Tulbaghia flower fragrance

Antennaria@aol.com Antennaria@aol.com
Sat, 27 Dec 2003 15:57:50 PST
To David Fenwick, and PBS members,

I was too brief in mentioning Codonopsis and Tulbaghia in passing, alluding 
to their skunk-like scent.  The genus Codonopsis, with about 30+ species in 
central and east Asia, is a member of the Campanulaceae.  In Hortus, it is said 
about the foliage: "herbage often strong-smelling when crushed".   What isn't 
said, is that foliage is strong-smelling of skunk or distastefully foetid.  
Yet, its a beautiful genus that's worth growing.

Back to being on-topic, David Fenwick knows that I am an admirer of 
Tulbaghia.  Here's a fascinating genus just full of scent.  I should clarify, that it's 
the roots, stems and leaves of some species of Tulbaghia that exude a 
skunk-like smell when bruised, quite strong in some cases. I have a half dozen 
Tulbaghias growing in my windowsill at my office, and frequently must aim a fan on 
them to circulate the air and dispel the low-level skunky aroma, lest people 
think it is me who is the source of the smell.  I notice that the skunky smell 
is more pronounced right after watering them.

But for floral scent, Tulbaghias offer up a rich assortment of intriguing and 
intense scents.  David's enumeration of species and their associated 
whimsical scents is just the thing I'm talking about.  He said of T. leucantha that it 
smells like "an old 60s brand of washing powder".  I don't think I've ever 
had the true species, but I did grow an odd red-brown flowered Tulbaghia species 
from Jerry Flintoff, I think labeled T. capensis, although not matching the 
photos of the species on David's web pages.  The flowers had that same sweet 
baby powder scent found in the flowers of our Sourwood tree; Oxydendron 
arboreum, and I suppose, similar to the flowery scented washing powder David mentions. 
 It flowered for it's last time this summer, unfortunately rotting out after 
a hot tropical summer with absurd amounts of rainfall.  It was one of my 

Earlier this year I posted several pictures on the wiki of some hybrid 
Tulbaghia (hybrids; usually the case when growing Tulbaghia "species" from seed). 
David helped to supply the probable parentage.  One is perhaps a hybrid of T. 
rhodesica.  The flowers are charming but have a repulsive foetid stink when 
sniffed at close hand.  The other is most likely a cominsii x violacea cross, with 
delightful pale pink flowers, deeper pink throats, and an alluringly sweet 
scent.  Both are found on the PBS wiki at:

Only those two hybrids are posted on the PBS wiki so far, plus a link to 
David Fenwick's Tulbaghia pages, as the keeper of The NCCPG National Plant 
Collection® of Tulbaghia.  David; any images you'd like to share with the group?  
Feel free to contact me if you need help uploading and creating the links on the 
Tulbaghia page.  I'd love to see images for the 6 Tulbaghias you mention.

Sorry to inadvertantly malign the genus Tulbaghia in passing, without 
mentioning the other attributes of this fascinating little genus.  It is also hoped 
that David's many new hybrids will become available one day, as they're sure to 
become popular plants. At the very least, take a winter tour through the 
Tulbaghia pages at:

Mark McDonough Pepperell, Massachusetts, United States 
antennaria@aol.com "New England" USDA Zone 5
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