Zinc oxide with different morphologies like stars, multipods, ellipsoids and spikes was synthesized using zinc nitrate and sodium hydroxide in the absence of surfactants. Seed mediation was found to be essential for the formation of ZnO nanospikes. Synthesized ZnO samples were characterized by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), high resolution transmission electron microscopy (HRTEM), UV-visible diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (UV-vis-DRS) and energy dispersive analysis by X-rays (EDAX) techniques. The predominant c-axis growth of hexagonal lattice was observed in ZnO anisotropic particles. TEM analysis revealed the formation of two types of ZnO ellipsoid particles. Concentration of the reactants was found to have a role in controlling the morphology of the resulting ZnO. Mechanism of formation of varying morphologies of ZnO particles has been proposed. © 2011 American Scientific Publishers. All rights reserved.