If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy store there be but left two loaves, sell one, and with the dole, buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.John Greenleaf Whittier
Hyacinths. They are the smell of spring to me.
I recently got curious and geeked out about what gives these delightful blooms their intoxicating scent. I was surprised to learn that a flower’s scent is actually a chemical cocktail comprised of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as alcohols, aldehydes, ketones and other miscellaneous hydrocarbons as well as low-molecular-weight lipophilic liquids.
Hello my name is Kelly, and I am a science nerd.
Anyway, these chemical compounds are stored within the petals, and most flowers have anywhere from 100-200 different types of compounds. The unique combination of which is what gives any particular flower its distinctive scent.
In the case of hyacinths, there are three main compounds that contribute to its heady, alluring scent:
1) Ocimenol which has a scent described as fresh and citrusy,
2) cinnamyl alcohol which has a balsamic odour, and
3) ethyl 2-methoxybenzoate which adds a floral, fruity aspect to the scent.
Yes, useless, trivial scientific information is just one of the many benefits of reading my blog posts. <<wink>>
Lest you think these olfactory delights are intended for gardeners or photographers as fodder for their blogs, the actual function of a flower’s scent is to attract pollinators and heighten the chance of the plant being successfully fertilized.
Each flower’s specific composition of chemical compounds is uniquely tailored to and time-released for the specific type of pollinator it needs such as insects, bats, or birds. Then, once a flower has been pollinated, a hormone is produced within the bloom, which stops methylbenzoate (the most common chemical responsible for the scent in flowers) from further being released. This encourages pollinators to be drawn toward other flowers which haven’t yet been fertilized to continue the process thus ensuring the survival of the species.
OK. Science lesson is over! You’re welcome.
All joking aside though, this phenomenon is yet another example of everyday magic. It’s that delightful place where science and wonder meet. And it brings me so much happiness. I sincerely hope that by sharing it here that it does the same for you.