Metal preferences with regard to accumulation were compared between populations of the heavy metal hyperaccumulator Thlaspi caerulescens, originating from calamine, serpentine and non-metalliferous soils. Plants were exposed for 3 weeks to factorial combinations of concentrations of different metals in binary mixture in hydroponics. The nature and degree of the interactions varied significantly between populations. In the calamine, non-Cd/Ni-hyperaccumulating population, La Calamine, there were no one-sided or mutual antagonistic interactions among the metals with regard to their accumulation in the plant. In three other populations capable of Cd and Ni hyperaccumulation, from calamine, serpentine and non-metalliferous soil respectively, there were one-sided or mutual antagonistic interactions between Cd and Zn, Cd and Ni, and Ni and Zn, possibly resulting from competition for transporters involved in uptake or plant-internal transport. Significant synergistic interactions, probably resulting from regulation of transporter expression, were also found, particularly in the La Calamine population. All the populations seemed to express a more or less Zn-specific high-affinity system. The serpentine and the non-metallicolous populations seemed to posses low-affinity systems with a preference for Cd and Zn over Ni, one of which may be responsible for the Ni hyperaccumulation of the serpentine population in its natural environment. The calamine population from Ganges also seemed to express a strongly Cd-specific high-affinity system which is in part responsible for the Cd-hyperaccumulation phenotype exhibited by this population in its natural environment. © 2007 The Author(s).