Fragrant Hostas?

gogirlterri(5 IL)July 22, 2013

A few years ago I'd witness 3 German Shorthair Pointers demonstrate their sense of smell. The three had just been left out for a romp around the yard. Simultaneously the 3 slammed on the brakes, made a quarter turn and locked on point with noses held high.

Obviously they all smelled something, but I had no idea what it could have been. Some fragrance carried in the wind.

I have been snooping the recent postings about fragrant hostas, and today hostas whose flowers appear below the leaves. So I started thinking, and when Theresa thinks she becomes dangerous.

What we mere mortals feel is fragrant is not likely to agree with all nature. In fact we have a relatively limited sense of smell. Those 3 GSPs certainly didn't agree with my concept of fragrance. Put them in with a 4th and a whole lot of butt sniffing would take place. Must be fragrant to them but not to me, in concept (because I would never get close enough to smell that they do and don't even know if I would recognize it if I did).

My point is that I expect that ALL flowering hostas are fragrant, but some we don't have the ability to smell. I am sure the hostas with short scapes attract pollinaters that are attracted to the flowers below their leaf canopies. For whatever reason, it has become their characteristic.

Does anyone know if my assumption is any way near right, or can give me more insight?


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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

My point is that I expect that ALL flowering hostas are fragrant

==>> i suspect you are wrong

but not being a butt sniffing GST ... i have nothing to argue with ....


ps: thank God ... i have my limits ... of what i want to be in life....

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 8:59AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

Ken; the same sourcer of into on Northern Exposure in HL states that flowers are on 30" scapes in a plant that is 36" tall. To me that means the flowers are under the canopy of leaves. It also says it's seeds are viable. To me that means something has to find the blooms hidden below the canopy. If not by scent, how would the concealed flowers be found? (scratch-scratch)

Are there any botanists lurking?


    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:43AM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

Well, to be scientifically correct, you could always try


Here is a link that might be useful: Science of seeking scent saturation

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 12:40AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

tj - I've printed it. I don't know how much I will understand but hard copy is easier on me than the screen on my laptop. Thanks

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 8:49AM
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idiothe(4 MN)

I think the problem is with imprecise terms. We know that pollinator insects are drawn to flowers in at least two ways - visually and by chemicals released into the air.

I was interested in researching monarchs that they are not so much attracted to a certain color as they are to patches of color... and if there is a patch of pink queen of the prairie that attracts them and they start nectaring, they may very well ignore white queen of the meadow one plant over...

But they also are definitely attracted to chemicals. When liatris ligulistylis is blooming, they seem to find it from miles away... and it is like "monarch crack" - they just can't take anything else seriously...

I think what we are referring to as smelling and scents are really just chemicals and chemical receptors. In this respect, I suspect your suspicion is true. Maybe not universally all - but certainly flowers are designed to put out visual and chemical attractants and many of those "smells" might not register on the human nose. We didn't evolve needing to pick them all up.

Still... when we hosta people talk about scent, we are usually talking about a notable scent. That's where the conflict over Fragrant Blue comes up. I can stick my nose into that flower all day long and not get anything but an allergic response - no fragrance. For years I claimed I could pick something up... then DW and others would declare the Emperor had no clothes.

But since it was named Fragrant Blue by someone who clearly thought it was fragrant, I'm leaving the door open to the idea that one of two scenarios apply. Either there are two strains of the plant out there... a minority that have a noticeable fragrance and a majority that don't... or there is a fragrant chemical that most people don't detect but that some folks do. Both are reasonable hypotheses.

Long way of saying - I think you are probably right, Theresa... I suspect all - or virtually all - flowers give off a "scent" whether or not we have the receptors to pick them up.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 10:57AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

I agree with both of you. I also think there are possibly quite a number of strains of the same plants 'out there' unbeknownst to us. Occasionally someone's radar hones in on them. Only then does it become apparent.

I have an acute sense of smell. I smell things some others can't. When we were trying to identify my erroneously labelled Royal Tiara what stymied us was the fragrance factor. It's interesting to note that someone else could smell it too (their level of acuity is lower than mine...I'm the GSP around here). Then the next day it was gone, then back, ever so faintly but detectable only to me. I think it's an isolated incident at a time when all the things in our universe aligned in a heightened moment of perfection and I was on the receiving end!

I was never aware echinacea s were fragrant until I was deadheading them two years ago. They have a lovely scent.

I guess I was blessed with heightened receptors...might go hand in hand with the ability to zero in on finite detail, too..who knows? Lucky me for sure.

Good one, Theresa.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 11:41AM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

So....sitting in my backyard. Sipping coffee, cream cheese on my cinnamon
Bagel, robins visiting while dining on my honeysuckle berries....and my "garden tea trolley" beside me. I observe that all of my miniature divisions are doing very well, flower scrapes getting taller, buds swelling in preparation to open, when I noticed one flower open on Kifukurin Otome! I lean in for a sniff.....I pick the pot up and sniff damn, it has a, I'm not WILLING it to smell, I distinctly discern a faint's fairly windy today, temps have cropped to a beautiful workable 17 deg. Celsius, high of only 18 today, back up to 23 tomorrow. The sun is hot.

