The Science of Fragrance
Orchids have evolved into particular shapes, colors and smells to attract pollinators, so they may reproduce. Some orchids attract only a few very specific pollinators, so they have fragrance when these pollinators are the most active, either by day or by night.
Orchid fragrance is an oily substance found in glands called osmopheres on the outside edges of the orchid’s roots, leaves and flowers. This oily fragrant substance will change into vapor form, enabling the plant to smell. Not all orchid fragrances can be sensed by humans. These specific fragrances are what primarily attract the insects that pollinate the orchid.
The orchid flower’s fragrance is produced at a time daily when the pollinators are the most active, so the fragrance can have maximum effect. For instance, some orchids, namely the Phalenophilus, are fragrant only at night, and are white or other very light colors because they are pollinated by moths.
It is believed that over half of all orchids are pollinated during the day by bees and wasps. The orchid flowers have scents like narcissus, lily of the valley and sweet peas. The colors of the flowers tend to be bright blue, yellow, purple or green.
Fragrant Orchids – The Orchids That Have Delightful Aromas
What follows is a list of some of the most fragrant orchids. It is not comprehensive, but lists a few types of orchids that have noticeable aromas.
Ada glumacea – strong fruity aroma
Rhyncholaelia digbyana – citrus-like scent
Brassavola cucullata – sweet smelling aroma
Angraecum Longiscott Hihimanu – sweet aroma at night
Zygopetalum B.G. White Stonehurst – intense sweet aroma
Maxillaria tenuifolia – smells like coconut
Den. Delicatum Brechts – smells like wintergreen
Epidendrums Veitchii – mild rose-like aroma
Cattleyas have a strong sweet aroma
Oncidium Sharry Baby – smells of chocolate
Oncidium ornithorynchum – very sweet smell
Rhyncholaelia glauca – strong aroma at night
Cymbidium Golden Elf Sundust – smells of sweet bath powder
Cymbidium tracyanum – peaches
Epidendrum parkinsonianumm – aroma of cloves at night
Epidendrum L. purpurata – licorice