Abstract Dead and decaying grass from roadside verges is shown to accumulate more Pb from automotive exhaust fumes than living material. This is thought to be due to the breakdown of the cuticle and the resultant increase in the plants' permeability to water. Results from experiments with different extractants suggest that Pb may be bound in three different ways by both live and dead grass. The variation in Pb content of roadside grass from place to place and from time to time is explained in terms of varying proportions of live and dead leaves and other factors. The capacity of dead grass to bind Pb is compared with that of mosses.