A strategy is presented for the in situ synthesis of single crystalline CuO nanorods and 3D CuO nanostructures, ultra-long Cu nanowires and Cu nanoparticles at relatively low temperature onto various substrates (Si, SiO2, ITO, FTO, porous nickel, carbon cotton, etc.) by one-step thermal heating of copper foam in static air and inert gas, respectively. The density, particle sizes and morphologies of the synthesized nanostructures can be effectively controlled by simply tailoring the experimental parameters. A compressive stress based and subsequent structural rearrangements mechanism is proposed to explain the formation of the nanostructures. The as-prepared CuO nanostructures demonstrate promising electrochemical properties as the anode materials in lithium-ion batteries and also reversible wettability. Moreover, this strategy can be used to conveniently integrate these nanostructures with other nanostructures (ZnO nanorods, Co3O4 nanowires and nanowalls, TiO2 nanotubes, and Si nanowires) to achieve various hybrid hierarchical (CuO-ZnO, CuO-Co3O4, CuO-TiO2, CuO-Si) nanocomposites with promising properties. This strategy has the potential to provide the nano society with a general way to achieve a variety of nanostructures.