Development of the immune system is depicted as a hierarchical process of differentiation from hematopoietic stem cells (HSC) to lineage-committed precursors, which further develop into mature immune cells. In the case of dendritic cell (DC) development, this linear precursor-progeny approach has led to a confused picture of relationships between various subsets of DC identifiable in vivo. A possible reconciliation of the diversity of DC precursors and DC subsets in vivo encompasses the role of the microenvironment in DC hematopoiesis. We propose here that various niches for DC hematopoiesis within lymphoid organs could account for the diversity of DC in vivo. A tridimensional space consisting of stromal cells which produce a range of membrane-bound and secreted molecules providing signals to DC progenitors would define these niches.