Assessments of the anatomy, porosity and profiles of radial O2 loss from adventitious roots of 10 species in the Poaceae (from four subfamilies) and two species in the Cyperaceae identified a combination of features characteristic of species that inhabit wetland environments. These include a strong barrier to radial O2 loss in the basal regions of the adventitious roots and extensive aerenchyma formation when grown not only in stagnant but also in aerated nutrient solution. Adventitious root porosity was greater for plants grown in stagnant compared with aerated solution, for all 10 species in the Poaceae. The ‘wetland root’ archetype was best developed in Oryza sativa and the two species of the Cyperaceae, in which the stele contributed less than 5% of the root cross-sectional area, the cells of the inner cortex were packed in a cuboidal arrangement, and aerenchyma was up to 35–52%. Variations of this root structure, in which the proportional and absolute area of stele was greater, with hexagonal arrangements of cells in the inner cortex and varying in the extent of aerenchyma formation, were present in the other wetland species from the subfamilies Pooideae, Panicoideae and Arundinoideae. Of particular interest were Vetiveria zizanoides and V. filipes, wetland grass species from the tribe Andropogoneae (the same tribe as sorghum, maize and sugarcane), that had a variant of the root anatomy found in rice. The results are promising with regard to enhancing these traits in waterlogging intolerant crops.