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Home arrow The Daily Dirt arrow Friday Five: Stinky Plants
Friday Five: Stinky Plants Print E-mail
Written by Heleigh Bostwick    Friday, 16 September 2016
Skunk Cabbage

Most of think of flowers and other plant parts as having a pleasant fragrance, and of course many of them do, but sometimes flowers can smell, well, rather stinky. Sometimes there are obvious reasons for a putrid smell, plants that are pollinated by flies for instance. Many plants in the Arum family (Araceae) such as the skunk cabbage pictured above have a putrid smell.

The giant flowering arum that caused quite a sensation at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden a few years ago is another arum with an objectionable odor--that of carrion of rotting meat or fish. Many plants with flowers that have with this particular odor are pollinated by flies, which as we know are attracted to rotting meat. Other plants, like members of the lily family (Lilaceae), which includes onions and wonderfully fragrant lilies, have leaves or plant parts when bruised smelling of course, like onions.

1. Hawthorns
If youíve ever smelled the flowers of the hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) you know what I mean. Hawthorns are members of the Rose family (Rosaceae).

2. Cotoneaster
Another member of the rose family, the flowers of cotoneaster generally have no smell; however, C. multiflora does--and itís not pleasant.

3. Chinese chestnut
While the flowers of Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) are quite showy, you probably wonít want to pick a bouquet of them for your house.

4. Privet
In the case of privets (Ligustrum spp.), itís the leaves that may smell objectionable. The California privet (L. ovalifolium) is particularly offensive and overpowering.

5. Tree of Heaven
Despite its name, the tree of heaven or paradise tree, Ailanthus altissima syn. glandulosa, is an all around unpleasant tree with both the flowers and leaves giving off an offensive odor. As a side note, tree of heaven is of Asiatic origin and often colonizes urban areas, especially vacant lots, and is very invasive.