The effects of Cd and Zn on cross-colonization by Paxillus involutus of Scots pine seedlings was examined by using pairs of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) and non-mycorrhizal (NM) seedlings grown in the same vessel. This was done to assess, first, the ability of P. involutus to colonize NM Scots pine seedlings by growth from colonized roots of other Scots pine seedlings in the presence of Cd or Zn, and, second whether ECM colonization of Scots pine by P. involutus provided a competitive advantage over NM seedlings. Ectomycorrhizal colonization of Scots pine was shown to be more sensitive than Scots pine itself to Cd and Zn, but prior colonization did provide a competitive advantage with respect to biomass production. This beneficial effect over NM seedlings was, however, equal in the control, Cd and Zn treatments, and was due simply to growth stimulation in the presence of ECM colonization. Cross-colonization from an ECM to a NM seedling was reduced but not prevented by Cd and Zn. Cd had a more negative effect on cross-colonization than on initial colonization of seedlings, whereas Zn had an equally inhibitory effect on both parameters. These results have important implications for plant establishment on metal-contaminated sites. If cross-colonization between plants is reduced by toxic metals, plant establishment on contaminated sites might be retarded.