The concentrations of nutrients (N and P) in the wastewater and loading rate to the constructed wetlands may influence the nutrient removal from the secondary-treated municipal wastewater using wetland plants. Three loading rates of N (low 5.7, medium 34.3 and high 103 mg N d(-1)) and two of P (low 3.4 and high 17.1 mg Pd-1) were studied in simulated secondary-treated municipal wastewater using Schoenoplectus validus (Vahl) A. Love & D. Love in the vertical free surface-flow wetland microcosms. After 70-d growth, there were significant interactive effects of N and P on the total, above-ground and root biomass. The below-ground biomass (rhizome and root) was negatively affected by the high N treatment. The tissue concentrations of N increased with an increase in N additions and decreased with an increase in P applications, whereas the tissue concentrations of P increased with an increase in P additions and decreased with an increase in N applications at the low P treatment, but increased at the high P treatment. Significant interactive effects of N and P loadings were found for the removal efficiencies of NH4 and R but not that of NO,. The plant uptake, substrate storage and other losses (e.g. denitrification and formation of organic film) had similar contribution to N removal when N loading was relatively low. The P storage by substrate was the main contribution to P removal when P loading was high, but plant uptake was the major factor responsible for P removal when P loading was low and N loading was high. The high nutrient availability and optimum ratio of N:P are required to stimulate growth of S. validus, resulting in preferential allocation of resources to the above-ground tissues and enhancing the nutrient removal efficiencies, but the high N concentration in wastewater may hamper the growth of S. validus in constructed wetlands. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.