DNA endoreduplication in Zea mays L. (cv. A619 × W64A) endosperm peaks between 16 and 18 d after pollination (DAP). The physiological function of DNA endoreduplication is not known but it is believed to be important in maize kernel development. In the present study, we investigated how 2, 4 or 6 d of high temperature (35 °C) affected DNA endoreduplication and maize kernel development in comparison with control kernels grown at 25 °C. Data were collected on fresh weight (FW), nuclei number, mitotic index, and DNA endoreduplication. Maize endosperm FW and nuclei number were reduced by exposure to 4 or 6 d of high temperature. At 18 DAP, the 2 d high temperature treatment (HTT) caused a reduction in FW and nuclei number, but had no effect on DNA endoreduplication and average DNA content per endosperm. However, when the exposure to high temperature was increased to 4 or 6 d, FW, nuclei number and the magnitude of DNA endoreduplication were progressively reduced, and the peak mitotic index was delayed compared with the control endosperm. At 18 DAP, the 4 d treatment showed 54·7% of the cells were 3 or 6 C, whereas only 41·2% were 12 C or higher. Six days of high temperature also resulted in a reduction in endosperm FW, nuclei number and a delay in the peak of mitotic index. DNA endoreduplication occurred in the kernels exposed to this treatment, although the magnitude was severely reduced compared with the control kernels. Nuclear DNA content was highly correlated (r= 0·93) with kernel FW, suggesting an important role of DNA endoreduplication in determining endosperm FW. The data suggest that high temperature during endosperm cell division exerted negative effects on DNA endoreduplication by dramatically reducing the nuclei number, leaving fewer nuclei available for DNA endoreduplication. However, the data also suggest that prolonged exposure to high temperature restricts entry of mitotic cells into the endoreduplication phase of the cell cycle.