Due to diverse human activities zinc (Zn) may reach phytotoxic levels in the soil. Here, we evaluated the differential sensibility of three Brazilian tree species from the Fabaceae to increasing soil Zn concentrations and its physiological response to cope with excess Zn. A greenhouse experiment was conducted with the species: Mimosa caesalpiniaefolia, Erythrina speciosa and Schizolobium parahyba, and the addition of 0, 200, 400 and 600 mg Zn kg-1 to the soil. Plants were harvested after three months of cultivation, and growth, root symbiosis, biochemical markers and elemental composition were analyzed. Soil Zn addition reduced seedling growth, irrespective of the species, with a strong reduction in M. caesalpiniaefolia. Regarding root symbiosis, in N2-fixing species, nitrogenase activity was reduced by the highest Zn concentrations. Zn addition caused plants nutritional imbalances, mainly in roots. The content of photosynthetic pigments in leaves decreased up to 40%, suggesting that high Zn contents interfered with its biosynthesis, and altered the content of foliar polyamines and free amino acids, depending on the species and the soil Zn concentration. Zn toxicity in M. caesalpiniaefolia plants was observed at available soil Zn concentrations greater than 100 mg kg-1 (DTPA-extractable), being the most sensitive species and E. speciosa was moderately sensitive. S. parahyba was a moderately tolerant species, which seems to be related to polyamines accumulation and to mycorrhizal association. This last species has the potential for revegetation of areas with moderately high soil Zn concentration and for phytostabilization purposes. Future research evaluating the tolerance to multiple metal stress under field conditions should confirm S. parayba suitability in Zn contaminated areas of tropical regions.