Structure of fructans from excised leaves of New Zealand flax

Ian M. Sims, Andrew J. Cairns, Richard H. Furneaux

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26 Citations (SciVal)


The accumulation of total water-soluble carbohydrate, and specifically sucrose and fructan, by excised leaves of Phormium tenax and P. cookianum (family Phormiaceae J. G. Agardh, order Asparagales) was investigated. Total water-soluble carbohydrate content of excised leaves of P. tenax and P. cookianum increased during 48 h of continuous illumination at an average rate of 1.3 and 0.9 mg g−1 fresh weight leaf per hour, respectively. The sucrose content of excised leaves increased throughout the experimental period. The fructan content of excised leaves of P. tenax increased slightly throughout the experimental period, whilst that of P. cookianum was variable and showed no overall change. Chemical and spectroscopic analysis of the fructans obtained from the two Phormium species showed that they were similar to each other and contained mostly 1-linked and terminal fructofuranosyl (Fruf) residues, together with smaller amounts of 6-linked Fruf, 1,6-branched Fruf, terminal and 6-linked glucopyranosyl residues. Separation of the fructans by thin-layer and high-performance anion-exchange chromatography revealed the presence of a complex mixture of fructo-oligosaccharides and higher molecular weight fructan. The branched structure of the fructans isolated from excised leaves of Phormium resembles that of fructans and fructo-oligosaccharides isolated from some related species within the order Asparagales (Agave vera cruz, Cordyline australis and Urginea maritima), but is distinct from the linear structure of fructans from others (Allium cepa and Asparagus officinalis). The structural heterogeniety of fructans within both the order Asparagales and superorder Liliiflorae may be a useful chemotaxonomic aid.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)661-668
Number of pages8
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jun 2001


  • Phormium tenax
  • Phormium cookianum
  • Phormiaceae
  • New Zealand flax
  • Water-soluble carbohydrate
  • Fructan
  • Accumulation
  • Structure


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