Tulbaghia flower fragrance

David Fenwick crocosmia@blueyonder.co.uk
Fri, 26 Dec 2003 16:26:54 PST
Hi Mark and All,
Merry Christmas.

All I can say is that I'm glad we don't have skunks in England but I've
never smelt a Tulbaghia that I can attribute to a skunk.

Many species of the genus Tulbaghia are scented and even those that don't
smell, do sometimes provide a scent, and I've even attributed a banana odour
to the generally unscented Tulbaghia violacea.

I grow so many Tulbaghia, over 80 forms that make up the national collection
for a reason. I lost 'all' sence of smell whilst playing cricket at
horticultural college in 1988, and going for a big hit I knocked the ball
straight into my face, seriously braking my nose. However in the summer of
1996, I went out into the garden on a warm sultry evening and to my
amazement smelt a detectable scent coming across the garden. Obviously the
scent was difficult to track down because of my loss, but after half an hour
I found where it was coming from, from one of the smallest flowers in the
garden, a plant of Tulbaghia montana. At that stage I only had two
Tulbaghia, and these included T. montana and T. cominsii, and at that stage
of collecting the T. montana was in the hort trade as both T. alliacea and
T. leucantha, and this is something I've been glad to correct.

I definately think that Tulbaghia have had a bearing on my sense of smell
returning, and this is why I started to collect more of them, call it
gratitude if you like.

Since these early days I've attributed various smells to them, the following
are examples.

T. simmleri - sweet sickly
T. capensis x alliacea - cinnamon
T. macrocarpa - almond
T. violacea - banana
T. leucantha - an old 60s brand of washing powder, OMO, remembered from
laudrettes during my childhood in the 60s and 70s.
T. montana - cloves

On telling the story of how my sense of smell returned to a friend, she used
Tulbaghia on her daughter who had lost her sense of smell during
chemotherapy. I'm pleased to announce that the trial actually worked and her
sense of smell improved over time. Since then I've been trying to get
Tulbaghia researched in more detail, the genus is well known as having
medicinal properties and there maybe something in the scent in some species
that will stimulate the sense of smell in humans. My only problem is that
when it comes to the loss of a sense, the sense of smell is never gets any
medical priority, and thus more research is done on hearing, sight and the
nervous system. I suppose one day someone may contact me wishing to do a
study but until then I can only wait and hope.

Scents are in most cases designed to attract insect pollinators, and given
this the purpose of scent, I for one cannot understand why more medical
studies haven't been done relating to sense stimulation in humans.
Researching Tulbaghia would be a very good start. I now having a very keen
sense of smell again, co-incidence or not, they do more for me than a dose
of smelling salts, and have perhaps the longest flowering season of any
bulb, eg. T. cominsii, 9 months without a break, T. cominsii x violacea and
T. coddii 8 months without a break.

Best Wishes,

David Fenwick
The African Garden
96 Wasdale Gardens

01752 301402

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