Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1223–1280

Higher plant terpenoids: A phytocentric overview of their ecological roles

  • Jean H. Langenheim

DOI: 10.1007/BF02059809

Cite this article as:
Langenheim, J.H. J Chem Ecol (1994) 20: 1223. doi:10.1007/BF02059809


Characteristics of higher plant terpenoids that result in mediation of numerous kinds of ecological interactions are discussed as a framework for this Symposium on Chemical Ecology of Terpenoids. However, the role of terpenoid mixtures, either constitutive or induced, their intraspecific qualitative and quantitative compositional variation, and their dosage-dependent effects are emphasized in subsequent discussions. It is suggested that little previous attention to these characteristics may have contributed to terpenoids having been misrepresented in some chemical defense theories. Selected phytocentric examples of terpenoid interactions are presented: (1) defense against generalist and specialist insect and mammalian herbivores, (2) defense against insect-vectored fungi and potentially pathogenic endophytic fungi, (3) attraction of entomophages and pollinators, (4) allelopathic effects that inhibit seed germination and soil bacteria, and (5) interaction with reactive troposphere gases. The results are integrated by discussing how these terpenoids may be contributing factors in determining some properties of terrestrial plant communities and ecosystems. A terrestrial phytocentric approach is necessitated due to the magnitude and scope of terpenoid interactions. This presentation has a more broadly based ecological perspective than the several excellent recent reviews of the ecological chemistry of terpenoids.

Key Words

Higher plant terpenoids quantitative variation of mixtures plant defense plant pollination allelopathy tritrophic interactions 

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jean H. Langenheim
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Sinsheimer LaboratoiresUniversity of CaliforniaSanta Cruz

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