I just smelled it again....similar if not same scent as NOID's a pic of my little flower on KO....FYI...I'm one of those migraine suffers that reacts to barometer plunges...makes me truly connected wouldn't you say? Pain and all LOL

All this verbosity simply states my receptors are peak today. I'm beyond thrilled. Definitely a lily smell!!!!!!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 12:39PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

My scent detection has just been qualified. But first, a comment to tj.

Tj....I read the first half portion of the article/link you provided. When I got to the part about dissecting the flower parts, placing them in test chambers, I immediately thought i should remove the bloom, place it in a jam jar, cover it with aluminum foil, wait for I don't know, 10 minutes or so, uncover and sniff. Then I decided, leave the flower on the plant...ask my friend to smell the flower instead as he just came in. He had to sniff several times to be sure....he looked comical, first one nostril, then the other, back n forth. It was very faint, he said, but he DID smell it. Thanks for the link, Tj. I'll finish reading it.

Fyi..There was nothing nearby to suggest a transference of scent.


    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 1:09PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

For those curious, or interested in fragrance, when you have time, or are so inclined, go around your garden and smell your flowers, especially hosta flowers. Perhaps you'll stumble on a surprise! I also noted some hosta plants also have a our bodies, where we have our own unique scent. I can't be bothered correcting the grammar etc just want to get it out of my head ASAP....I don't mean the earth smell of the soil, I mean the mass of leaves...think me crazy (or not) but sometimes I just bury my head in a plant as to embrace it but really I'm just looking for a 'connect' that I've experienced here and there. It's amazing....I think, for some reason Don in Colorado would understand immediately...Moccasins, you for sure. Any others? Or would you admit to it? Lol lol, no, no, no challenge here, just funning with you peeps.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2013 at 1:21PM
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tsugajunkie z5 SE WI

The link was meant only to show how they "scientifically" quantify scent in a flower. Do not try this at home. lol Ultimately, not only do do each of our noses have varying acuteness, we have varying receptors as to which types of smells we detect as well. For example, I have one rose my wife says has the best smell of all our roses, but I detect little fragrance yet I may bring some other flower in that I think smells wonderful, yet she can barely detect it's scent.

I did notice my Blue Angel flowers have a nice scent though its not listed a a fragrant hosta.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 12:49AM
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As with vision, other creatures have different equipment and can see better than we can. Birds have an additional cone in the eyes which allow them to discern things about their environment....such as the ripeness of fruit, the colors of feathers and flowers, and probably any other coloration feature, on a level exceeding our own. Dogs, however, see in b&w last I heard, so they are not as fortunate as we are.

I'm sure the same thing is true of scent. Sharks can get the scent of blood in the water, what a low level ppm that must be. I do not think birds have much sense of smell, so if hummers come to hosta flowers, it must be other factors leading them taste....maybe the plantaginea TASTES good. Whatever the available pollenator, I think an evolving plant (such as hosta) will adapt itself to which pollenators are available.

And Jo, "connecting" is a good way to describe it.
You, for sure, need to read BOTANY OF DESIRE--A PLANT'S EYE VIEW OF THE WORLD. Go check it out of your library. Worth the time. Take your garden tea cart, your cuppa tea, and read it aloud to your hosta. I wonder if they agree with the author. ":>)=

Hoosier Harmony

Here is a link that might be useful: The Botany of Desire: a Plant's eye view of the world

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 1:25AM
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gogirlterri(5 IL)

I think catfish have both scent and taste receptors all over their bodies. Therefore, both are strong senses that the catfish puts to good use. Optically they are almost blind compared to other fish. Their eyes are really tiny. If you enjoy catfishing you might be surprised how many have tasted your bait without becoming hooked, because they simply rubbed against it.

There is a shrub that gives off the scent used in Vicks Vapor Rub, which I believe is camphor. I LOVE the scent. The other day as I sat on the river bank reading I caught the ever so slight scent of that lovely fragrance. I looked all around for the shrub and couldn't find it. The same thing happened today with the same result. Then I'd solved the mystery.

It was coming from the Library booki. Some previous reader must have used the rub and got it on the pages of the book. Heaven knows how long ago that was. I too have excellent sense of smell for a human. I can usually determine what herbs are used in seasoning foods by smell.

Mental perceptions based upon the senses are really tricky and not trustworthy at all, because we are all different, from each other and from different God's creatures great and small.

As I'd opened this thread saying when Theresa thinks she can be dangerous. So I will close it on the same mental note. Thanks for the opinions all. Of course if you want to continue, please do and I will follow you.

I hope others have also because it explaines, in my humble opinion, some of the confusion regarding fragrance in our beloved hostas.


    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 1:07PM
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josephines123 z5 ON Canada

Mocc....I'll take up that suggestion as I love to read...a lot! I read the reviews (thanks for the link ) ...very encouraging and peaks my interest! Will let you know what I think afterwards....early Sept. is a lovely time outdoors, reading. Thanks! :-)

    Bookmark   July 25, 2013 at 10:57PM
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