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We report the formation of self‐assembling CdSe quantum dots during molecular beam epitaxial growth on ZnSe and ZnMnSe. Atomic force microscopy measurements on specimens with uncapped dots show relatively narrow dot size distributions, with typical dot diameters of 40±5 nm, and with a diameter‐to‐height ratio consistently very close to 4:1. Uncapped CdSe dots are unstable with time: their density was observed to drop by an order of magnitude in 10 days, with clear evidence of ripening observed for some dots. Photoluminescence from capped dots indicates exciton localization much stronger than in ZnCdSe/ZnSe quantum wells, due to the additional lateral confinement. © 1996 American Institute of Physics.