The cellular organisation of the Arabidopsis thaliana root is remarkably regular. A fate map of the primary root and root meristem that predicts the developmental destinies of cells within the embryonic root primordium has been constructed. Nevertheless, laser ablation experiments demonstrate that root meristem cells develop according to position and not according to lineage. Mutational analysis has identified genes required for cell specification in the radial as well as in the apical-basal dimension. The corresponding gene functions appear to be necessary during embryogenesis for the formation of a correctly patterned primary root.