The small phenolic molecule salicylic acid (SA) plays a key role in plant defense. Significant progress has been made recently in understanding SA-mediated defense signaling networks. Functional analysis of a large number of genes involved in SA biosynthesis and regulation of SA accumulation and signal transduction has revealed distinct but interconnecting pathways that orchestrate the control of plant defense. Further studies utilizing combinatorial approaches in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and genomics will uncover finer details of SA-mediated defense networks as well as further insights into the crosstalk of SA with other defense signaling pathways. The complexity of defense networks illustrates the capacity of plants to integrate multiple developmental and environmental signals into a tight control of the costly defense responses.