This study aimed at identifying the extent and type of contamination of a former lead smelting site in the area of Marseille, France, dating from the industrial revolution, and to evaluate environmental hazards and opportunities for phytoremediation, a promising sustainable technology. Amongst the native plants growing in this semiarid shrub ecosystem, two perennials Globularia alypum L. and Rosmarinus officinalis L were selected. Twenty-one soil/plant couples were collected and seventeen additional soil samples were added to better characterize the soil pollution of the area. A multi-contamination by Pb, As, Sb, Zn, Cu was demonstrated, with huge variations within the contamination levels. The soils highest concentrations were encountered along the horizontal chimney and on the slag heaps area. However, both sites differed from each other. The former was characterized by the highest Pb, As and Sb concentrations that could reach 130, 7.0 and 9.0 g kg(-1) respectively, the latter, by high Cu, Fe, Mn, S concentrations, even if it was also heavily contaminated by Pb and Zn. G. alypum and R. officinalis were shown to be metal-tolerant and to accumulate trace metals and As. Due to the low bioconcentration and translocation factors determined, both species may not be used for phytoextraction, but seem to be good candidates for phytostabilization. (C) 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.