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What gives flowers their scent?



That's the question from Margaret Riconda of Bayside, N.Y., in the "Ask Smithsonian" back-of-the-book feature in the April Smithsonian magazine. And here's the answer from Tom Mirenda, the Smithsonian Gardens' orchid collection specialist: My friend W. Mark Whitten, a botanist at the University of Florida who works with orchid fragrances and pollination biology, says: Flowers are miniature chemical factories. The epidermal cells of the flower petals (and sometimes other parts) pump out a mix of volatile chemicals unique to each species. These chemicals advertise the presence of the flower and help guide pollinators, who are equipped with chemical detectors.

[Last modified: Monday, March 31, 2014 8:37am]


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