The site navigation utilizes arrow, enter, escape, and space bar key commands. Left and right arrows move across top level links and expand / close menus in sub levels. Up and Down arrows will open main level menus and toggle through sub tier links. Enter and space open menus and escape closes them as well. Tab will move on to the next part of the site rather than go through menu items.

The Buzz

Nature Curiosity: Why Do Flowers Smell Good?




(Photo by Glenn P. Knoblock)

Many people love the fragrance of sweet-smelling flowers, but our enjoyment of these pleasant odors is just a bonus. That's right. Next time you stop and smell the roses, you should know that fragrance isn't intended for you at all. 

Scientifically speaking, the smell a flower emits is intended to attract insects and birds that will fertilize the flowers, according to the Smithsonian. Plants rely on pollinating animals, including insects, birds and bats, to transfer pollen from flower to flower to fertilize them. 

Pollen is the plant equivalent of sperm, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When a bee or another insect visits a flower, it picks up pollen. As these pollinators continue visiting more flowers to drink nectar or gather pollen, they deposit some of the pollen on the flowers, which then fertilizes them.

Some flowers use wind or simply gravity to aid in pollination, but many plants rely on pollinators. That's where their smell comes in. Flowers produce fragrances to help attract pollinators. 

No two flowers emit the same fragrance, according to Scientific American. That's because scents are created by a variety of volatile organic compounds. The amount of these compounds and how they interact with each other is what creates a particular fragrance.

Plants tend to emit the most fragrance during the time of day when the insects they use for pollination are active, Scientific American reports. Flowers that use butterflies and bees for pollination are most fragrant during the day, while plants that are pollinated by moths are most fragrant at night. Some flowers rely on one particular type of insect for pollination, so their scent is very specifically aimed at attracting that insect.

Not all flowers emit a sweet-smelling odor to please people and pollinators alike. Some flowers smell downright awful. Take the corpse flower. As you might expect based on its name, the corpse flower emits a noxious odor reminiscent of rotting flesh. 

The horrible smell of the corpse flower may be a turnoff for humans, but it has a purpose. Corpse flowers are trying to attract carrion beetles and flesh flies, both of which are attracted to the smell of rotting meat because it is where they lay their eggs, according to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Corpse flowers are a big draw at many botanic gardens — including the Chicago Botanic Garden, which has several on display. The flowers can go years without blooming. Once they come out of dormancy and prepare to flower, people will flock to botanic gardens as the plants get ready to bloom, hoping to catch a glimpse — and a whiff.

_______________

Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

First Murder Hornets, Now Zombie Cicadas. Luckily, Their Names Make Them Sound Worse Than They Are

8/4/2020

Zombie cicadas are the latest scary-sounding insect to roam the world, but much like the murder hornets before them they sound scarier than they actually are.

Read More


Quiz: What's Your Belted Kingfisher IQ?

8/3/2020

Find out on this 10-question quiz.

Read More


5 Fascinating Facts About Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

7/31/2020

The ruby-throated hummingbird is among the most beloved birds in Will County, and the more you know about them the more you will love them.

Read More


Sign up for a Newsletter