A scheme for creating 'flower-like' nanostructures of carbon nitride is described that involves the self-assembly of nanocrystals following laser ablation of a solid graphite target immersed in aqueous ammonia solution. The primary nanocrystals possess rod-like symmetry, and then self-assemble upon drying to form nanoleaf or nanopetal shaped structures. Samples were characterized using x-ray diffraction (XRD), transmission electron microscopy (TEM), field-emission scanning electron microscopy (FE-SEM), x-ray photoelectron microscopy (XPS) and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR). The analyses confirmed their composition to be consistent with that of crystalline β-phase carbon nitride. The morphologies of the carbon nitride nanostructures depended strongly on the synthesis conditions and upon the conditions under which the aqueous suspension of ablated particles were dried.