Tazetta fragrance

Jane McGary janemcgary@earthlink.net
Mon, 22 Dec 2003 18:26:28 PST
Bill Lee wrote,
The olfactory receptors in individuals seem to vary on this scent. I have
>never found any tazetta fragrance to be unpleasant, yet I know some people 
>have. My observation is that it is at least partially a gender difference, 
>more women finding some of them unpleasant than men.

The different wild subspecies of Narcissus tazetta, in some systems 
considered separate species, definitely have differing fragrances. One that 
I particularly like is N. pachybolbus (or N. t. subsp. p.), and N. 
panizzianus is also pleasing, even though I dislike some of the commercial 
"paperwhites" in this respect. I am now growing some seedlings of 
wild-collected N. tazetta subsp. tazetta and will find out in a year or so 
how they smell.

In perfumers' terms, I think of the unpleasant component of some Narcissus 
tazetta odors as "musky." Many hyacinth cultivars develop this smell as the 
flowers age. Traditionally, musky fragrances are thought of in various 
cultures as erotically stimulating.This family of fragrances is apparently 
enjoyed by many people, for I often find myself in an airplane or elevator 
with someone (male or female) wearing a musky fragrance that he or she 
obviously thinks is wonderful, and that makes me gag. I'm not "allergic" to 
perfumes and enjoy many of them, however.

This may be one of the taste/odor groups that people really do perceive 
differently, and it would be understandable that the sexes would have 
different reactions to different scents that might remind one of pheromones 
associated with one or the other sex. However, individuals, aside from 
gender, are known to perceive tastes/odors differently; for example, I once 
read that about 25% of the US population are much more sensitive to bitter 
tastes than the other 75% are, which explains why some of us can't stand 
"weed salad," hoppy beer, and oaky wines. Some people dislike the smell of 
elderflowers, but some (like me) enjoy it in moderation. Hamamelis mollis 
is also controversial; it is said to smell like a wet dog, but to me it 
smells like a nice clean wet dog, and I can stand it if not in a close 
room. Some people like the smell of Santolina or Eucalyptus foliage, which 
I can barely stand. Some flowers have an almost unclassifiable stench, like 
Ferraria, which I no longer grow for that reason, though I do keep a lot of 
Fritillaria agrestis on hand, even though it smells like dog droppings. The 
"licorice" family of umbellifers -- licorice, fennel, caraway and so on -- 
is another instance delightful to some and offensive to others. And then 
there's cilantro!

Jane McGary
Northwestern Oregon

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