Seed World

Researchers Discover How Petunias Know When to Smell Good

A team of University of Washington biologists has identified a key mechanism plants use to decide when to release their floral scents to attract pollinators. Their findings, published the week of June 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, connect the production and release of these fragrant chemicals to the innate circadian rhythms that pulse through all life on earth.
The researchers studied these questions in the common garden petunia. This white-flowered hybrid releases an aromatic, sweet-smelling fragrance in the evening to attract insect pollinators, such as hawk moths.
“Plants emit these scents when they want to attract their pollinators,” says Takato Imaizumi, UW associate professor of biology and senior author on the paper. “It makes sense that they should time this with when the pollinators will be around.”
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