The monoterpene composition (emission and tissue internal concentration) of major forest tree species in the United States is discussed. Of the 14 most commonly occurring compounds (α-pinene, β-pinene, Δ3-carene, d-limonene, camphene, myrcene, α-terpinene, β-phellandrene, sabinene, ρ-cymene, ocimene, α-thujene, terpinolene, and γ-terpinene), the first six are usually found to be most abundant. Expected regional variability based on the monoterpene composition fingerprints and corresponding tree species distribution and abundance is examined. In the southeast, a-pinene and β-pinene seem to dominate monoterpene emissions, while in the northern forests emissions are distributed more evenly among the six major compounds. In some parts of western forests, β-pinene and Δ3-carene can be more abundant than α-pinene. Among the other eight compounds, β-phellandrene and sabinene occasionally are significant percentages of expected local monoterpene emissions. Ocimene and ρ-cymene are estimated to be more common in regions dominated by deciduous broadleaf forests, although total emission rates are generally lower for these forests relative to those dominated by conifers. These percentages are compared with monoterpene composition measured in ambient air at various sites. Estimated monoterpene emission composition based on local forest species composition agrees fairly well with ambient measurements for the six major compounds. The past assumption that α-pinene composes approximately 50% of total monoterpene emissions appears reasonable for many areas, except for possibly the northern coniferous forests and some areas in the west dominated by true firs, spruce, and western pines (lodgepole and ponderosa pines). The oxygenated monoterpenes such as camphor, bornyl acetate, and cineole often compose high percentages of the monoterpenes within plant tissues, but are much less abundant in emission samples. Even after adjusting for lower vapor pressures of these compounds, emission rates relative to the hydrocarbon monoterpenes are often lower than would be expected from their internal concentrations. More study is warranted on monoterpene emission rates and composition, especially from the spruces, true firs, hemlocks, cedars, and some deciduous species such as the maples. Non-invasive canopy level and whole ecosystem flux studies are also needed to establish uncertainty estimates for monoterpene emission models. © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.