• Uptake kinetics and translocation characteristics of cadmium and zinc are presented for two contrasting ecotypes of the Cd/Zn hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens, Ganges (southern France) and Prayon (Belgium).
• Experiments using radioactive isotopes were designed to investigate the physiology of Cd and Zn uptake, and a pressure-chamber system was employed to collect xylem sap.
• In contrast to similar Zn uptake and translocation, measurements of concentration-dependent influx of Cd revealed marked differences between ecotypes. Ganges alone showed a clear saturable component in the low Cd concentration range; maximum influx Vmax for Cd was fivefold higher in Ganges; and there was a fivefold difference in the Cd concentration in xylem sap. Addition of Zn to the uptake solution at equimolar concentration to Cd did not decrease Cd uptake by Ganges, but caused a 35% decrease in Prayon.
• There is strong physiological evidence for a high-affinity, highly expressed Cd transporter in the root cell plasma membranes of the Ganges ecotype of T. caerulescens. This raises evolutionary questions about specific transporters for non-essential metals. The results also show the considerable scope for selecting hyperaccumulator ecotypes to achieve higher phytoextraction efficiencies.