Stomata, found on the epidermis of all terrestrial plants, consist of two specialized cells called guard cells, which surround a tiny pore. Major advances have been made in our understanding of the genetic control of stomatal development in Arabidopsis and grasses. In Arabidopsis, three basic-helix-loop-helix (bHLH) genes control the successive steps that lead to stomatal formation. SPEECHLESS (SPCH) drives the cell division that initiates the stomatal cell lineage, MUTE induces the formation of the immediate stomatal precursor cell, and FAMA causes the stomatal precursor cell to divide into the two guard cells. Recent results demonstrate that these genes share functions with their grass homologs, and that MUTE is expressed later in development than its grass counterparts. Other differences in stomatal development between these two plant groups are exemplified by the PANGLOSS1 (PAN1) gene of maize. PAN1, which encodes a leucine-rich repeat receptor-like kinase with an inactive kinase domain, promotes polarization of the subsidiary mother cell and orients its cell division plane. Because such events do not exist in Arabidopsis, it is likely that the PAN1-like genes of Arabidopsis and PAN1 are paralogs. Together, these results indicate that distinctions in the regulation of gene expression and protein function are both responsible for the divergence of stomatal development between Arabidopsis and grasses.