Ultralong Cu(OH)(2) and CuO nanowire bundles with lengths ranging from tens to hundreds of micrometers have been selectively synthesized on a large scale by a facile solution-phase method, using PEG200 as growth-directing agent. The growth mechanisms were investigated by monitoring the nanowire evolution process. The results showed that under the action of PEG200 molecules, the Cu(OH)(2) and CuO nanowires were first formed through oriented attachment of colloidal particles, then through side self-assembly leading to nanowire bundles, and finally to CuO nanoleaves. PEG200 plays a critical role in the synthesis of nanowires as it not only prevents the random aggregation of colloidal particles toward CuO nanoleaves but also helps to orientate nanowire growth by the coalescence and alignment in one direction of the colloidal particles. The concentration of OH(-) in the reaction system is also important for nanowire growth. In the absence of PEG200, nanoleaves are formed by an Ostwald ripening process. The band-gap value estimated from a UV-Vis absorption spectrum of CuO nanowire bundles is 2.32 eV. The photodegradation of a model pollutant, rhodamine B, by CuO nanowires and nanoleaves was compared with commercial nanopowders, showing that the as-synthesized ultralong CuO polycrystalline nanowire bundles have an enhanced photocatalytic activity with 87% decomposition of rhodamine B after an 8-h reaction, which was much higher than that of single-crystal nanoleaves (61%) and commercial nanopowders (32%). The origin of the high photocatalytic activity of these new polycrystalline CuO nanowire bundles has been discussed. This present work reveals that the (0 0 2) crystallographic surface is more favorable for photocatalytic decomposition of organic compounds and that these ultralong CuO nanowire bundles are potential candidates for photocatalysts in wastewater treatment.