice as in Arabidopsis. This large number of genes results from various duplication events that were tentatively traced back using a phylogenetic tree based on the alignment of conserved amino acid sequences. We also searched for peroxidase encoding genes in the major phyla of plant kingdom. In addition to gymnosperms and angiosperms, sequences were found in liverworts, mosses and ferns, but not in unicellular green algae. Two rice and one Arabidopsis peroxidase genes appeared to be rather close to the only known sequence from the liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. The possible relationship of these peroxidases with the putative ancestor of peroxidase genes is discussed, as well as the connection between the development of the class III peroxidase multigenic family and the emergence of the first land plants.