Changes in the hydrology of sediments in tidal marshes or landfills may affect the uptake of metals in the vegetation. Leaf and stem samples of Salix cinerea (grey sallow) were collected during four consecutive growing seasons at six contaminated plots on a polluted dredged sediment landfill and one plot on an uncontaminated reference site. The first three contaminated plots were already emerged in the first half of the first growing season, while the other three were submerged in the first year, but became increasingly dry over the study period. Foliar and stem cutting concentrations for Cd, Zn and Mn increased on the latter three plots over the four years. Willow bark contained high concentrations of Cd, Zn and Mn. In two consecutive greenhouse experiments with willow cuttings from different origins (uncontaminated and contaminated sites) and grown under different soil conditions (uncontaminated and contaminated), we observed an important translocation of Mn from bark to shoots. In a third experiment with willow cuttings collected on soils with a range of heavy metal concentrations and, thus, with a broad range of Cd (4–67 mg/kg dry matter), Zn (247–660 mg/kg dry matter) and Mn (38–524 mg/kg dry matter) concentrations in the bark, high Mn concentrations in the bark were found to affect the budburst of willow cuttings, while no association of delayed budburst with Cd and Zn concentrations in the bark was found. We conclude that wood and, especially, bark are not a sink for metals in living willows. The high Mn concentrations in the bark directly or indirectly caused delayed or restricted budburst of the willow cuttings.