Salicylic acid (SA) is a signalling compound in plants which is able to induce systemic acquired resistance. In the analysis of SA in plant tissues, the extraction recovery is often very low and variable. This is mainly caused by sublimation of SA, especially during evaporation of organic solvents. Techniques have been designed in order to overcome this problem. In the first part of the extraction procedure, sublimation of SA was prevented by addition of 0.2 M sodium hydroxide. At a later stage of the extraction procedure, sublimation of SA during solvent evaporation was controlled by the addition of a small amount of HPLC eluent. In this way, recoveries in the range of 71–91% for free SA and 65–79% for acid-hydrolysed SA were obtained. Recoveries could be further optimised by the use of an internal standard to correct for volume changes after the addition of the HPLC eluent. Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.