Woody plants first appeared about 370 million years ago. The development of phenylpropanoid metabolic pathways allowed the synthesis of lignin, a major constituent of wood: this was a key evolutionary advance for land plants. The stiffer, stronger cell walls made possible by lignin allowed better support, larger size, and greater tissue differentiation (such as water-conducting elements). Phenylpropanoid metabolic pathways also allowed production of phenolics used extensively in pigmentation (leaves, fruits, and flowers), defense, and signaling. Detrital organic matter derived largely from plant phenolics is also functionally significant at the ecosystem level.
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