To establish the structural and physiological characteristics related to the genotypic variation in Cd distribution between maize inbred lines (shoot Cd excluders and non-shoot Cd excluders), shoot and root morphological parameters were studied on plants grown in nutrient solution. Furthermore, the xylem sap composition and the desorbability of Cd from roots of these inbreds have been compared. No relationship between the morphological characteristics of either shoot (specific leaf area and leaf area ratio) or root (specific root length, specific surface area, and average diameter) and Cd distribution could be assessed. Cadmium concentrations in the xylem exudates from non-shoot Cd excluders were higher than those from shoot Cd excluders, but not related to citrate and malate concentrations. The absolute and relative amounts of Cd desorbed from roots of shoot Cd excluders were about twice as high compared to those of the non-shoot Cd excluders, especially at the lowest Cd concentration in solution. The absence of a relationship between shoot or root morphological parameters and Cd partitioning and the differences between both groups in the amounts of Cd desorbed, even at similar root Cd concentrations, indicate that the differential Cd distribution between shoot Cd excluders and non-shoot Cd excluders may be related to the observed differences in root Cd concentration, desorption characteristics and binding capacity of Cd inside and/or outside the root and its distribution within the roots.