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Why Do Flowers Smell Good?

Fragrance is part of the flower's mechanism for attracting birds, insects and other animals that aid the pollination process.
A boy watering flowers.
Scent attracts pollinators like bees to certain flowers, allowing them to reproduce.
Flowers smell good to both humans and insects.
Article Details
  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2014
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Many people enjoy the scent of fresh flowers, either in a garden or arranged in a vase. But what is it about flowers that cause them to give off such an attractive aroma? Actually, the reasons why flowers smell good tracks back to good old-fashioned plant biology.

Just as with all forms of life, flowers and plants have a process that allows them to reproduce. In the case of flowers, they produce seeds that allow for more flowering plants to be produced over time. However, they do not posses everything required to produce those fertile seeds. For this reason pollination is required. In short, some sort of means is required to allow the transfer of pollen to eggs that will in turn produce the fertile seeds. To a degree, this takes place with the wind moving pollen around from plant to plant. However, many forms of flowers rely upon the use of pollinators to accomplish this process.

Pollinators are simply animals and insects that will come into contact with the flowers, and then move on, taking the pollen with them. As they progress from flower to flower, the transferred pollen interacts with the eggs and produces the seeds. As the seeds are distributed, an abundance of types of flowers will result.

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Part of the mechanism that is used to attract insects and animals such as bats to roses and other flowers is the fragrance. Using this powerful lure gets the pollinator in close proximity to the plant. In like manner, the flower scent in turn attracts the pollinator to other plants, making pollination possible. The fact that flowers smell good is simply nature’s way of making sure the cycle of life for the plants continues with no interruption.

Of course, humans benefit from the fact that flowers smell good. We use the fragrances to freshen our homes, and consider the gift of flowers as one way to show esteem and affection. Part of the reason that red roses are used to convey love and physical attraction is that they have a fragrance that is considered to be especially appealing. Because flowers smell good to insects, the production of flowers will continue. Because humans find that flowers smell good, they will not doubt continue to be found in home gardens and arranged in vases inside the home for many years to come.

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anon353317
Post 9

This article explains the evolutionary basis of why flowers smell good to animals such as insects and bats, but the article fails to explain why flowers smell good to humans. As far as I know, humans do not pollinate flowers in the same way that insects do. What advantage do the flowers gain by smelling good to humans? Any ideas?

Denha
Post 2

I think that another way flowers help themselves to pollinate is through the many bright colors and interesting shapes they take; many people who have poor senses of smell, for example, I imagine also some animals, still enjoy looking at or in the case of people collecting flowers even when they cannot smell them.

FernValley
Post 1

While humans continue to appreciate that flowers smell good, the levels of pollen allergies and other plant-related allergic reactions is on the rise. A lot of factors and theories are being tested and researched to figure this out, though no one seems to really know why.

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