Our planet is teeming with an astounding diversity of plants. In a mere single group of closely related species, tremendous diversity can be observed in their form and function - the colour of petals in flowering plants, the shape of the fronds in ferns, and the branching pattern of the gametophyte in mosses. Diversity can also be found in subtler traits, such as the resistance to pathogens or the ability to recruit symbiotic microbes from the environment. Plant traits can also be highly conserved - at the cellular and metabolic levels, entire biosynthetic pathways are present in all plant groups, and morphological characteristics such as vascular tissues have been conserved for hundreds of millions of years. The research community that seeks to understand these traits - both the diverse and the conserved - by taking an evolutionary point-of-view on plant biology is growing. Here, we summarize a subset of the different aspects of plant evolutionary biology, provide a guide for structuring comparative biology approaches and discuss the pitfalls that (plant) researchers should avoid when embarking on such studies.
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