Do you smell a fragrance or an odor?

juneroses Z9a Cntrl FlAugust 18, 2009

Just like our other senses, it's intersting to learn how our noses interpret smells differently. When I go to my neighbor's front door and brush against her tagetes lemmonii, I'm amazed that she would site such a foul smelling plant at her entrance. In a recent thread, however, I see that many love its smell.

Meanwhile, I thought I had a fragrance free tee olive at my front door until my neighbor across the street commented on the sweet smell drifting over. I put my nose on the flowers until I'm wearing pollen and can barely detect any scent.

I find my galphimia gracilis (thryallis) has a pleasant, but not overwhelming, fragrance yet I rarely see fragrance mentioned as one of its attributes.

What plant fragrances/odors do you smell that differ from the generally accepted perception?


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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

I have too many candidates to list, I think. Mark always says I have a nose DOGS envy, but my sense of smell was damaged severely by ZICAM. (Warning...the lawsuits they were advertising over the summer were entirely true. Using it inside your nasal passages, as opposed to a pill form, can burn the nerve endings and destroy your sense of smell permanently...something they have known about zinc since the 1930's but fail to mention in promoting their product.)

Anyway, I was lucky, and got about 85% to 90% of my sense of smell back again. But there are many fragrances I have lost totally. And SOME that I never had to start with, even when my sense of smell was very, very good.

It's interesting that you mention tea olive, as I have NEVER been able to detect a fragrance from that, though many people think it is one of the best for a fragrance garden. My "receptors" just don't pick it up. I think it is a question of some of us not being able to process the chemical make up of certain odors.

I'm one who thinks tagetes lemonii smells wonderful and very herbal. I sometimes bring stems of it in, just to smell it all day long. Even when it isn't blooming. But as you say, many people find it obnoxious.

I love a quick sniff of gardenia, but I would never bring a blossom inside, as that cloying sweetness would give me a headache after awhile. Same with magnolia.

One that I can smell that many people apparently cannot is Louis Phillipe OGR. I often see the fragrance level listed as "None," and yet I find it delicious and old-fashioned. Not heavy, to be sure, but a great fragrance, just the same.

Noses are funny. They don't all work the same. My husband can hardly smell anything. I am very easily affected by odor, both positively and negatively, over things he says have no odor at all. But in addition to personal preference as to which smells are good and which are bad, there are definitely differences in what we can each actually smell at all.

Maybe it is like color...what I call taupe, Mark calls full bore purple. Does he SEE it differently, or just interpret it differently? No clue. Color blind people see things very differently. Perhaps some of us are Nose Blind????



    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 9:22AM
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carolb_w_fl(zone 9/10)

Oh hey - FYI, there are a number of flowering plants that release their fragrance only @ certain times - 4 o'clocks are 1 example. & my chaste tree blooms smell wonderful throughout the day, but @ dawn & dusk, the scent is barely perceptible.

FWIW, my 2 cents

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 11:12AM
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Marcia I think that is a "man thing" that they can't smell certain things like that the cat box needs cleaning or the dog needs a bath. All very convenient don't ya think?

Roses. I have friends who make a big deal about how one rose smells like tea and another like citrus etc. Some roses I can't smell at all while other can. All I know it that this one smells different than that one but can't pin down "citrus" or whatever.

I will say that I don't like the smell of sycamores or viburnum...yuk!

I'm with you Marcia I don't want a gardenia in my house, too overpowering.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 11:35AM
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LOL, and I am one who loves the heavy smell of gardenia or night blooming jasmine. I put a NBJ right by my bedroom window. Now I smoked for years, maybe my sense of smell was effected. Yet I still can detect slight oders too. This happens with the sense of taste too. Many people taste soap when the eat cilantro, and others love it.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 12:02PM
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I find the fragrance of gardenias, magnolias, confederate jasmine and paper whites intoxicating. I don't think I would ever tire of them.

