Growth, tolerance and zinc and cadmium hyperaccumulation of Thlaspi caerulescens populations from three metal contaminated soils and three normal soils were compared under controlled conditions. Individuals of six populations were cultivated on five soils with increasing concentrations of zinc (50–25000 μg g−1) and cadmium (1–170 μg g−1). There was no mortality of normal soil populations in the four metal-contaminated soils, but plant growth was reduced to half that of populations from metal-contaminated soils. However, in noncontaminated soil, the growth of individuals from normal soils was greater than that of individuals from metal-contaminated soils. Individuals from normal soils concentrated three times more zinc in the aboveground biomass than those from metal-contaminated soils, but the latter accumulated twice as much cadmium. We conclude that populations of T. caerulescens from both normal and metal-contaminated soils are interesting material for phytoextraction of zinc and cadmium, but to optimize the process of phytoextraction it is necessary to combine the extraction potentials of both type of populations.