Recombination nodules (RNs) are multicomponent proteinaceous ellipsoids found in association with the synaptonemal complex (SC) during prophase I of meiosis. Numerous early RNs (ENs) are observed during zygotene, and they may be involved in homologous synapsis and early events in recombination. Fewer late RNs (LNs) are observed during pachytene, and they occur at crossover sites. Here we describe the pattern of synapsis and the distribution of ENs and LNs in maize. Synapsis starts almost exclusively at chromosome ends, although later in zygotene there are many interstitial sites of synaptic initiation. ENs do not show interference, except possibly at distances < or = 0.2 micron. The frequency of ENs is higher on distal compared to medial SC segments, and the highest concentration of ENs occurs at synaptic forks. The number of ENs on an SC segment does not change during zygotene. These observations are interpreted to indicate that ENs are assembled at synaptic forks. Like ENs, LNs are more concentrated distally on bivalents but, unlike ENs, LNs show interference. A model is presented that relates the pattern of synapsis and ENs to the pattern of late nodules and crossing over.