Salinity is an abiotic stress that limits both yield and the expansion of agricultural crops to new areas. In the last 20 years our basic understanding of the mechanisms underlying plant tolerance and adaptation to saline environments has greatly improved owing to active development of advanced tools in molecular, genomics, and bioinformatics analyses. However, the full potential of investigative power has not been fully exploited, because the use of halophytes as model systems in plant salt tolerance research is largely neglected. The recent introduction of halophytic Arabidopsis-Relative Model Species (ARMS) has begun to compare and relate several unique genetic resources to the well-developed Arabidopsis model. In a search for candidates to begin to understand, through genetic analyses, the biological bases of salt tolerance, 11 wild relatives of Arabidopsis thaliana were compared: Barbarea verna, Capsella bursa-pastoris, Hirschfeldia incana, Lepidium densiflorum, Malcolmia triloba, Lepidium virginicum, Descurainia pinnata, Sisymbrium officinale, Thellungiella parvula, Thellungiella salsuginea (previously T. halophila), and Thlaspi arvense. Among these species, highly salt-tolerant (L. densiflorum and L. virginicum) and moderately salt-tolerant (M. triloba and H. incana) species were identified. Only T. parvula revealed a true halophytic habitus, comparable to the better studied Thellungiella salsuginea. Major differences in growth, water transport properties, and ion accumulation are observed and discussed to describe the distinctive traits and physiological responses that can now be studied genetically in salt stress research. 2010 The Author.