Isoprenoids represent the oldest class of known low molecular-mass natural products synthesized by plants. Their biogenesis in plastids, mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum–cytosol proceed invariably from the C5 building blocks, isopentenyl diphosphate and/or dimethylallyl diphosphate according to complex and reiterated mechanisms. Compounds derived from the pathway exhibit a diverse spectrum of biological functions. This review centers on advances obtained in the field based on combined use of biochemical, molecular biology and genetic approaches. The function and evolutionary implications of this metabolism are discussed in relation with seminal informations gathered from distantly but related organisms.