Bacilli and Clostridia generate dormant, highly resistant cells, called spores, in response to stress. Spores of many species are decorated by morphologically diverse structures of unknown function called appendages that have yet to be studied at the molecular level. In this issue, Walker et al. employ reverse genetics to identify genes encoding protein components of the ornate ribbon-like appendages of the spores of Clostridium taeniosporum. Their results reveal striking commonalities between these genes and those encoding outer structures in phylogenetically and taxonomically distinct spore-forming species. The insights gained from this work demonstrate the value of analysis of non-model spore formers.