Fragrant Orchids

There are very many types of fragrant orchids. They all smell different, too: some smell nice (such as Vanilla planifolia, the vanilla orchid), while others smell nasty (such as many Bulbophyllum orchids, which attract flies by imitating the stench of rotting flesh or dung.) It all depends on the orchid's species: some have a scent and others don't. Do your research to figure out which plants you want if you intend to build a nice-smelling orchid collection.

Scent is almost always a method for attracting a pollinating insect. For example, in each species of Stanhopea orchids (and all other species in the Stanhopeinae subtribe,) the male of a single species of euglossine bee is attracted to the flower's scent. The bees collect the fragrance, which they use in courting females.

Many orchid fragrances appear at a certain time of day, usually influenced by light, temperature, or other aspects of the plant's immediate surroundings. For example, Brassavola nodosa, the Lady-of-the-Night Orchid, produces a citrusy fragrance at night to attract a nocturnal moth. (In an interesting example of convergent evolution, many Angraecums also are pollinated by moths; again, they produce their scents at night. Like Brassavola nodosa, they use white flowers to be more visible in the dark.)

Fragrances are often lost in hybridization, as orchid breeders tend to be more concerned about improving the flowers' appearance. So if you want to build an orchid collection where everything smells nice, stick mainly to species orchids, and be careful to choose plants that produce lots of nice fragrance; for example, many Gongora orchids can easily fill a greenhouse with their scent, which usually resembles cinnamon.

What are your favorite fragrant orchids?

Among the numerous types of orchids, so many are fragrant that it would be pointless to list them all; who could possibly collect so many? So let's put the emphasis on the nicest: what are your favorite fragrant orchids? Describe them in the form below!

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