Soils developed on sulphide-bearing shale (alum shale) in Norway contain naturally high amount of heavy metals. We conducted a greenhouse pot experiment to study the effect of four rates (0, 2, 4, and 8%) and three sources (cow manure, pig manure and peat soil) of organic matter in partitioning and distribution, extractability and plant uptake of Cd, Cu, Ni and Zn in an alum shale soil. Sequential extraction scheme was used to determine the distribution patterns of metals in the soil. DTPA was used for extracting the metals from the soil. Wheat (Triticum aestivum) was used as a test crop to study the plant uptake of metals. The highest amount of Cd was present in the exchangeable fraction, irrespective of the rate and source of organic matter applied. Copper, Ni, and Zn, on the other hand, were present only in small quantities in this fraction. The largest fraction of Cu was associated with organic matter and the amounts present in the oxide, carbonate and exchangeable fractions were very small. Nickel and Zn were found mainly in the residual fraction. Increasing rates of cow and pig manure decreased the amounts of Cd and Ni associated with the exchangeable fraction whereas, the addition of peat soil at the same rate increased the amounts of these metals associated with this fraction. This effect of organic matter was primarily associated with the change in soil pH caused by different organic matter sources. The DTPA-extractable metals were decreased with increasing rates of organic matter application, irrespective of its source. Grain and straw yields of wheat were decreased with increasing rates of organic matter. The application of organic matter increased the Cu and Zn concentrations in both grain and straw. The concentration of all metals was lower in plants grown in the cow manure amended soil as compared to those grown in the soil amended with either pig manure or peat soil. These results sugggest that the source of organic matter was a determining factor for metal distribution in the soil and for metal uptake by plants. In this study cow manure slightly increased the soil pH and thus was more effective than either pig manure or peat soil in reducing the plant uptake of metals but in general the efficiency of the organic material in reducing heavy metal uptake was small.