Two Degrees Celsius=A Cloud of Perfume


Lily post My vote for sexiest scent goes to the Oriental lilies

I was just looking around my house at the half dozen amaryllis blooming on various mantles and tables–and feeling annoyed that even though they are so pretty, they have no scent–when I ran across this hopeful piece in the BBC EarthNews. It assures me there will soon be much more fragrance in my life, thanks to climate change: Higher temperatures are likely to encourage plants to produce more of the volatile organic compounds that give them their perfume.  A lot more.  Scientists estimate maybe 30 to 40% more.  So, if your lilacs, roses, lilies, and Korean spice viburnums knock you out today…just wait.

Not mentioned in the article is the fact that these compounds are also involved in flavor.  I'm assuming climate change will give me tastier tomatoes and basil, too.  What a silver lining!  


  1. The as yet unproven fact that plants will intensify their scents (that means the gross smelling ones as well as the ones that appeal to us) will be overwhelmed by the problems that climate change will bring. To my mind there is nothing good to say about the changes we are responsible for through our unchanging desire to live luxuriously.

  2. I’m inclined to agree with rainymountain. I can’t see this as a silver lining when the problem is so extreme. Sorta like how war in Iraq may have held oil prices down a little longer. Not good news, just sad news.

  3. Wow — this brings up so many thoughts to my brain. It’s not surprising, since essential oils are volatile and disperse readily at warmer temperatures. I don’t know if this will result in tastier tomatoes (since those flavors are more from different compounds), but basil should be stronger. This could also cause fragile oils (like those in citrus peel) to “turn” more quickly, though, so we could end up with less flavorful lemon and orange zest.

    As for a silver lining for climate change, I think — with anything so huge and horrible — you have to find something good. Otherwise, we’d just sit around being angry and depressed all the time.

    I’m not advocating driving large vehicles or behaving recklessly (for the record, our house is solar-powered, so I don’t want anyone yelling at me that I’m evil; well, I may be evil, but I am conservation-minded). And I’m pretty sure Michele wasn’t advocating reckless, climate-changing behavior also.

    I wish the article had ended by telling us that amaryllis would soon have yummy climate-induced scents.

    And that’s my two scents. 😉

  4. Some amaryllis do have scents and they are lovely. Some NOID’s that were there when we bought our previous home had a light lemony scent. They perfumed the whole garden when they were in bloom.

    This year I received a mislabeled bulb that had a lovely scent. Since the bulb was mislabeled and not one the importer had ordered, it may remain a mystery but a delightful one.

  5. Unfortunately, plant VOCs include compounds other than those that smell good. Some of the worse react in the atmosphere to form ozone. In fact, urban tree selection specifications often contain provisions for low VOC-emitting species. I don’t regard this as good news at all.

  6. Don’t know about sexiest scent. Certainly one of the most overpowering. Too overwhelming!
    Sexiest?? Perhaps Primula secundiflora or a relative. Or even pansy, that first fragrance of spring…

  7. The pink amaryllis that grows wild up and down CA has a very narcotic and powdery scent to it. It is heavy enough on the indoles, though, that as soon as the blooms start going south, it gets downright poopy and decayed.

    I think the sexiest scent (in the flower world) goes to Jasminum grandiflorum. It has a really languorous ‘take me now’ roundness to it.

    But the sexiest scent in my yard right now is the freshly turned dirt, because it smells a lot like patchouli 🙂

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