The effects of phosphorus (P) application and mycorrhizal inoculation on the root characteristics of subterranean clover and ryegrass were examined. Phosphorus application increased total root length, root surface area and root volume of both plant species. In contrast, mycorrhizal infection only affected the root characteristics of subterranean clover. Ryegrass took up more P than non-mycorrhizal subterranean clover at all levels of application. However, mycorrhizal infection only increased P uptake by subterranean clover and there was no difference in P uptake between ryegrass and mycorrhizal subterranean clover at low levels of P application. When the P uptake was expressed on the basis of any of the root characteristics, subterranean clover were superior to ryegrass suggesting that the greater uptake of P by ryegrass is not due to a higher efficiency in absorption of P from soil solution, but rather to a large root system.