Why do plants produce oil?

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Offline thedoc

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Why do plants produce oil?
« on: 19/03/2014 15:30:01 »
Shee Hong asked the Naked Scientists:
Why do plants produce oil? Like peanuts, sunflower seeds and corns. These are the types of vegetable oil that are available, so I am under the assumption that the oils originated from these plants.

So what's the purpose for these plants to produce oil? To retain heat like mammals?


What do you think?
« Last Edit: 19/03/2014 15:30:01 by _system »


Offline CliffordK

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Re: Why do plants produce oil?
« Reply #1 on: 30/03/2014 21:57:08 »
There are several types of oil that plants may contain:

Triglycerides, essentially "fat".  These are commonly stored in seeds, and provide food for the young plants until they are able to establish roots and leaves.  Some seeds will also contain sugars to also feed the young plants.

Cell membranes as well as the walls of various organelles will also contain some lipids.  These help provide barriers to water and water soluble molecules and keep what is inside of the cells inside, and what is outside of the cells outside of the cells.

Many plants also produce essential oils, such as you might get if you purchase orange rind extract.  These are much different molecules than other plant "fats".  These likely have a number of functions including providing scent, as well as potentially protecting the cells from foreign attack.  Many perfumes contain essential oils as natural plant extracts.