Guard cell walls combine exceptional strength and flexibility in order to accommodate the turgor pressure-driven changes in size and shape that underlie the opening and closing of stomatal pores. To investigate the molecular basis of these exceptional qualities, we have used a combination of compositional and functional analyses in three different plant species. We show that comparisons of FTIR spectra from stomatal guard cells and those of other epidermal cells indicate a number of clear differences in cell-wall composition. The most obvious characteristics are that stomatal guard cells are enriched in phenolic esters of pectins. This enrichment is apparent in guard cells from Vicia faba (possessing a type I cell wall) and Commelina communis and Zea mays (having a type II wall). We further show that these common defining elements of guard cell walls have conserved functional roles. As previously reported in C. communis, we show that enzymatic modification of the pectin network in guard cell walls in both V. faba and Z. mays has profound effects on stomatal function. In all three species, incubation of epidermal strips with a combination of pectin methyl esterase and endopolygalacturonase (EPG) caused an increase in stomatal aperture on opening. This effect was not seen when strips were incubated with EPG alone indicating that the methyl-esterified fraction of homogalacturonan is key to this effect. In contrast, arabinanase treatment, and incubation with feruloyl esterase both impeded stomatal opening. It therefore appears that pectins and phenolic esters have a conserved functional role in guard cell walls even in grass species with type II walls, which characteristically are composed of low levels of pectins.