Preferred Age for Assessment of Qualitative and Quantitative Characteristics of the Essential Oil of Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) Seedlings Prior to Plantation Establishment

J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Jul 16;51(15):4254-7. doi: 10.1021/jf0300590.


An analytical method for determining the quality and hence the chemical variety status of tea tree transplants is described. The key to the procedure was found to be the leaf age of the test material. Investigation at very early development stages was seen to give misleading results due to the sequential onset of different monoterpenoid biogenetic pathways. For example, in the first few leaves, the high concentration of terpinolene in the terpinen-4-ol variety suggests that the terpinolene variety is under investigation. However, 1,8-cineole percent concentrations in plantation tree leaf were approximately 1.6 times lower than those measured for seedlings prior to transplant. Consequently, the use of a plantation cineole indicator is proposed for estimating plantation cineole from seedling leaf analyses. Although recent investigations enable the chemotype status to be predicted with some certainty, it is now proposed that analysis of leaf set 10 at the age of 6 weeks (seedling age approximately 17 weeks) provides an unambiguous analysis and correlates seedling quality with mature plantation quality. In addition, the oil yield of mature tea tree leaf was found, by steam distillation, to be approximately 5 times higher than that of seedling leaf.

MeSH terms

  • Cyclohexanols / analysis
  • Eucalyptol
  • Melaleuca / chemistry
  • Melaleuca / growth & development*
  • Monoterpenes*
  • Plant Leaves / chemistry
  • Seedlings / chemistry
  • Seedlings / growth & development*
  • Tea Tree Oil / analysis*
  • Terpenes / analysis


  • Cyclohexanols
  • Monoterpenes
  • Terpenes
  • terpinenol-4
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Eucalyptol