We have identified strong loss-of-function mutations in the C. elegans cyclin E gene, cye-1. Mutations in cye-1 lead to the underproliferation of many postembryonic blast lineages as well as defects in fertility and gut-cell endoreduplication. In addition, cye-1 is required maternally, but not zygotically for embryonic development. Our analysis of vulval development in cye-1 mutants suggests that a timing mechanism may control the onset of vulval cell terminal differentiation: once induced, these cells appear to differentiate after a set amount of time, rather than a specific number of division cycles. cye-1 mutants also show an increase in the percentage of vulval precursor cells (VPCs) that adopt vulval cell fates, indicating that cell-cycle length can play a role in the proper patterning of vulval cells. By analyzing cul-1 mutants, we further demonstrate that vulval cell terminal differentiation can be uncoupled from associated changes in vulval cell division planes.