If you visit any plant lover, it is rare that you could miss an orchid in their home. These plants are easy to grow, and given their beautiful and colorful flowers, they are very much liked. The orchid itself comes in many types, well over 20,000 types of them. They can be used for home décor, events decoration or even as gifts. Apart from their decorative purposes, some orchids have some edible element, which has been incorporated in making beverages and flavoring.
For those new to houseplants, you would ask whether orchids are fragrant. Well, orchids are fragrant, though not all types. The fragrant ones produce different kinds of pleasant smells, mainly meant to attract pollinators. However, others produce foul smells while some do not even have any smell at all.
In this article, we will delve deeper into orchid fragrances, attraction of pollinators with fragrances, characteristics of orchid fragrances, and other related questions. Keep reading to learn more.
What Is The Purpose Of Fragrances In Orchids?
Humans generally love nice fragrances, and having an orchid with good fragrance would be so fulfilling for any orchid grower. However, orchids do not develop fragrances to please humans; but rather, it is for their own survival. The scent helps attract pollinators.
Most common pollinators include wasps, bees, hummingbirds, flies, moths, butterflies, beetles, and gnats.
So, How Do The Orchids Attract Pollinators?
We have already seen that there many different types of orchids. Each one differs slightly in the way of attracting the pollinators. Below are some of the different ways.
- Some have sweet fragrances but no nectar. The pollinators will be attracted by the fragrance thinking they are going to suck some nectar but to their disappointment, there will be none but they will have served the purpose of pollination. Examples of such orchids include the fringed leek orchid or Prasophyllum fimbria.
- Some types produce a scent similar to the wasp or bee pheromones to attract mainly the bees and wasps. An example is the short-clubbed wasped orchid/Chiloglottis reflexa. We even have some that look like female insects. The male insects will be tricked into thinking they are their female counterparts and they will try to mate with them. In the process, they will have carried the pollen grains from one orchid to the next.
- The scent also differs at different times of the day. In most orchids, the scent is stronger and better in the morning hours when the sun is brighter. The scent will seem to be fading away as the temperature increases around the afternoon hours. This change corresponds well with the time when the pollinating insects are active. The pollinators are more active in the early hours of the day; this is when the orchids produce the best fragrance to attract them.
On the contrary, we have the popularly known queen of the night orchid (Brassavola nodosa), which starts emitting its fragrance in the evening. Quite convenient because its pollinator, which is the nocturnal moths start coming out at this time.
- Normally, a specific orchid fragrance actually attracts specific pollinators. For instance, Chiloglottis and Ophyrs attract wasps and bees because of their pheromones- like fragrance. The sweet-smelling yellow, purple, and blue orchids usually attract the bees. Hummingbirds are attracted to the sweet-smelling yellow and red orchids. We also have foul-smelling orchids; they have dull colors, and they attract such insects as beetles, gnats, and flies.
- When it comes to appearance, the blossom of an orchid complements its fragrance, thus attracting the intended pollinator. An example is the Chiloglottis and Ophrys excluding the ones mimicking pheromones. Their flowers look like female insects. On the other hand, orchids with a foul smell have brown and dull green colors, which look like rotting animals and plants.
Do All Orchids Smell Good?
Not all orchids actually produce a nice aroma. There are some, which are never discussed or even planted in the nurseries for this obvious reason; they have a foul smell and no one would want to have them near. Here are just a few examples:
- Bulbophyllum Orientale- has the smell of rotten bananas and apples
- Bulbophyllum psychoon- has the smell of a pond scum
- Bulbophyllum echinolabium- smells like dog waste
- Bulbophyllum carunculatum- has the smell of rotting brie cheeseBulbophyllum beccarii- has the smell of decaying animals
These ones attract those insects that thrive on decaying matter such as flies and gnats.
Types of Orchid Fragrances
Orchids come in very many fragrances depending on the type. The most common scents include: floral, sweet, citrus, candy, spicy, coconut, cinnamon, rose, vanilla, grapes bubblegum, hyacinth, lily of the valley, caramel, jasmine, butterscotch, pepper, mint, lemon, honey, clover, baby powder, chocolate, cherry, strawberry, raspberry,
See more: Ultimate List Of Fragrant Orchids
Characteristics of Orchid Fragrances
Orchid fragrances have certain characteristics that they can be identified with.
First, they are volatile. The more you smell them, the more complex they will become. An orchid may attract you with a strong smell of citrus. Few minutes later, it will change swiftly into a sweet floral scent. For example, if you smell Dendrobium anosmum, you will feel the scent of a raspberry. This will change to strawberry, rhubarb, and eventually, you will smell hyacinth.
Second, some orchid fragrances are intoxicating, while others are mild. This could be attributed to certain factors such as weather. During sunny days, for example, the orchid’s volatile oils will tend to warm up and diffuse making the orchid more fragrant compared to shady days.
Similarly, the scent will linger for long if the area has more humidity. If the air is still, the smell will be trapped as opposed to a breezy area where the smell will diffuse.
Orchid Scents in Relation to Mood
Orchid fragrances have been known to stir different moods in human beings.
For instance, Cattleyas are known for fragrances that can swoon or revive you. They are complex, having many layers ranging from citrus to floral scents.
Oncidium contain fragrances that stir hunger in human beings. The fragrances include tropical punch, vanilla, and chocolate.
When judging an orchid for fragrances, certain factors are considered. They include:
- The strength or fragrance intensity
- How far you can smell it
- How pleasant it is
- Its complexity/well-roundedness
For those that like stronger scents Zygopetalum or Rhynchostylis will do. For a beginner, you can go for Cattleya or Oncidium.
How to Smell the Orchids
It is important to note that not all orchids will have a scent. If you are at a store, you must smell them literally to establish which one has some fragrance and which one does not.
You can stick your nose near the plant without touching the petals. You can also wave your hand over the plant in a way that will draw some scent. You could also sniff just right above the flower. Whichever your preferred method is, just ensure to confirm if it has a scent, if your major agenda is the smell.
Do some orchids smell better than others do?
Smell is a personal thing and everyone has a particular taste when it comes to fragrances. The best advice would be to go to the store and choose the one that appeals to you given the various fragrances available.
Are there orchids without a scent at all?
Some orchids smell neither good nor bad. This means they do not have fragrance at all. These are the hybrids that have been pollinated to enhance blossoming and produce bigger flowers and earn more profits faster. Such will be found in supermarkets and only their beautiful appearance drives you to purchase them.