The beneficial effects of mycorrhizae on plant growth have often been related to the increase in the uptake of immobile nutrients, especially phosphorus (P). In this review the mechanisms for the increase in the uptake of P by mycorrhizae and the sources of soil P for mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants are examined. Various mechanisms have been suggested for the increase in the uptake of P by mycorrhizal plants. These include: exploration of larger soil volume; faster movement of P into mycorrhizal hyphae; and solubilization of soil phosphorus. Exploration of larger soil volume by mycorrhizal plants is achieved by decreasing the distance that P ions must diffuse to plant roots and by increasing the surface area for absorption. Faster movement of P into mycorrhizal hyphae is achieved by increasing the affinity for P ions and by decreasing the threshold concentration required for absorption of P. Solubilization of soil P is achieved by the release of organic acids and phosphatase enzymes. Mycorrhizal plants have been shown to increase the uptake of poorly soluble P sources, such as iron and aluminium phosphate and rock phosphates. However, studies in which the soil P has been labelled with radioactive 32P indicated that both mycorrhizal and non-mycorrhizal plants utilized the similarly labelled P sources in soil.