Metal hyperaccumulator plants accumulate and detoxify extraordinarily high concentrations of metal ions in their shoots. Metal hyperaccumulation is a fascinating phenomenon, which has interested scientists for over a century. Hyperaccumulators constitute an exceptional biological material for understanding mechanisms regulating plant metal homeostasis as well as plant adaptation to extreme metallic environments. Our understanding of metal hyperaccumulation physiology has recently increased as a result of the development of molecular tools. This review presents key aspects of our current understanding of plant metal - in particular cadmium (Cd), nickel (Ni) and zinc (Zn) - hyperaccumulation. © The Authors (2009).