Individual leaves of the commercial terpinen-4-ol type of Melaleuca alternifolia were examined both quantitatively and qualitatively for volatile constituents from the emergence of the first true leaves, through to 6-week-old tenth leaf set material. A GC internal standard addition method was used to measure changes in oil composition and the accumulation of volatile constituents expressed on a dry weight, unit leaf area and whole leaf basis. In the early stages of seedling growth, leaves contained higher concentrations of terpinolene, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene and lower concentrations of terpinen-4-ol, sabinene and cis-sabinene hydrate than mature leaf. Concentrations of the former constituents fell and the latter rose by the time leaf set 10 was 6 weeks old. Key constituent, 1,8-cineole remained in similar concentration throughout ontogeny. The variation in concentration of other key constituents during early stages of seedling development suggests that caution is required in extrapolating seedling leaf data to mature tree oil quality.