Not all striking flowers smell as beautiful as they may look

Dracunculus vulgaris or voodoo lily, looks pretty, but smells like rotten meat. Picture: Shutterstock.
Dracunculus vulgaris or voodoo lily, looks pretty, but smells like rotten meat. Picture: Shutterstock.

The perfume of flowers can send our olfactory system into sensory overload, particularly during spring.

Daphne, with its sweet perfume, and the lemon scent of magnolias meld with the delicate scent of sweet violets and jasmine creating an ambiance and sense of serenity.

Lavender, jasmine, murraya and gardenia are unmistakable fragrances in the garden, adding to the symphony of spring.

Many plants also have oil glands on their leaves that will emit a scent when gently brushed against, such as native mint bush, phylotheca and lemon-scented tea tree. But not all scents released by plants are appealing.

Some plants can exude revolting scents, designed to attract pollinators that prefer scents on the offensive side. These plants are nonetheless interesting and often beautiful in their colour and form.

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The largest single flower in the world, weighing up to 10 kilograms, belongs to the stinking corpse lily, which, as the name implies, smells like rotting carrion.

Another giant of the plant kingdom with a smell to match is the titan lily, amorphophallus titanium. It comes from Indonesia and also smells like rotting flesh.

An interesting form of arum lily commonly called voodoo lily, dracunculus vulgaris has a scent as equally disgusting as its name. The rotten smell of its flowers attracts blow flies that do its bidding for pollination.

Nonetheless the plant itself is visually quite striking in the garden - just don't plant it close to the entertainment area.

The pineapple lily is a popular garden plant that also uses flies as a pollinator. Its flowers have a strong sulfurous smell, but its appearance is certainly a redeeming feature.

The maiden hair tree, ginko biloba is another stinker, well at least the female tree is. The ginko fruits fall to the ground when ripe and the soft flesh smells like vomit.

The callery pear, which is a very popular tree in Australian landscapes and one of the first to flower in spring, puts on a beautiful white floral display but unfortunately, the flowers smell a little like rotting fish.

Formal gardens on hot days can smell like cat urine, due to the common box used as a hedging plant. The leaves of buxus sempervirens release oils when heated, which gives the garden that pungent scent.

As interesting as some scented plants are, sometimes it pays to just smell the roses.

  • John Gabriele is a horticulture teacher with a love for green spaces.
This story Striking flowers that pack a putrid perfume punch first appeared on The Canberra Times.