In this study we present the comparative molecular analysis of bacterial communities of the aquatic plant Lemna minor from a contaminated site (RCP) and from a laboratory culture (EPA), as well as each of these with the addition of cadmium. Plants were identified as L. minor by analysis of the rpl16 chloroplast region. Comparative bacterial community studies were based on the analyses of 16S rRNA clone libraries, each containing about 100 clones from the root surfaces of plants. Bacterial communities were compared at three phylogenetic levels of resolution. At the level of bacterial divisions, differences in diversity index scores between treatments, with and without cadmium within the same plant type (EPA or RCP), were small, indicating that cadmium had little effect. When we compared genera within the most dominant group, the beta-proteobacteria, differences between unamended and cadmium-amended libraries were much larger. Bacterial diversity increased upon cadmium addition for both EPA and RCP libraries. Analyses of diversity at the phylotype level showed parallel shifts to more even communities upon cadmium addition; that is, percentage changes in diversity indices due to cadmium addition were the same for either plant type, indicating that contamination history might be independent of disturbance-induced diversity shifts. At finer phylogenetic levels of resolution, the effects of cadmium addition on bacterial communities were very noticeable. This study is a first step in understanding the role of aquatic plant-associated microbial communities in phytoremediation of heavy metals.