Representative pioneer tree root systems in the subtropical area of South China were examined with regard to their structure, underground stratification and biomass distribution. Excavation of skeleton roots and observation of fine roots of seven species including the Euphorbiaceae, Theaceae, Melastomataceae, Lauraceae and Fagaceae families was carried out. The results showed that: (1) Pioneer tree roots in the first stage of natural succession were of two types, one characterized by taproot system with bulky plagiotropic branches; the other characterized by flat root system with several tabular roots. The late mesophilous tree roots were characterized by one obvious taproot and tactic braches roots up and down. Shrub species roots were characterized by heart fibrous root type featured both by horizontally and transversally growing branches. Root shapes varied in different dominant species at different stages of succession. (2) Roots of the different species varied in the external features—color, periderm and structure of freshly cut slash. (3) In a set of successional stages the biomass of tree roots increased linearly with the age of growth. During monsoon, the total root biomass amounted to 115.70 t/ha in the evergreen broad-leaved forest; 50.61 t/ha in needle and broad-leaved mixed forest dominated by coniferous forest; and 64.20 t/ha in broad-and needle-leaved mixed forest dominated by broad-leaved heliophytes, and are comparable to the underground biomass observed in similar tropical forests. This is the first report about roots characteristics of forest in the lower sub-tropical area of Dinghushan, Guangdong, China.