Langenheim, Jean H. Division of Natural Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California.
Last reviewed:October 2019
- Chemistry and botanical origin
- Evolution of amber-producing trees
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Most commonly, a generic name for all fossil resins, although it has been restricted by some to refer only to succinite, the mineralogical species of fossil resin that includes most of the Baltic Coast deposits. Resins generally are complex mixtures of mono-, sesqui-, di-, and triterpenoids. Terpenoids (also called terpenes) are naturally occurring compounds in most organisms, but especially in plants, consist of isoprene units [CH2=C(CH3)CH=CH2]n (mono-, n = 2; sesqui-, n = 3; di-, n = 4; and tri-, n = 6). Some resins contain aromatic phenols or are even predominantly composed of these compounds. Resins are synthesized in appreciable quantity by about 10% of present-day plant families. Among the plants, primarily trees, that produce copious amounts of resin that may fossilize to become amber, about two-thirds are tropical or subtropical. Members of the families Pinaceae, Araucariaceae, and Taxodiaceae are the most prominent copious producers among the conifers, and Leguminosae, Dipterocarpaceae, Burseraceae, and Hamamelidaceae among the angiosperms. See also: Resin; Terpene
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