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Identification of Oils from Viable and Nonviable Cherrybark Oak Acorns

By Jeffery Layton

Cherrybark oak, Quercus pagoda Raf, is a prized hardwood of the southern United States forests. The seeds, or acorns, of cherrybark oak contain high amounts of lipid reserves for germinating embryos, and are known to exhibit recalcitrant seed behavior. In other words, unlike “orthodox” seeds, which can withstand drying to low moisture contents, cherrybark is desiccation sensitive and rapidly loses viability with loss of water. Little is known about the chemical nature of the oils and how the composition might change as seed viability is lost. In this study, oils from fully hydrated viable cherrybark oak acorns as well as dehydrated nonviable cherrybark oak acorns were analyzed for changes in molecular structure using a combination of gas chromatography, mass spectrometry, and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. The oils were extracted from both hydrated and dehydrated acorns, and NMR spectra were taken. Furthermore, a transesterification of both oils was done to obtain the fatty acid methyl esters and was analyzed using gas chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry. Analysis showed that the triglycerides of both oils contained octadecenoic acid and hexadecanoic acid. Further work will focus on determining the ratio of the fatty acids in the triglyceride, the specific structure of the octadecenoic acid, and how these correlate with the viability of the acorns.

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