The aromatic roots of Viola arvensis and V. rafinesquii were studied in order to determine the chemical nature and anatomical localization of their volatile compounds. Gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy revealed a single detectable volatile compound, methyl salicylate. Light microscopy and differential staining with Sudan III indicates the source of this compound to be enlarged secretory cells located in the endodermis, an unusual position for such cells in roots of angiosperms. The secretory endodermal cells are sporadic, but are more frequent in primary roots than in secondary roots and the lower portion of the hypocotyl. It is hypothesized that secretory endodermal cells are restricted within Viola to subgenus Melanium where the methyl salicylate confers protection against herbivores and/or pathogens.

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Copyright © 1990, Southern Appalachian Botanical Society. This article first appeared in Castanea: 55:1 (1990), 65-70.

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