Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Conservatory Sunday: what your nose 'knows'


At my volunteer gig this past Sunday I was treated to the sight of lillies in the pond, sniffed a few more orchids with varying scents & discovered a succulent in the shape of a sea star. 

The sea star plant, or Stapelia gigantea, hails from So. Africa & smells of carrion. I imagine flies act as pollinators for this intriguing plant. 



The lillies are in bloom at the conservatory. They look so perfectly formed and their pads seem to be almost fashioned out of wax. 


 


This delicate-looking orchid with ribbon-like petals is just about the size of a thumb-nail and gives off a pungent, almost urine-like scent. Interestingly, my collegue could detect no scent at all. We each stuck our noses in all three of the orchids on the plant. I had a nose-crinkling experience and she had none. She mentioned there being a genetic component to my being able to experience the scent as odorous and then said something about boar pheromones. I didn't quite get the boar bit, but I do know that some humans are able to detect the smell of asparagus in urine after its been ingested and some humans cannot. I can and I presume this boar pheromone detection stuff works like that. Anyone else here able to smell the asparagus-tinged urine? 

Interesting side note: I invited a handful of the conservatory guests to take a whiff of the orchid that smells of sweet peach. Many could smell nothing at all. These were people who professed to have a 'good nose'. Genetic variability is a wondrous thing. 





12 comments:

  1. I used to be able to detect asparagus in urine. I recently noticed that I can't, which I put down to ongoing sinus issues.
    That carrion flavoured succulent is amazing. I am much more used to succulents having relatively small blooms.

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    1. It is amazing! Naturally star-shaped anything is amazing.

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    2. I don't know about you, but even though I cannot detect asparagus in the urine, I can detect onions in the other places. We used to have a mushroom here called 'Earth Star' which looked like that, but I now think it is gone from the UK.

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    3. -just looked up the 'earth star'. It looks a bit like a flower.

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  2. That would be an interesting experiment. First determine who actually has a good sense of smell (as people might overestimate their abilities) and then see if they detect those orchids. Sense of smell is such a weird thing.

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  3. Our olfactory receptors determine what we smell, if anything. Some people like me get a urine-like scent from this flower, some folk smell something sweet, and yet others like my colleague smell nothing at all. Crazy!

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  4. Dear Bea--I love your blog. I would love it even more if you would make the type face larger. Us old folks, you know. I bet EC would second that! Thanks.

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    1. Hitting the control and the + keys together magically magnifies the screen. Control and minus shrinks them.

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    2. For no good reason, I made the font size small on this post. I prefer a 14-sized font, to be honest. Smaller ain't better in this case!

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    3. -just tried to make the font larger, but to no avail. Hmmm. EC has the right answer, fortunately.

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  5. I can smell asparagus in urine and was quite surprised some time ago when I discovered that not all people can smell this.

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    1. I know, me too! I thought everyone could!

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