The relation between interspecific variation in relative growth rate and carbon and nitrogen economy was investigated. Twenty-four wild species were grown in a growth chamber with a nonlimiting nutrient supply and growth, whole plant photosynthesis, shoot respiration, and root respiration were determined. No correlation was found between the relative growth rate of these species and their rate of photosynthesis expressed on a leaf area basis. There was a positive correlation, however, with the rate of photosynthesis expressed per unit leaf dry weight. Also the rates of shoot and root respiration per unit dry weight correlated positively with relative growth rate. Due to a higher ratio between leaf area and plant weight (leaf area ratio) fast growing species were able to fix relatively more carbon per unit plant weight and used proportionally less of the total amount of assimilates in respiration. Fast growing species had a higher total organic nitrogen concentration per unit plant weight, allocated more nitrogen to the leaves and had a higher photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency, i.e. a higher rate of photosynthesis per unit organic nitrogen in the leaves. Consequently, their nitrogen productivity, the growth rate per unit organic nitrogen in the plant and per day, was higher compared with that of slow growing species.