The concentrations of several natural radionuclides in common cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) growing in Yangjiang County, a high background radiation area in Guangdong Province, and their uptake from soil and distribution in the plant were investigated. The results show that the concentrations of natural uranium and thorium in cassava root are of the order of 10/sup -6/ g/kg, and those of radium-226, radium-228, lead-210 and polonium-210 are of the order of 10/sup -11/ Ci/kg. The highest level is 9.30 +- 0.30 x 10/sup -11/ Ci/kg (lead-210), and the lowest is 3.99 +- 0.20 x 10/sup -11/ Ci/kg (radium-226). The levels of natural uranium, thorium, radium-226 and polonium-210 in cassava are below the limits stipulated by the regulations for food hygiene in China, while the lead-210 level approaches the limit. It is noticeable that the highest level of radium-228 is 7.28 +- 1.03 x 10/sup -11/ Ci/kg, 10.4 times higher than the limit. The transfer of all the nuclides from soil to different parts of cassava shows a pattern contrary to that of he nuclides in the other regions where uranium-and radium-containing waste water and phosphate fertilizer are used in agriculture.