Marcia, I can also smell Louis Phillipe's light fragrance. I am not familiar with tagetes lemonii, but feel I would probably like it.

Carolina jessamine smells like baby powder to me and makes me smile every time I smell it. I also don't mind viburnum suspensum, but I think most people find it offensive.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 3:46PM
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I cannot figure out how to get it to "activate" but I'm pretty sure it's the bark/trunk.

Anyone know what that smell is that comes from gumbo limbo?


    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 3:46PM
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juneroses Z9a Cntrl Fl

Char, your mention of viburnum suspensum reminds me of my little "incident" with that shrub. I HAD a hedge of this along a side wall where various utilities enter the house (part of the standard landscape package). When I first trimmed the viburnum, I smelled a gas leak and quickly informed my husband we needed to call the utility company. It was he who determined that the "gas leak" was actually coming from the viburnum. - June

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 4:18PM
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June,this is a great topic,I often thought about.
I do not notice any scent on thryallis.
I also smoked heavy in the 80's and after a while,when I quit, my sense of taste and smell improved greatly.
Milk tasted wonderful and I could smell again. My allergies
got so much better ,also.
My wife senses are much keener then mine. She has super hearing,and smelling.
I can not smell Sycamore. Yesterday,today and tomorrow smells like urine at times at other times like an old woman perfume. Maybe the old woman wearing perfume was incontinent,who knows. But, I'm serious. Night blooming jasmine is too strong,indoors,for me. It gives me a headache. Other jasmines,magnolias and gardenia, I love and have no problem with them. I can smell crepe myrtle and Lois Phillipe just a little.
Optimism and pessimism may be a key factor for an individual to perceive or interpret a sense as being
positive or negative.
There has been scientific studies made on the senses
being sharper on women than men.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 4:32PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

I do think in general, women have better a better sense of smell than men do, and I'm not sure it's just so they don't notice the sandbox being dirty (hahaha). I almost think women have more scent receptors than men do, but I could be making that up. (We all know I'm OOOOLD and near-senile.)

I have been with people who were ooohing and aaahing over the scent of a nearby tea olive and I could smell nothing. Even when I buried my nose in the flowers. I just don't have the "tea olive fragrance receptor," I guess. Seriously, scent is all a matter of chemicals, so I know there is a physical reason why some people can smell a certain fragrance and others can't. But as to interpreting if what you are smelling is pleasant or stinks to high heavens...well that's the question that I wonder about. Is it a subjective thing, like some people enjoy rock music and others prefer classical? Or is it that different noses interpret smells in different that tagetes lemonii actually smells herbal to one person and like urine to another? (That's how I've heard it described by some who don't like it.) BTW, I'm one who thinks cilantro tastes just likek soap, and I've read that it is because there IS a soapy tasting chemical in it, but not everyone can taste it. It's physical, in other words.

Are we just prefering one scent over another because some of us like blue and some of us like red, or are we actually receiving completely different scents from the same things, and completely different flavors from cilantro?


    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 5:14PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

A smart salesman NEVER wears colon, or perfume, what one person loves will make another person sick to their stomach....

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 8:00PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

Freudian slip, I meant cologne ;-)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 8:04PM
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rainy230(10 Jupiter)

LOL tomncath ! I wouldn't want to smell colon either :)

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 9:19PM
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I can smell my LP wafting across the yard. I will bring cuttings (not rooted) to the Tampa Fall Swap on request. My clone came from the Antique Rose Emporium. I consider it strongly scented.

I love gardenia and cannot stand Night Blooming Jasmine. It actually sickens me.

I think that if one works at it, scent can be learned like you can train your ear and you can learn to discern different flavors in wine. Of course, as in all things, youth makes a difference.

I was blown away once to smell very strong grapefruit from a rose. I still have the plant and have never smelled that scent since.

