En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
3 ratings

Monday - October 12, 2009

From: Temple, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Texas wildflowers that have fragrance from Temple TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Do you have a list of Texas wildflowers that put out a fragrance?


The short answer to that question is no. If there is such a list, we couldn't locate it. We found a number of websites on fragrant flowers, but they seemed to run heavily to shrubs and/or non-natives to North America or Texas. Actually, all flowering plants put out a fragrance, sometimes pleasant to human noses, sometimes not. When we were researching your question, we ran across websites where oil of bluebonnet and bluebonnet-fragrance soaps and lotions were sold. We were once given a bar of bluebonnet fragrance soap, and didn't care for the smell, though we love bluebonnets.  Fragrance is in the nose of the smeller. Many plants will have no fragrance discernible by human noses at all, and others no fragrance you want to smell. For instance, Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage), native to North America but not to Texas, gives off an odor of rotten meat, especially when the leaves are bruised. This is to attract flies, the skunk cabbage's pollinator. 

This website, from The Floral Expert Flowers and Fragrances, lists several reasons why flowers smell, sometimes as advertising to pollinators. The fragrance might be something attractive to a bee or butterfly because it smells (to them) like one of their own kind of the opposite sex. They land on the flower looking for love and get pollen on them to distribute to other flowers, also beckoning them. For some flowers, their fragrance is to attract pollinators to a source of nectar. There is speculation that some plants will exude an odor unpalatable to herbivores who might want to have that particular flower for dinner. It is known that deer do not care for aromatic plants, although when deer are really hungry they just hold their noses and eat anyway.

Since we can't find a list for you, we will list a few Texas native wildflowers that we know from personal experience have pleasant fragrances, at least to us. Notice several are members of the mint family. On mints, the fragrance comes from the bruising of the leaves, so this isn't really a flower fragrance.

Palafoxia rosea (rosy palafox) -Asteraceae (aster) family

Monarda punctata (spotted beebalm) - Lamiaceae (mint) family

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - Polemoniaceae (phlox) family

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet) - Violaceae family

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) - Lamiaceae (mint) family

Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage) - Lamiaceae (mint) family

Symplocarpus foetidus

Palafoxia rosea

Monarda punctata

Phlox divaricata

Viola missouriensis

Salvia coccinea

Salvia farinacea




More Wildflowers Questions

Spanish name for bluebonnet
May 14, 2008 - What is the Spanish name for bluebonnet? They were in Texas before any other Europeans and must have named the flower. I cannot find it anywhere.
view the full question and answer

Planting wildflowers in spring for spring bloom
March 02, 2012 - I was wondering if it is possible to plant wildflowers around this time of year, and expect them to bloom in the spring still? I have heard that many wildflowers germinate in the fall. Are there c...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting wildflowers slated for destruction in Buda, TX.
June 16, 2015 - TXDOT has recently informed our church that they will be taking a sizeable amount of natural area fronting a ranch road for lane expansion. We are devastated to lose an are we have planted and nurtur...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Plants for Chicago
September 13, 2014 - I live near Chicago, IL and am interested in planting a butterfly garden. Not sure when to start, but I want all native plants that would attract butterflies. Can you please let me know which plants ...
view the full question and answer

Repairing damage to perennials from hailstorm
May 15, 2006 - We just had a tremendous hailstorm north of Georgetown. The hail was being blown horizontally and my perennials were sheared off at the ground. Is there any advice as to how to help these plants reg...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center