The tissue traits and architectures of plant species are important for land-plant ecology in two ways. First, they control ecosystem processes and define habitat and resources for other taxa; thus, they are a high priority for understanding the ecosystem at a site. Second, knowledge of trait costs and benefits offers the most promising path to understanding how vegetation properties change along physical geography gradients. There exists an informal shortlist of plant traits that are thought to be most informative. Here, we summarize recent research on correlations and tradeoffs surrounding some traits that are prospects for the shortlist. By extending the list and by developing better models for how traits influence species distributions and interactions, a strong foundation of basic ecology can be established, with many practical applications.