We developed a method using nitrocellulose membranes and image analysis to localise and quantify acid phosphatase activity in the rhizosphere of two plant species, one with cluster roots (Dryandra sessilis (Knight) Domin) and another with ectomycorrhizal roots (Pinus taeda L.). Membranes were placed in contact with roots and then treated with a solution of x, alpha-naphthyl phosphate and Fast Red TR. Acid phosphatase activity was visualised as a red imprint on the membrane. We quantified acid phosphatase activity by image analysis of scanned imprints. The method was used to estimate the spatial distribution of acid phosphatase activity within particular root classes (lateral roots, mycorrhizal roots, root clusters). Over 95% of the acid phosphatase activity of the root system of D. sessilis was associated with cluster roots, and between 20 and 32% of the root surface active. About 26 % of the acid phosphatase activity of the root system of P. taeda was associated with mycorrhizal roots and unsuberised white root tips and less than 10% of the root surface was active, irrespective of root type. This non-destructive method can be used for rapid, semi-quantitative assessment of acid phosphatase activity in the laboratory and in situ.