Foliar analysis is a valuable tool for evaluating the pollution status of forests. However, the use of foliar diagnosis in large-scale surveys is a complicated process owing to the high variability within the crown. The method used to express foliar concentrations has often been found to diminish the variability. The effect of the method used to express element concentrations on the spatial variability of cadmium (Cd) in the leaves of crack willow (Salix fragilis L.) was investigated by sampling the leaves of one willow at 292 locations in the crown, each sampling location having a volume of 0.027 m3 (0.3 m × 0.3 m × 0.3 m). Cadmium showed a distinct spatial trend in the crown of the tree. Concentrations as low as 2.4 mg kg-1 dry weight (DW) or 23.1 mg kg-1 dry ash weight (DAW) were obtained in the top of the crown, and 10.6 mg kg-1 DW or 73.0 mg kg-1 DAW in the bottom of the crown. The lower relative standard deviation and weaker correlation with the sampling height support the use of DAW in large-scale surveys especially. The lower variability of the DAW Cd concentration makes this variable less sensitive to fluctuations caused by differences in growing conditions and sampling methodology. However, the majority of publications in this field report metal concentrations on a DW basis. Therefore, the restrictions set on the use of results expressed on a DAW basis in large-scale surveys of foliar metal concentrations have to be offset against the advantages offered by a reduction of the variability in metal concentrations.