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A simple self-catalyzed and mask-free approach will be presented to grow GaN rods and nanorods based on the metal-organic vapor phase epitaxy technique. The growth parameter dependent adjustment of the morphology of the structures will be discussed. Rods and nanorods with diameters reaching from a few μm down to 100 nm, heights up to 48 μm, and densities up to 8∙107 cm–2 are all vertically aligned with respect to the sample surface and exhibiting a hexagonal shape with smooth sidewall facets. Optical properties of GaN nanorods were determined using cathodoluminescence. It will be shown that the optical properties can be improved just by reducing the Ga precursor flow. Furthermore, for regular hexagonal shaped rods and nanorods, whispering gallery modes with quality factors up to 500 were observed by cathodoluminescence pointing out high morphological quality of the structures. Structural investigations using transmission electron microscopy show that larger GaN nanorods (diameter > 500 nm) contain threading dislocations in the bottom part and vertical inversion domain boundaries, which separate a Ga-polar core from a N-polar shell. In contrast, small GaN nanorods (∼200 nm) are largely free of such extended defects. Finally, evidence for a self-catalyzed, Ga-induced vapor-liquid-solid growth will be discussed.