Why Do Flowers Smell, and Why Do Plants Smell, Too?

By Jessica Martinez

Why Do Flowers Smell, and Why Do Plants Smell, Too?

http://www.flickr.com/creativecommons, Tobyotter
By Jessica Martinez

OverviewEveryone is familiar with the sweet scents of flowers like roses and gardenias. Some plants give off a distinctive odor even when they’re not flowering. Plant and flower odors serve an important function in plant reproduction and protection.PollinatorsPollinators like bees, bats, butterflies and flies carry pollen from flower to flower, facilitating plant fertilization and seed production.Scent and AttractionThe distinctive scent of some flowers helps attract pollinators. Flowers reward the visitors with food in the form of nectar or pollen.Scent VarietiesDifferent pollinators are attracted to different scents. For example, bees and butterflies prefer fresh, light scents, while bats prefer deep, musty scents.Plant OdorsSome plants have strong, pungent odors. These odors help defend plants, warning would-be foragers that they are not tasty and are possibly even toxic.Fun FactFlowers don’t have to smell nice to attract pollinators. The carrion flower mimics the odor of rotting flesh, attracting carrion beetles and several species of flies.Resourceskeywordsflower scentskeywordsplant scentskeywordspollinators and scentsreferenceCarrion FlowersreferenceNational Biological Information Infrastructure: Pollinator-Plant AssociationsreferenceCelebrating Wildflowers: Pollinator SyndromesresourceWhy do Flowers Smell Good

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