Salt-affected soils with high electrolyte contents limit the development of the majority of plants and serve as a habitat only for such species (halophytes) that can survive the conditions. To date, there is still much that is unknown about the physiological mechanisms, including ion relationships, that make plants salt-resistant. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate a method of ranking plants for their salt tolerance. A total of 11 coastal halophytes of the Kavak Delta were evaluated for their ability to cope with different soil salinities. For this, electrical conductivities of soils (of up to 135 dS m(-1)) were recorded and a total of 100 plant samples, including plant roots, were taken from a depth of 0-15 cm in the soil. The halophytes were ranked in the following order from highest to moderate salt tolerance: Halocnemum strobilaceum >= Salicornia fragilis >= Arthrocnemum fruticosum = Suaeda prostrata >= Salsola kali = Petrosimonia brachiata >= Juncus maritimus = Aeluropus littoralis >= Halimione portulacoides = Limonium graecum >= Artemisia santonicum. The Na+/K+ ratios of leaves perfectly reflected the salinity tolerance ranking of all halophytic species examined. It proved possible to rank the salt tolerance of halophytes by assessment of the electrical conductivity of the soil in which they grew naturally; tolerance was well predicted by the Na+/K+ ratio in the shoots.