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Why do some flowers smell?

I am definitely partial to a showy and smelly (nice smelly) flower. When I recently ran a kids workshop I got asked so many amazing questions and the children made so many great observations. One of those observations was that some of the flowers smelt nice whilst other flowers didn't seem to smell at all. These observations definitely influenced this post! I decided that I wanted to research more into why some flowers smell strongly and why others don't. What I found in my research was good ol' fashioned science lessons, but also some complex unknowns regarding evolution.

So here's what I found...

Nature reasons

Pollination Strategy - One of the primary reasons flowers emit fragrance is to attract pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, and birds. Flowers that are primarily wind-pollinated or self-pollinated often do not produce a strong scent. These flowers do not rely on attracting animal pollinators, so there is no need for them to emit fragrance. Flowers seem to have evolved on how best to survive. Some flowers may be brightly coloured to ensure they are attractive to pollinators whilst others rely on scent for this or offer both.

Defence Strategy - some flowers will emit scent in order to deter attacks from unwelcome visitors, whilst other flowers will not produce a scent in order to not attract unwelcome visitors.

Mankind reasons

Breeding of flowers - Some flowers that have been bred by commercial growers may have had other priorities given to them such as durability and vase life, therefore these flowers may have less of a smell as a result.

Human's noses - On researching this matter it appears that the human nose and brain is capable of distinguishing 1 trillion different odours. Impressive? Absolutely, although reports have found that a dog can smell 10,000 to 100,000 more times than a human being. Therefore it seems likely that some flowers may indeed give off a scent, but as humans we are unable to smell them, but perhaps our dogs can!

In researching for this blog I have personally found it fascinating reading all the science behind it. It looks like there is still some research to be done on the matter, but what is very clear is how clever nature is and how flowers have like most things in nature adapted to their environment in order to survive as best they can.

Thank you for reading!

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