Anomalous nodulation of Trifolium subterraneum (subterranean clover) roots by Rhizobium leguminosarum 1020 was examined as a model of modified host-specificity in a Rhizobium-legume symbiosis. Consistent with previous reports, these nodules (i) appeared most often at sites of secondary root emergence, (ii) were ineffective in nitrogen fixation and (iii) were as numerous as nodules formed by an effective Rhizobium trifolii strain. R. leguminosarum 1020, grown on agar plates or in the clover root environment, did not bind the white clover lectin, trifoliin A. This strain did not attach in high numbers, and did not induce shepherd's crooks or infection threads, in subterranean clover root hairs. However, R. leguminosarum 1020 did cause branching, moderate curling and other deformations of root hairs. The bacteria probably entered the clover root through breaks in the epidermis at sites of lateral root emergence. The anomalous nodulation was inhibited by nitrate. Only trace amounts of leghaemoglobin were detected in the nodules by Western blot analysis. The nodules were of the meristematic type and initially contained well-developed infection, bacteroid and senescent zones. Infection threads were readily found in the infection zone of the nodule. However, the bacteroid-containing tissue senesced more rapidly than in the effective symbiosis between subterranean clover and R. trifolii 0403. This anomalous nodulation of subterranean clover by R. leguminosarum 1020 suggests a naturally-occurring alternative route of infection that allows Rhizobium to enlarge its host range.