In this paper we used simulation tools to study turbulent boundary-layer structures in the roughness sublayer. Of particular interest is the case of a neutrally-stratified atmospheric boundary layer in which the lower boundary is covered by a homogeneous plant canopy. The goal of this study was to formulate a consistent conceptual model for the creation and evolution of the dominant coherent structures associated with canopy roughness and how they link with features observed in the overlying inertial sublayer. First, coherent structures were examined using temporally developing flow where the full range of turbulent scales had not yet developed, which allowed for instantaneous visualizations. These visualizations were used to formulate a conceptual model, which was then further tested using composite-averaged structure realizations from fully-developed flow with a very large Reynolds number. This study concluded that quasi two-dimensional mixing-layer-like roller structures exist in the developed flow and give the largest contributions to mean Reynolds stresses near the canopy. This work fully acknowledges the presence of highly three-dimensional and localized vortex pairing processes. The primary argument is that, as in a mixing layer, the smaller three-dimensional vortex interactions do not destroy the larger two-dimensional structure. Because the flow has a very large Reynolds number, the roller-like structures are not well-defined vortices but rather are a conglomerate of a large range of smaller-scale vortex structures that create irregularities. Because of this, the larger-scale structure is more difficult to detect in correlation or conditional sampling analyses. The frequently reported ‘scalar microfronts’ and associated spikes in pressure occur in the slip-like region between adjacent rollers. As smaller vortices within roller structures stretch, they evolve to form arch- and hairpin-shaped structures. Blocking by the low-flux canopy creates vertical asymmetry, and tends to impede the vertical progression of head-down structures. Head-up hairpins are allowed to continually stretch upward into the overlying inertial sublayer, where they evolve into the hairpin structures commonly reported to populate wall-bounded flows. This process is thought to be modulated by boundary-layer-scale secondary instability, which enhances head-up hairpin formation along quasi-streamwise transects.