Autotoxic effects of essential oils on photosynthesis in parsley, parsnip, and rough lemon

Linus Gog, May R. Berenbaum, Evan H. DeLucia, Arthur R. Zangerl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many plant species contain essential oils with allelochemical properties, yet the extent to which these same chemicals can be autotoxic is unclear. In this study, we tested the toxicity of several essential oil components to three species that produce them - Pastinaca sativa and Petroselinum crispum (Apiaceae), and Citrus jambhiri (Rutaceae). The effects of exogenous application of small amounts of essential oil components to the surface of foliage, followed by a pinprick to allow entry into the leaf, were monitored by chlorophyll fluorescence imaging. Rapid and spatially extensive declines in photosynthetic capacity were detected within 200 s. The most toxic constituents were monoterpenes. Two sesquiterpenes, caryophyllene and farnesene, and the phenylpropanoid myristicin, by comparison, were not toxic. Autotoxicity of endogenous essential oil was investigated by slicing through containment structures (glands or tubes); significant toxicity, manifested by reduced photosynthetic activity, was observed in all three species but was most pronounced in P. sativa and P. crispum, both of which possess oil tubes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-119
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Apiaceae
  • Autotoxicity
  • Citrus
  • Essential oils
  • Parsley
  • Wild parsnip

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Biochemistry


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