Identification of Volatile Compounds from Flowers and Aromatic Plants: How and Why?

  • A. Bialecki
  • Jacqueline Smadja
Conference paper


When working on volatile compounds from plants, the objectives are multiples and can be summarized in four points: (1) Research of bioactive molecules, (2) Chemotaxonomic studies, (3) Applications in perfume industry, (4) Plant-insect interactions. Each of these four points will be discussed and illustrated by one or several examples of research projects conducted in the Chemistry Laboratory of Natural Substances and Food Sciences. The first two points exclusively concern volatile compounds generated by essential oils extracted from endemic or indigenous plants of Reunion, Mauritius and Madagascar islands. The two last points are dedicated to volatiles found in the airspace (headspace) surrounding flowers. This paper will also present a selection of sampling methods for volatile compounds that range from conventional, inexpensive, solvent-free, quick sampling methods to innovative methods, as well as an overview of detection and identification methods of volatiles including GC-FID and GC-MS.


Volatile Compound Retention Index Steam Distillation Plant Volatile Fatty Acid Derivative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the Regional Council of La Réunion. The authors wish to express their gratefulness to Hermann Thomas and Max Félicité for their help in plant material collection.


  1. 1.
    Pichersky E, Gershenzon J (2002) The formation and function of plant volatiles: perfumes for pollinator attraction and defense. Curr Opin Plant Biol 5:237–243CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Knudsen JT, Eriksson R, Gershenzon J, Stahl B (2006) Diversity and distribution of floral scent. Bot Rev 72:1–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Dudareva N, Pichersky E, Gershenzon J (2004) Biochemistry of plant volatiles. Plant Physiol 135:1893–1902CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Dudareva N, Negre F, Nagegowda DA, Orlova I (2006) Plant volatiles: recent advances and future perspectives. Crit Rev Plant Sci 24:417–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Caissard JC, Joly C, Bergougnoux V, Hugueney P, Mauriat M, Baudino S (2004) Secretion mechanisms of volatile organic compounds in specialized cells of aromatic plants. Rec Res Dev Cell Biol 2:1–15Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Langenheim JH (1994) Higher-plant terpenoids: a phytocentric overview of their ecological roles. J Chem Ecol 20:1223–1280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    War AR, Sharma HC, Paulraj MG, War MY, Ignacimuthu S (2011) Herbivore induced plant volatiles – their role in plant defense for pest management. Plant Signal Behav 6:1973–1978CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Paré PW, Tumlinson JH (1999) Plant volatiles as a defense against insect herbivores. Plant Physiol 121:325–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Qualley AV, Dudareva N (2008) Aromatic volatiles and their involvement in plant defense. In: Schaller A (ed) Induced plant resistance to herbivory. Springer Science + Business Media B.V, The Netherlands, pp 409–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Spinelli F, Cellini A, Marchetti L, Nagesh KM, Piovene C (2011) Emission and function of volatile organic compounds in response to abiotic stress. In: Shanker A, Venkateswarlu B (eds) Abiotic stress in plants – mechanisms and adaptations. InTech, Rijeka, pp 409–432Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Knudsen JT, Tollsten L, Bergström G (1993) Floral scents – a checklist of volatile compounds isolated by headspace techniques. Phytochemistry 33:253–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Knudsen JT, Gershenzon J (2006) The chemical diversity of floral scent. In: Dudareva N, Pichensky E (eds) Biology of floral scent. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 27–52Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Breitmaier E (2006) Terpenes: flavors, fragrances, pharmaca, pheromones. Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim, p 214Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Figueiredo AC, Barroso JG, Pedro LG, Scheffer JJC (2008) Factors affecting secondary metabolites production in plants: volatile components and essential oils. Flavour Fragr J 23:213–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Tandon S (2008) Distillation technology for essential oils. In: Handa SS, Khanuja SPS, Longo G, Rakesh DD (eds) Extraction technologies for medicinal and aromatic plants. ICS UNIDO, Trieste, pp 115–143Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Ormeno E, Goldstein A, Niinemets U (2011) Extracting and trapping biogenic volatile organic compounds stored in plant species. Trends Anal Chem 30:978–989CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Smadja J (2009) Chemical composition and localization of essential oils. In: Chemat F (ed) Essential oils and aromas: green extractions and applications. Har Krishan Bhalla & Sons, Dehradun, pp 122–146Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Chemat F, Lucchesi M, Smadja J (2004) Extraction par microondes sans utilisation de solvant, de composés naturels volatils. European Patent EP 1439218 (A1)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Chemat F, Lucchesi M, Smadja J (2004) Solvent-free microwave extraction of volatile natural substances. United States Patent US2004187340 (A1)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Visinoni F, Chemat F, Smadja J (2006) Extraction par microondes de composés naturels volatils. European patent EP 1629725 (A1)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Tholl D, Röse USR (2006) Detection and identification of floral scent compounds. In: Dudareva N, Pichensky E (eds) Biology of floral scent. CRC Press, Boca Raton, pp 3–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Tholl D, Boland W, Hansel A, Loreto F, Röse USR, Schnitzler JP (2006) Practical approaches to plant volatile analysis. Plant J 45:540–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Harlalka R (2008) Solid phase micro-extraction and headspace trapping extraction. In: Handa SS, Khanuja SPS, Longo G, Rakesh DD (eds) Extraction technologies for medicinal and aromatic plants. ICS UNIDO, Trieste, pp 145–163Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Gauvin A (2006) Hyphenated methods. 