This elusive mystery, for me, is one of my greatest gardening joys.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2009 at 9:29PM
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tomncath(St Pete Z10a Heat 10)

How about this one, I have corn plants and plumeria near the front door. Last year for the first time since we've been in this house (15 years), I noted a strong odor outside the front door at night, rather fragrant but certainly not the same smell I was used to from the plumerias. In the daytime, nothing? Turns out the corn plants were blooming and give off a distinctly strong fragrance, only at night....


    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 7:21AM
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Very interesting, Tom.

Papaya has a wonderful scent, too.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 3:49PM
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coffeemom(Broward z10)

I love the smell of my variegated jasmine in the spring time but my jasmine sambac, blooming now, smells like moth balls. I can smell tea olive but to me it smells apricot-y like newborn baby poo.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2009 at 9:28PM
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scents_from_heaven(z9b Orlando FL)

If I remember my classes from college of years gone by there are numerous factors that affect our ability to detect aromas or odors. Each of us has epithelium in our noses and lungs. The amount or percentage of epithelium in nose vs. lungs or respiratory system determines how sensitive we are to aromas or odors. We also have neuron receptors that detect certain chemicals as our smell is linked to chemical odors. If certain receptors are missing or inaccessible by the chemical then a person either can not smell the chemical or may have an altered perception of the chemical thus resulting in some chemical smelling pleasant to some people, overwhelming or having a bad odor to others or no aroma at all. Some people have overly sensitive nerve endings or neuron receptors and these are the people who can small anything and everything and have severe reactions either positive or negative to odors. Those who are lacking in certain receptors or have damaged receptors will smell aromas differently. That is why we have such a diversity of opinions of scents from the same plant.

Then you have to take into affect trained or memory induced senses that affect our perceived smell of certain things. If you smelled something as a child that had either a traumatic or strong positive emotional impact on us then that aroma will create a positive or negative odor to us today. Perfumes that your mother or grandmother wore remind you of the love and comfort they imparted to you or negative feelings if you remember them with bad events. Therefore, smell is something that is intrinsic to all of us but is also different amongst all of us due to neuron receptors, memory cells and nerve sensitivity. Hope this helps. I am one of those with extremely sensitive nerve ending sensitivities so perfumes, soaps, tobacco smoke and other scents can create medical problems due to allergies and I can smell odors that most people can not. It is pleasant most of the time but it can be a curse at others. Happy sniffing and enjoying. Find a scent that is pleasant to you and go with it. Linda

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 1:59AM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Several years ago there was a study done by National geographic on odor perception. I participated in it but never heard about the results.. They used scratch and sniff blanks so you couldn't have any pre conceived ideas on what you should be smelling lol. The ?? with each block were .Is it pleasant ,Offensive ?. Would you eat it, wear it of flush down the toilet?? As I recall the survey had over a hundred thousand participants.
A striking difference between humans and all other mammals is that it's far inferior or very subject to interpretation.
Isn't it interesting that humans find floral odors either good or bad. Since the flower made the aroma to attact pollinators not for people in the first place. I like those types that produce chemicals to imitate the aroma of either rotting flesh or excretment. Whoever said you can attract more flies with sugar never watched a pile of dung .??lol
When my wife and I took the test we were almost always sharply divided on what the aroma was lol Wanted to find out who was right. lol One that stood out was Cinnamon . To me that is the most unique aroma in the world lol She said it was definitely urine. Still as sensitive as she is she couldn't identify what kind of urine . lol gary

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 5:49AM
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my four o'clocks are blooming now, and it's one of my favorite smells. but generally, with very few exceptions, i don't like strong sweet fragrances like gardenias, brugs, daturas...esp lilies. even roses are too strong for me often.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 8:40AM
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Ah! but the question is...can you smell the litter box???

    Bookmark   August 20, 2009 at 7:28PM
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manature(9B Sanford, FL)

With three very large cats, I can tell you that around here, even MARK can smell the litter box, if I miss a day of cleaning! Funny how that particular scent receptor always works just fine!!


    Bookmark   August 21, 2009 at 9:05AM
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