The influence of environmental gradients on the foliar nutrient economy of forests has been well documented; however, we have little understanding of what drives variability among individuals within a single forest stand, especially tropical forests. We evaluated inter- and intra-specific variation in nutrient resorption, foliar nutrient concentrations and physical leaf traits of nine canopy tree species within a 1-ha secondary tropical rain forest in northeastern Costa Rica. Both nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) resorption efficiency (RE) and proficiency of the nine tree species varied significantly among species, but not within. Both N and P RE were significantly negatively related to leaf specific strength. Green leaf N and P concentrations were strongly negatively related to leaf mass per area, and senesced leaf nutrient concentrations were significantly positively related to green leaf nutrient concentrations. This study reveals a strong influence of physical leaf traits on foliar nutrient and resorption traits of co-occurring species in a secondary wet tropical forest stand.