Sweet Late-Summer Scents

Bumble bee on milkweed.

Bumble bee on milkweed. The flowers have an intoxicating scent.

The smell—or should I say scent—of summer arrives through an array of delicious fragrances that waft through the air when certain plants are in bloom. In June the scent season kicks off with the fragrance of the black locust flowers, (mosey down Rosedale Valley Road on any June night to get the full effect) then the linden flowers take over in July.

Saponaria, also known as soapwort, or 'Bouncing Bet' has a sweet, peppery fragrance.

Saponaria, also known as soapwort, or ‘Bouncing Bet’ has a sweet, peppery fragrance.

Scented trees are wonderful , yet some of the most superb scents come from simplest wild flowers that grow by roadsides and ravines. Wild clover, (Melilotus alba) to me, is the official scent of high summer, the honey-scented flowers start blooming in mid summer and keep going through August.

Many gardeners are growing milkweeds to help endangered monarch butterflies these days. One of the best side effects  is getting to enjoy the intoxicating scent of the complex flowers. Another August enchanter is soapwort, which has a sweet soapy fragrance with an underlay of pepper, a little bit like lupins.


The sweet clover flowers are insignificant but pack a scented punch.

The sweet clover flowers are insignificant but pack a scented punch.

The night often brings out the scent of any flower more intensely.

When present, scent is often the dominant means of long-distance attraction, particularly in moth-pollinated flowers, which are searched out and visited at night.

Scientists are constantly exploring the many chemical compounds that produce the scents in flowers. Humans mostly prefer the sweet-smelling compounds.

Plants use floral scents to attract pollinators or to repel harmful insects. Floral scents begin as oils that are produced by the petals in most plants. Because these oils evaporate easily in warm weather, scientists call them volatile compounds. The aroma of a flower may contain as few as seven to ten different oils, as in snapdragon or petunia, or as many as 100 different chemicals, as orchids.

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