Different planting dates were used to study the influence of thermal time on leaf appearance rate of four summer squash (Cucurbita pepo L.) cultivars. During the first year (1991), thermal time or growing degree days (GDD) were calculated using a base temperature of 8C and a ceiling temperature of 32C for several planting dates. Leaf numbers per plant were determined every 2 to 3 days. Leaves that were beginning to unfold with a width of 2 cm or greater were included in the counts. The relationship between leaf number and GDD was established from the initial data set, and data from subsequent years were used for model validation. Results indicated that single equation could be used to predict leaf appearance of all four cultivars in response to thermal time. The response of leaf appearance to GDD was curvilinear, with a lag over the first five leaves. After five leaves, the increase in leaf number per plant was linear with increased GDD. Segmented regression with two linear functions also fit the data well. With this approach, leaf 5 was the node, and a separate linear function was used to predict the leaf number below five leaves and above five leaves. The results of this model should prove to be useful in developing a model of leaf area development, and eventually a crop growth model, for summer squash.