The OVATE gene encodes a nuclear-localized regulatory protein belonging to a distinct family of plant-specific proteins known as the OVATE family proteins (OFPs). Liu et al. identify 13 sequenced plant genomes in public databases that represent the major evolutionary lineages of land plants and conduct a phylogenetic analysis based on the alignment of the conserved OVATE domain. Genes for OFPs are found to be present in all the sampled land plant genomes, including the early-diverged lineages, mosses and lycophytes, and 11 subgroups of OFPs are defined in angiosperms. The results provide new insights into the evolution of the OVATE protein family and establish a solid base for future functional genomics studies on this important but poorly characterized regulatory protein family.