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Monday - October 12, 2009

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

QUESTION:

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

ANSWER:

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

 

 

 

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