8-7-01 analysis and characterisation of essential oils using GC-MS. In: Gross M, Caprioli R (eds) Encyclopedia of mass spectrometry, 8th edn. Elsevier, Oxford, pp 737–749Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Stashenko EE, Martinez JR (2012) GC-MS analysis of volatile plant secondary metabolites. Gas chromatography in plant science, wine technology, toxicology and some specific applications. InTech, Rijeka, pp 247–270Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Software: McLafferty FW (2009) Wiley registry of mass spectral data, 9th edn. Wiley, HobokenGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Software: National Institute of Standards and Technology (2011) Mass spectral database for windows (data version: NIST11)Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Software: Koenig WA, Joulain D, Hochmuth DH (2008) Terpenoids and related constituents of essential oils. MassFinder 4. In: Hochmuth DH (ed) Convenient and rapid analysis of GCMS, Hamburg, GermanyGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Adams RP (2001) Identification of essential oil components by gas chromatography/quadrupole mass spectroscopy. Allured Publishing, Carol StreamGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Joulain D, König WA (1998) The atlas of spectral data of sesquiterpene hydrocarbons. E.B-Verlag, HamburgGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Davies NW (1990) Gas chromatographic retention indices of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes on methyl silicone and carbowax 20M phases. J Chromatogr 503:1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Kondjoyan N, Berdagué JL (1996) A compilation of relative retention indices for the analysis of aromatic compounds, 1st edn. Laboratoire Flaveur, FranceGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Gurib Fakim A, Gauvin A, Smadja J, Govinden-Soulange J, Kodja H (2000) Composition of the essential oil of the endemic Psiadia arguta Pers (Voigt) from Mauritius. J Essent Oil Res 12:556–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Gauvin A, Susperregui A, Barth P, Rémy L, Déléris G, Smadja J (2004) An acetylated monoterpene and a sesquiterpene alcohol from Psiadia anchusifolia. Phytochemistry 65:897–901CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Govinden-Soulange J, Magan N, Gurib-Fakim A, Gauvin A, Smadja J, Kodja H (2004) Chemical composition and in vitro activities of the essential oils from endemic Psiadia species growing in Mauritius. Biol Pharm Bull 27:1814–1818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Smadja J, Strasberg D, Le Goff G, Gauvin-Bialecki A (2010) Volatile compounds from Melicope obscura. Chem Biodivers 7:467–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Micheneau C, Fournel J, Warren BH, Hugel S, Gauvin-Bialecki A, Pailler T, Strasberg D, Chase M (2010) Orthoptera, a new order of pollinator. Ann Bot 105:355–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hugel S, Micheneau C, Fournel J, Warren BH, Gauvin-Bialecki A, Pailler T, Chase MW, Strasberg D (2010) Glomeremus species from the Mascarene islands (Orthoptera, Gryllacridae) with the description of the pollinator of an endemic orchid from the island of Reunion. Zootaxa 2545:58–68Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Micheneau C, Fournel J, Gauvin A, Pailler T (2008) Auto-pollination in a long-spurred endemic orchid (Jumellea stenophylla) on Reunion Island (Mascarene Archipelago, Indian Ocean). Plant Syst Evol 272:11–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Humeau L, Micheneau C, Gauvin-Bialecki A, Fournel J, Pailler T (2011) Sapromyiophily in the native orchid, Bulbophyllum variegatum on Reunion (Mascarene Archipelago, Indian Ocean). J Trop Ecol 27:591–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Gauvin A, Ravaomanarivo H, Smadja J (2004) Comparative analysis by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry of the essential oils from bark and leaves of Cedrelopsis grevei Baill, an aromatic and medicinal plant from Madagascar. J Chromatogr A 1029:279–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Gauvin-Bialecki A, Marodon C (2008) Essential oil of Ayapana triplinervis from Réunion island: a good natural source of thymohydroquinone dimethyl ether. Biochem Syst Ecol 36:853–856CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Smadja J, Laurençon L, Thomas H, Bialecki A (2001) Medicinal plant potentialities from Réunion Island. The particular case of Toddalia asiatica (Rutaceae). In VIII international ethnobotany symposium proceedings, Lisbon, pp 625–635Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire de Chimie des Substances Naturelles et des Sciences des Aliments, Faculté des Sciences et TechnologiesUniversité de La RéunionSaint-Denis cedex 9France

Personalised recommendations