The hydrological conditions on a site constitute one of the many factors that may affect the availability of potentially toxic trace metals for uptake by plants. Bioavailability of Cd, Mn and Zn in a contaminated dredged sediment-derived soil under different hydrological regimes was determined by measuring metal uptake by the wetland plant species Salix cinerea, both in field circumstances and in a greenhouse experiment. Longer submersion periods in the field caused lower Cd concentrations in leaves and bark. The wetland hydrological regime in the greenhouse experiment resulted in normal Cd and Zn concentrations in the leaves, while the upland hydrological regime resulted in elevated Cd and Zn concentrations in the leaves. Field observations and the greenhouse experiment suggest that a hydrological regime that creates or sustains a wetland is a potential management option that reduces metal bioavailability to willows. This would constitute a safe management option of metal-polluted, willow-dominated wetlands provided that wetland conditions can be maintained throughout the full growing season. © 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.