The effects of willow stand development on top soil properties of uncontaminated infrastructure spoil landfills (ISL) and contaminated dredged sediment landfills (DSL) were assessed. For the ISL, significant increases in Cd, Zn and organic C levels in the top soil (0-10 cm) were detected more than 20 years after disposal. The increases in Cd and Zn concentrations in the top soil were attributed to leaf-associated metal transfer and leaf fall: the relatively high Cd and Zn concentrations in willow leaves resulted in top soil enrichment for these elements. Higher absolute amounts of Cd, Zn and Mn were taken up and recycled during leaf fall on DSL than on ISL, but did not result in significant differences between top soil and deeper soil (10-30 cm) for the DSL. Direct comparison of top soil development between both types of sites is not possible due to differences in stand age and time since disposal. The DSL were characterised by a higher short-range variance for the Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb and Zn concentrations in the top soil than the ISL. During the first years of ripening and dewatering, significant sulphate leaching occurred in the top soil of the DSL. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.