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`mount -o union` does not descend


I'm just trying a bit around, and then came over the following issue:
When I mount a file system directly via mount_union(8), I have no problems
with handling the file system (everything works as expected).
But when I mount a file system directly with the option `-o union`, and the
underlying filesystem is read-only, I will always get EROFS when I'm not at
the top directory.
E.g. when / is still mounted read-only, and you try 
        mount -t tmpfs -o union tmpfs /
Then you'll be allowed to do anything in /, but nothing in any of the
descendants, e.g. you cannot touch /var/file.

Why is it like that? Is there any way to circumvent that (mount_union(8) is
no option for me)?

Regards, Julian

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