The conjugation of the small ubiquitin-related modifier, SUMO, to substrate proteins is a reversible and dynamic process, and an important response of plants to environmental challenges. Nevertheless, reliable data have so far been restricted largely to the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. The increasing availability of genome information for other plant species offers the possibility to identify a core set of indispensable components, and to discover species-specific features of the sumoylation pathway. We analyzed the enzymes responsible for the conjugation of SUMO to substrates for their conservation between dicots and monocots. We thus assembled gene sets that relate the Arabidopsis SUMO conjugation system to that of the dicot species tomato, grapevine and poplar, and to four plant species from the monocot class: rice, Brachypodium distachyon, Sorghum bicolor and maize. We found that a core set of genes with clear assignment in Arabidopsis had highly conserved homologs in all tested plants. However, we also observed a variation in the copy number of homologous genes, and sequence variations that suggested monocot-specific variants. Generally, SUMO ligases and proteases showed the most pronounced differences. Finally, we identified potential SUMO chain-binding ubiquitin ligases, pointing to an in vivo function of SUMO chains as degradation signals in plants.