In contrast with the abundance of anatomical studies of secretory structures on aerial vegetative organs of Asteraceae species, the information about secretory structures on thickened subterranean organs is sparse. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of secretory structures on thickened and nonthickened subterranean organs of seven Asteraceae species from three tribes: Eupatorieae (Chromolaena squalida and Gyptis lanigera), Vernonieae (Chresta sphaerocephala, Lessingianthus bardanoides, L. glabratus and Orthopappus angustifolius), and Plucheeae (Pterocaulon angustifolium). The specimens were collected in areas of cerrado from the State of São Paulo, Brazil. All species of the tribe Vernonieae studied exhibited endodermic cells, other than the epithelial cells of the canal, with secretory activity in the roots. In C. sphaerocephala roots, two types of endodermic cell were found, but only one had secretory activity. Secretory canals were found in the tuberous and nontuberous roots of all studied species. These data agree with the results from the literature for Asteraceae species. Here, we describe for the first time in Asteraceae the presence of secretory idioblasts in C. sphaerocephala. Secretory trichomes are present in the Orthopappus angustifolius rhizophore. Histochemical tests have shown that all types of secretory structure possess substances containing lipids. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 157, 789–796.