Abstract Zn phytotoxicity and its possible detoxifying responses in two ecotypes of Sedum alfredii Hance, i.e. hyperaccumulating ecotype (HE) and non-hyperaccumulating ecotype (NHE) were investigated. HE grew better with high Zn concentrations of 29.11 g kg −1 DW in shoots when exposed to 500 μM Zn 2+. Toxicity symptoms caused by Zn in root cells of both ecotypes mainly included plasmolysis, disruption of plasma membranes and increased cell vacuolation. At high supplied Zn concentration, chloroplasts suffered from structural disorganization in both ecotypes. Zn-induced hydrogen peroxide (H 2O 2) and superoxide radical ( O 2 − ) productions in leaves were determined by a histochemical method, which revealed that Zn stress may have involved NADPH oxidase, protein phosphatases and intracellular Ca 2+ to activate the reactive oxygen species production. Inhibition of glutathione synthesis may have led to increased H 2O 2 and O 2 − accumulations in leaves of HE. In response to higher Zn concentrations, ascorbic acid significantly increased in both ecotypes and levels of glutathione increased in both leaves and roots of HE and in roots of NHE without any change in the leaves of NHE. The enzymatic activities like those of superoxide dismutase (SOD, EC 18.104.22.168), catalase (CAT, EC 22.214.171.124), guaiacol peroxidase (GPX, EC 126.96.36.199), ascorbate peroxidase (APX, EC 188.8.131.52), dehydroascorbate reductase (DHAR, EC 184.108.40.206), and glutathione reductase (GR, EC 220.127.116.11) in leaves of HE were all enhanced at supplied Zn concentration of 500 μM, which may account for its better growth.