Springer Nature is making SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

Seasonal variation in the monoterpenes in needles of Picea abies (L.) Karst.


This investigation was conducted to obtain information about the fluctuations in composition and amount of needle monoterpenes during the development of spruce needles. Studies conducted with two Norway spruce clones clearly revealed the existence of fluctuations. In juvenile needles, the amounts of the oxygenated terpenes increase constantly with age during the first 2 months of needle growth. The hydrocarbon terpenes dominate within the first weeks, some of them even showing a very distinct first maximum within the first 3 weeks after bud burst. All terpenes, including the oxygenated ones, have a maximum in June/July, which favours the hypothesis of a substitution of the hydrocarbons later on. There are significant changes even in mature needles of Norway spruce. The terpene level of 1-year-old needles of the clonal trees increased from spring to early summer and then dropped again towards winter. In addition, fluctuations in mature needles were shown for a set of ten wild trees. Needles of the same age class, which emerged in 1986, were sampled 4 times from 1986 to 1988. The needle terpene concentrations of the 1 -year-old needles were considerably lower in spring at the time of bud burst than in autumn. The terpene level of older needles thus seems to be influenced by biosynthetic and catabolic activities.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bernard-Dagan C, Carde JP, Gleizes M (1979) Étude des composées terpiniques au cours de la croissance de aiguilles du pin maritime: comparaison de dounées biochimiques et ultrastructurales. Can J Bot 57: 2555–2563

  2. Croteau R (1984) Biosynthesis and catabolism of monoterpenes. In: Nes WD, Fuller G, Tsai L-S (eds) Isoprenoids in plants. Dekker, New York, pp 31–64

  3. Hall GD, Langenheim JH (1986) Temporal changes in the leaf monoterpenes of Sequoia sempervirens. Biochem Syst Ecol 14: 61–69

  4. Harborne JB, Turner BL (1984) Plant chemosystematics. Academic Press, London, p 237

  5. Hrutfiord BF (1974) Monoterpenes in Sitka spruce: within tree and seasonal variation. Phytochemistry 13: 2167–2170

  6. Jüttner F (1988) Changes of monoterpene concentrations in needles of pollution-injured Picea abies exhibiting montane yellowing. Physiol Plant 72: 48–56

  7. Jüttner F, Bufler U (1988) Physiologische und biochemische Prozesse der Terpen-Emission in Picea abies. Projekt Europäisches Forschungszentrum für Maßnahmen zur Luftreinhaltung, 4. Statuskol-loquium. Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe

  8. Maarse H, Keppner RE (1970) Changes in composition of volatile terpenes in Douglas fir needles during maturation. J Agric Food Chem 18: 1095–1101

  9. Merk L (1988) Monoterpene in den Nadeln von Picea abies (L.) Karst. Thesis, Technical University, Munich

  10. Merk L, Kloos M, Schönwitz R, Ziegler H (1988) Influence of various factors on quantitative and qualitative composition of leaf monoterpenes of Picea abies (L.) Karst. Trees 2: 45–51

  11. Powell RA, Adams RP (1977) Seasonal variation in the volatile terpenoids of Juniperus scopulorum (Cupressaceae). Am J Bot 60: 1041–1050

  12. Rudloff E von (1967) Chemosystematic studies in the genus Picea (Pinaceae). Can J Bot 45: 891–901

  13. Rudloff E von (1972) Seasonal variation in the composition of the volatile oil of the leaves, buds and twigs of white spruce (Picea glauca). Can J Bot 50: 1595–1603

  14. Rudloff E von (1975a) Seasonal variation of terpenes of the leaves, buds, and twigs of blue spruce (Picea pungens). Can J Bot 53: 2978–2982

  15. Rudloff E von (1975b) Seasonal variation of terpenes of the foliage of black spruce. Phytochemistry 14: 1695–1699

  16. Rudloff E von (1984) Inheritance of leaf oil terpene patterns in selfed progeny and some crosses of coastal Douglas fir. Silvae Genet 33: 198–203

  17. Rudloff E von, Granat M (1982) Seasonal variation of the terpenes in the leaves, buds and twigs of balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Can J Bot 60: 2682–2685

  18. SAS Institute Inc. (1985) SAS user's guide: Statistics. Cary, NC

  19. Schönwitz R, Merk L, Ziegler H (1987) Naturally occuring monoterpenoids in needles of Picea abies (L.) Karst. Trees 1: 88–93

  20. Schönwitz R, Kloos M, Merk L, Ziegler H (1990a) Patterns of monoterpenes stored in the needles of Picea abies (L.) Karst. from several locations of montanous regions of South Germany. Trees 4: 27–33

  21. Schönwitz R, Merk L, Kloos M, Ziegler H (1990b) Influence of needle loss, yellowing and mineral content on monoterpenes in needles of Picea abies (L.) Karst. Trees 4: (in press)

  22. Schütte H-R (1984) Secondary plant substances: monoterpenes. Prog Bot 46: 119–139

  23. Zavarin E, Cobb FW, Bergot J, Barber HW (1971) Variation of the Pinus ponderosa needle oil with season and needle age. Phytochemistry 10: 3107–3114

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Schönwitz, R., Lohwasser, K., Kloos, M. et al. Seasonal variation in the monoterpenes in needles of Picea abies (L.) Karst.. Trees 4, 34–40 (1990).

Download citation

Key words

  • Seasonal fluctuation
  • Needle
  • Picea abies
  • (Mono) terpene