A study of the GaN nanocolumns nucleation and growth by molecular beam epitaxy on Si(111) is presented. Ga droplets with different diameters (340-90 nm) were deposited on the substrate. prior to growth, to determine any effect on the nanocolumns size and distribution. Results indicate that there is no difference in nanocolumnar size and density whether Ga droplets are used or not, meaning that Ga droplets do not act as catalysts for the nanocolumns nucleation. In addition, Ga droplets were never observed on the nanocolumn tips upon growth termination. These findings rule out the vapor-liquid-solid mechanism, Instead, driven by a strong lattice mismatch nanocolumnar nucleation occurs spontaneously by Volmer-Weber growth mechanism, whereas nitrogen excess prevents the nucleation sites coalescence. Further nanocolumnar growth proceeds by direct Ga incorporation on the nanocolumns top and by Ga diffusion along the nanocolumns sidewalls up to their apex. Related to this diffusion mechanism, we found that Ga droplets, when used, may act as reservoirs to feed Ga atoms to the neighboring nanocolumns. Nanocolumns preserve a constant diameter if growth conditions are not modified because of a strong metal ad-atom diffusion length along their sidewalls. The effect of using AIN buffer layers on the nanocolumnar growth and morphology is also addressed. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.