Fragrances that Surprise--TOW

Mary Sue Ittner
Wed, 14 Apr 2004 07:18:14 PDT
Dear All,

Has anyone thought why some plants of the same species are fragrant and 
some are not? The logical answer I assume would have to do with 
pollinators. If there weren't a lot of pollinators would they need to be 
more fragrant?

Jane mentioned a couple of South African bulbs known for their fragrance. 
My Gladiolus tristis never seems very fragrant to me. I make it a point to 
go outside at night to smell it and I find it very subtle. So either I 
can't smell it or the ones I have aren't fragrant. I have grown Hesperantha 
cucullata from about five different sources. In case anyone is wondering 
why in the world I would do that, most of the seed was masquerading under a 
different name. All but one of them are very fragrant at night, especially 
in the dark (light seems to diminish the fragrance). Sometimes the 
fragrance can be overpowering. On the other hand one of the populations has 
no fragrance. This is the only one that opens early, often early afternoon. 
All the others open late in the day, almost at dusk and are pollinated by 
moths. The one that opens in the afternoon would be easily seen by other 
pollinators and always has seed if I don't deadhead. So perhaps it doesn't 
need to be fragrant.

My fragrance that is surprising is Ferraria crispa. The latest revision, 
"The African genus Ferraria", describes it as having an "unpleasant putrid 
odour". My plants that I thought were F. uncinata since that was what they 
came as have a delightful smell of vanilla. Since F. uncinata is supposed 
to have a pleasant smell and one of my books had a picture that looked kind 
of like my plants, I didn't struggle through the key to verify what it was. 
But Julian Slade put me on the right track. The yellow one,  F. crispa ssp. 
nortierii, is blooming right now and I put my nose up to it this week and 
thought there was only a faint fragrance and it was definitely not 
unpleasant to my nose.

Mary Sue

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