Plants owe their developmental plasticity to meristems, pools of pluripotent cells. After formation of the shoot apical meristem in seed plants, secondary meristems are responsible for, among other processes, branching in flowering plants, as well as being the basis of vegetative reproduction, which is widely used for the propagation of important agricultural crops. Marchantia polymorpha develops specialized organ called gemmae cups that contain clonal propagules (gemmae), however, the molecular players and mechanisms that control gemmae cup and gemmae formation are obscure. Here, by using transcriptomics and loss and gain-of-function mutants Yasui et al. discovered GEMMA-CUP-ASSOCIATED-MYB1 (GCAM1) as an indispensable transcription factor required for gemmae cup formation through repression of cell differentiation only present in the majority of land plants. Using phylogenetic and interspecific genetic complementation analyses the authors further demonstrated that GCAM1 is a functional ortholog of Arabidopsis RAX and tomato Blind genes, axillary meristem formation regulators in angiosperms. The authors concluded that a regulatory mechanism of transcription factors was co-opted through land plant evolution for vegetative reproduction in Marchantia polymorpha and axillary meristem formation in angiosperms. Curr. Biol. 10.1016/j.cub.2019.10.004