Nursery owner

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner.

Gardeners realize that most flowers and plants have a scent. This fact is probably something that most people never care to think about, but here are a few facts that some might find of interest.

As most would assume the scent of a plant is to aid in that plant’s reproduction process. Some plants use their scents to entice several types of insects and birds to fertilize their flowers. Other plants produce a scent that only appeals to a certain insect.

Scent is the signal that directs different pollinators to specific flowers that have the nectar or pollen desired. A strong scent is what helps night pollinators, such as moths, to more easily detect the flowers that they seek. Plants that need bees to pollinate them have the strongest scent during the day while bees are active. Throughout the centuries, pollinators have evolved to the point where they can detect specific scents that they can pollinate.

The scent of a flower is strongest only when it’s ready to be pollinated and the potential pollinators are active. Young flowers recently formed have less scent and attract fewer pollinators until the flowers are older.

The scent of a sufficiently pollinated flower will change and be less attractive to pollinators, which then sends the pollinator to other unpollinated flowers.

What actually makes the different scents that plants produce? The answer actually depends on the species of the plant. Plants produce different types of chemical compounds that are used to attract whatever type of birds or insects will pollinate them. The petals of a flower often have the strongest scent on a plant. There are no two plant scents that are exactly the same.

Until next time, let’s try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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jwilcox Staff
Jon Wilcox

Do plants only use scents to attract pollinators? Why do pine trees smell like they do?

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