Oat (Avena sativa) is unusual in comparison with other cereals since there are varieties with up to 18% oil content. The lipid content and fatty acid composition in different parts of the grain during seed development were characterized in cultivars Freja (6% oil) and Matilda (10% oil), using thin-layer and gas chromatography, and light and electron microscopy. The majority of lipids (86-90%) were found in the endosperm. Ninety-five per cent of the higher oil content of cv. Matilda compared with cv. Freja was due to increased oil content of the endosperm. Up to 84% of the lipids were deposited during the first half of seed development, when seeds where still green with a milky endosperm. Microscopy studies revealed that whereas oil bodies of the embryo and scutellum still contained a discrete shape upon grain maturation, oil bodies of the endosperms fused upon maturation and formed smears of oil.