Single-crystal ZnSe nanowires are grown on a prepatterned gold catalyst by molecular-beam epitaxy. Optimum selectivity and maximum nanowire densities are obtained for growth temperatures in the range 400–450°C, but gold-assisted growth is demonstrated for temperatures as low as 300°C. This suggests a diffusion process on/through the catalyst particle in the solid state, in contrast to the commonly assumed liquid phase growth models. Straight wires, as thin as 10nm, nucleate together with thicker and saw-like structures. A gold particle is always found at the tip in both cases.