Natural variation in the essential oil content of Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel (Myrtaceae)

Biochem Syst Ecol. 2000 Apr 1;28(4):367-382. doi: 10.1016/s0305-1978(99)00071-x.


The composition and yield of oil in 615 trees representing the natural populations of Melaleuca alternifolia, or tea tree, was investigated. A sixth distinct oil chemotype was identified. Of the six chemotypes, one chemotype is dominated by terpinen-4-ol, one by 1,8-cineole, one by terpinolene and the remaining three chemotypes are all dominated by 1,8-cineole and differ in either terpinen-4-ol or terpinolene content. Whilst most chemotypes are present throughout the distribution range, a definite correspondence of oil types with geographic location was found. Terpinen-4-ol types predominate in and around the Bungawalbin basin in the Casino area of northern New South Wales (NSW), high 1,8-cineole types predominate toward the southern end of the distribution around Grafton and terpinolene types predominate in southern Queensland. Preliminary formulae have been developed to allow comparisons of oil data obtained by steam distillation with a static headspace gas chromatography method.