© 2017, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.Main conclusion: The diversification of the Lemnoideae was accompanied by a reduction in the abundance of cell wall apiogalacturonan and an increase in xylogalacturonan whereas rhamnogalacturonan II structure and cross-linking are conserved. The subfamily Lemnoideae is comprised of five genera and 38 species of small, fast-growing aquatic monocots. Lemna minor and Spirodela polyrhiza belong to this subfamily and have primary cell walls that contain large amounts of apiogalacturonan and thus are distinct from the primary walls of most other flowering plants. However, the pectins in the cell walls of other members of the Lemnoideae have not been investigated. Here, we show that apiogalacturonan decreased substantially as the Lemnoideae diversified since Wolffiella and Wolffia walls contain between 63 and 88% less apiose than Spirodela, Landoltia, and Lemna walls. In Wolffia, the most derived genus, xylogalacturonan is far more abundant than apiogalacturonan, whereas in Wolffiella pectic polysaccharides have a high arabinose content, which may arise from arabinan sidechains of RG I. The apiose-containing pectin rhamnogalacturonan II (RG-II) exists in Lemnoideae walls as a borate cross-linked dimer and has a glycosyl sequence similar to RG-II from terrestrial plants. Nevertheless, species-dependent variations in the extent of methyl-etherification of RG-II sidechain A and arabinosylation of sidechain B are discernible. Immunocytochemical studies revealed that pectin methyl-esterification is higher in developing daughter frond walls than in mother frond walls, indicating that methyl-esterification is associated with expanding cells. Our data support the notion that a functional cell wall requires conservation of RG-II structure and cross-linking but can accommodate structural changes in other pectins. The Lemnoideae provide a model system to study the mechanisms by which wall structure and composition has changed in closely related plants with similar growth habits.