A population of the metallophyte Noccaea (Thlaspi) caerulescens originating from a Zn-enriched area at Roros Copper Mine (Norway) was studied. N. caerulescens tolerance to accumulate Cd and Zn was evaluated in hydroponic experiments by chlorophyll fluorescence imaging analysis. In the field-collected N. caerulescens mother plants, Zn shoot concentrations were above Zn hyperaccumulation threshold while, in hydroponic experiments under 40-mu M Cd exposure, shoot Cd concentrations were clearly above Cd hyperaccumulation threshold. Cadmium ions and, to a less extent, Zn were mainly retained in the roots. Exposure to Cd enhanced Zn translocation to the shoot, while decreased significant total Ca2+ uptake, suggesting that Cd uptake occurs through Ca2+ transporters. Nevertheless, it increased Ca2+ translocation to the leaf, possibly for photoprotection of photosystem II (PSII). Exposure to 800 mu M Zn or 40 mu M Cd resulted in increased Fe3+ uptake suggesting that in N. caerulescens, Cd uptake does not take place through the pathway of Fe3+ uptake and that conditions that lead to Cd and Zn accumulation in plants may also favor Fe accumulation. Despite the significant high toxicity levels of Zn and Cd in leaves, under Zn and Cd exposure, respectively, the allocation of absorbed light energy at PSII did not differ compared to controls. The results showed that N. caerulescens keep Cd and Zn concentrations in the mesophyll cells in non-toxic forms for PSII and that the increased Ca and Fe accumulation in leaves alleviates the toxicity effects. Chlorophyll fluorescence imaging revealed that PSII of N. caerulescens resisted better the phytotoxic effects of 20 times higher Zn than Cd exposure concentration. Overall, it is concluded that the use of chlorophyll fluorescence imaging constitutes a promising basis for investigating heavy metal tolerance of plants.