The success of Prosopis strombulifera in growing under high NaCl concentrations involves a carefully controlled balance among different processes, including compartmentation of Cl− and Na+ in leaf vacuoles, exclusion of Na+ in roots, osmotic adjustment and low transpiration. In contrast, Na2SO4 causes growth inhibition and toxicity. We propose that protection of the cytoplasm can be achieved through production of high endogenous levels of specific compatible solutes. To test our hypothesis, we examined endogenous levels of compatible solutes in roots and leaves of 29-, 40- and 48-day-old P. strombulifera plants grown in media containing various concentrations of NaCl, Na2SO4 or in mixtures of both, with osmotic potentials of −1.0,−1.9 and −2.6 MPa, as correlated with changes in hydric parameters. At 24 h after the last pulse plants grown in high NaCl concentrations had higher relative water content and relatively higher osmotic potential than plants grown in Na2SO4 (at 49 days). These plants also had increased synthesis of proline, pinitol and mannitol in the cytoplasm, accompanied by normal carbon metabolism. When the sulphate anion is present in the medium, the capacities for ion compartmentalisation and osmotic adjustment are reduced, resulting in water imbalance and symptoms of toxicity due to altered carbon metabolism, e.g. synthesis of sorbitol instead of mannitol, reduced sucrose production and protein content. This inhibition was partially mitigated when both anions were present together in the solution, demonstrating a detrimental effect of the sulphate ion on plant growth.