Programmed cell death (PCD) is an integral part of plant development and defence. It occurs at all stages of the life cycle, from fertilization of the ovule to death of the whole plant. Without it, tall trees would probably not be possible and plants would more easily succumb to invading microorganisms. Here, we have attempted to categorize plant PCD in relation to three established morphological types of metazoan cell death: apoptosis, autophagy and non-lysosomal PCD. We conclude that (i) no examples of plant PCD conform to the apoptotic type, (ii) many examples of PCD during plant development agree with the autophagic type, and (iii) that other examples are apparently neither apoptotic nor autophagic.