Methacrylate-embedded sections and short-survival thymidine radiograms of the hippocampal dentate gyrus were examined in perinatal and postnatal rats in order to trace the site of origin and migration of the precursors of granule cells and study the morphogenesis of the granular layer. The densely packed, spindle-shaped cells of the secondary dentate matrix (a derivative of the primary dentate neuroepithelium) stream in a subpial position towards the granular layer of the internal dentate limb during the perinatal and early postnatal periods. By an accretionary process, the crest of the granular layer forms on day E21 and on the subsequent days the granular layer of the internal dentate limb expands progressively in a lateral direction. Granule cells differentiation, as judged by the transformation of polymorph, darkly staining small cells into rounder, lightly staining larger granule cells, follows the same gradient from the external dentate limb to the internal dentate limb. The secondary dentate matrix is in a process of dissolution by day P5. This matrix is the source of what will later become the outer shell of the granular layer composed of early generated granule cells. The thicker inner shell of the granular layer, formed during the infantile and juvenile periods, derives from an intrinsic, tertiary germinal matrix. On day E22, the dentate migration of the secondary dentate matrix becomes partitioned into two components: a) the subpial component of extradentate origin, referred to in this context as the first dentate migration, and b) the second dentate migration. The latter is distributed in the basal polymorph layer throughout the entire dentate gyrus and is henceforth recognized as the tertiary dentate matrix. The tertiary dentate matrix is prominent between days P3 and P10. It is postulated that the great increase in granule cell population during the infantile period is principally due to cells derived from this intrinsic matrix of the dentate gyrus. Between days P20 and P30 the tertiary dentate matrix disappears in the basal polymorph layer and henceforth proliferative cells become largely confined to the subgranular zone at the base of the granular layer. The subgranular zone is the source of granule cells produced during the juvenile and adult periods.