Root growth and morphology were assessed weekly in hydroponically-grown seedlings of the halophyte Plantago maritima L. during exposure to 0, 50, 100 and 200 mM NaCl for 21 d. Relative growth rate was reduced by 25% at 200 mM NaCl. The lower NaCl treatments did not affect relative growth rates. Primary and lateral roots responded differently to NaCl. While primary-root length increased at all NaCl concentrations, total lateral-root length increased at 50 and was not affected at 100 mM but was considerably reduced at 200 mM NaCl. NaCl concentrations of 50 and 100 mM, which had no effect on relative growth rate or total lateral-root length, severely affected root branching pattern in that the number of first, second and third order laterals was reduced. At 200 mM NaCl third order laterals were not formed at all. However, mean lateral-root length was increased at all NaCl concentrations and was highest at 200 mM NaCl. We conclude that the increase in total lateral-root length in plants at 50 and 100 mM NaCl was mainly caused by increased length growth, while the decrease in total lateral-root length at 200 mM was the consequence of inhibition of lateral root primordia and/or the activation of apical meristems rather than reduced length growth.