Three-dimensional X-ray diffraction (3DXRD) is used to characterize the nucleation and early growth of individual bulk nuclei in situ during recrystallization of 92% cold-rolled copper. It is found that some cube nuclei, but not all, have a significantly faster initial growth than the average growth kinetics. These results are discussed and compared to previous 3DXRD results for recrystallization of aluminum alloys, and implications of the results on modeling of recrystallization are considered. Finally, a new 3DXRD technique suitable for non-destructive 3D characterization is outlined and its potential for recrystallization studies is discussed. (c) 2006 Acta Materialia Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.