Abstract. The effect of time on natural regeneration of two salt marshes was studied in relation to plant and edaphic factors. The study was carried out in two naturally restoring salt marshes, differing in restoration time, in Txingudi (Bay of Biscay). After 20 yr, the younger salt marsh had the same plant species richness and high species similarity as a 35 yr old salt marsh (17 and 16, respectively, similarity index = 0.9), but both sites had lower species richness and similarity than a nearby natural salt marsh (36 plant species and similarity indices of 0.45 with the 35 yr old marsh and 0.46 with the 20 yr old marsh). Plant species present in the two recovering salt marshes followed a similar distribution pattern in relation to organic matter, conductivity and moisture content although this zonation differed from the natural salt marsh. The range of edaphic factors measured was also similar, but differed from those in the natural salt marsh. The process of plant species recolonization and spatial distribution might be delayed by a low probability of species arrival and by the time need for the restoration of hydrologic and edaphic factors. This study supports the necessity of long-term monitoring in measuring coastal salt marsh restoration.