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Low-nutrient adapted species have numerous mechanisms that aid in nutrient conservation. Hypothetically, species adapted to nutrient-poor soils should have tighter internal nutrient recycling, as evidenced by greater resorption. However, literature results are mixed. We suggest methodological factors may limit our understanding of this process. We hypothesized that plants adapted to serpentine soils would be more proficient in resorbing N and P than plants adapted to non-serpentine soils, although there would be differences among functional groups within each soil type. For six growing seasons, we sampled senescent leaf tissue from the dominant and co-dominant shrubs and trees found in serpentine and non-serpentine chaparral communities in the California Coast Range. Our study also explicitly included congener pairs found on both soil types. Most species were highly N proficient, but species adapted to serpentine soils were more P proficient. Surprisingly, two of the three potential N-fixing species were also highly N proficient. Evergreen Quercus congeners were more N proficient than their deciduous congener pairs, although there was no difference in P resorption proficiency. Overall, large inter-annual variation was observed among most species sampled, but at least in some years, maximum potential resorption likely was reached. However, climate (temperature and precipitation) was not strongly correlated with either N or P resorption proficiency. Our data suggest that controlling for phylogeny can aid in interpretation of resorption patterns. More importantly, our study clearly shows that resorption patterns can only be discerned through long-term datasets, of which few exist in the literature.