Plant cell walls are essential for proper growth, development, and interaction with the environment. It is generally accepted that land plants arose from aquatic ancestors which are sister groups to the charophycean algae (i.e., Streptophyta), and study of wall evolution during this transition promises insight into structure-function relationships of wall components. In this paper, we explore wall evolutionary history by studying the incorporation of pectin polymers into cell walls of the model organism Penium margaritaceum, a simple single-cell desmid. This organism produces only a primary wall consisting of three fibrillar or fibrous layers, with the outermost stratum terminating in distinct, calcified projections. Extraction of isolated cell walls with trans-1,2-diaminocyclohexane-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid yielded a homogalacturonan (HGA) that was partially methyl esterified and equivalent to that found in land plants. Other pectins common to land plants were not detected, although selected components of some of these polymers were present. Labeling with specific monoclonal antibodies raised against higher-plant HGA epitopes (e.g., JIM5, JIM7, LM7, 2F4, and PAM1) demonstrated that the wall complex and outer layer projections were composed of the HGA which was significantly calcium complexed. JIM5 and JIM7 labeling suggested that highly methyl esterified HGA was secreted into the isthmus zone of dividing cells, the site of active wall secretion. As the HGA was displaced to more polar regions, de-esterification in a non-blockwise fashion occurred. This, in turn, allowed for calcium binding and the formation of the rigid outer wall layer. The patterning of HGA deposition provides interesting insights into the complex process of pectin involvement in the development of the plant cell wall.