Abstract The maturation of olfactory receptor cells is facilitated by the presence of their target tissue, the olfactory bulb. Organ cultures of embryonic rat olfactory mucosa (OM) maintained in the presence of the presumptive olfactory bulb (POB) had a significantly higher (1.6 ×) density of ciliated dendritic knobs than those without the POB. No significant difference was found in the density of non-ciliated dendritic knobs and total knob density in these two groups of cultures. A control group of explants in which OM and POB had been separated and recombined also showed an increased ciliated dendritic knob density. The area of the olfactory epithelium was the same whether or not the POB was present. In addition, scanning electron microscopy observations revealed a high degree of heterogeneity in the surface morphology of the olfactory epithelium.