The uptake of amino acids and inorganic nitrogen by roots of Puccinellia phryganodes was examined to assess the potential contribution of soluble organic nitrogen to plant nitrogen uptake in Arctic coastal marshes, where free amino acids constitute a substantial fraction of the soil-soluble N pool. Short-term excised root uptake experiments were performed using tillers grown hydroponically under controlled conditions in the field. The percentage reductions in ammonium uptake at moderate salinity (150 mm NaCl) compared with uptake at low salinity (50 mm NaCl) were double those of glycine, but glycine uptake was more adversely affected than ammonium uptake by low temperatures. Glycine uptake was higher at pH 5·7 than at pH 7·0 or 8·2. The glycine uptake was up-regulated in response to glycine, whereas ammonium uptake was up-regulated in response to ammonium starvation. Nitrate uptake was strongly down-regulated when tillers were grown on either ammonium or glycine. In contrast to N-starved roots, which absorbed ammonium ions more rapidly than glycine, the roots grown on glycine, ammonium and nitrate and not N-starved prior to uptake absorbed glycine as rapidly as ammonium and nitrate ions combined. Overall, the results indicate that amino acids are probably an important source of nitrogen for P. phryganodes in Arctic coastal marshes.