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Generating the full complement of functional cell types requires coordinating the production of cells with the specification programs that distinguish one cell type from another. Asymmetric cell division, in which one cell divides to create daughter cells that differ in size, location, cellular components or fate, is extensively used in the development of animals. In development of the epidermis in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, the specification and distribution of stomatal guard cells also requires oriented cell divisions. By studying stomatal development, one can explore how cells choose to initiate asymmetric divisions, how cells establish an internal polarity that can be translated into an asymmetric cell division, and how cells interpret external cues to align their divisions relative to the polarity of the whole tissue. Moreover, approaching these questions in a plant system is likely to reveal new solutions to the problem of balancing the robust specification of cell types with the ability to change development in the face of injury or environmental change.