Seasonal, populational and ontogenic variation in the volatile oil content and composition of individuals of Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum, assessed by GC headspace analysis and by SPME sampling of individual oil glands.
Small-scale GC headspace analyses combined with SPME sampling of individual oil glands have been used to measure the variation in volatile content and composition in and within different oregano plants as affected by age, season and developmental state. The main monoterpenes found were p-cymene, carvacrol and their precursor gamma-terpinene. The early season preponderance of p-cymene over carvacrol was reversed as the season progressed and this pattern could also be seen at any time within the plant, from the latest leaves to be produced (low in cymene) to the earliest (high in cymene). Seedlings from the same mother plant developed this pattern at different rates. Within individual leaves the pattern was not observed, even within the youngest developing leaves. However it was found that the oil composition of individual glands within a single leaf varied considerably, most notably in respect of the production of carvacrol and its isomer thymol.