GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shakespeare famously wrote, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” With all due respect to the Bard, University of Florida researchers may have to disagree: no matter what you call a flower, its scent can be changed.
A team at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has uncovered some of the genes that control the complex mixture of chemicals that comprise a flower’s scent, opening new ways of “turning up” and “tuning” a flower’s aromatic compounds to produce desired fragrances.
“For a long time, breeders have mostly focused on how flowers look, their size, color and how long blooms last,” said David Clark, a professor of environmental horticulture. “But scent has gotten left behind. Go to a florist and try to smell the flowers. You probably won’t get what you expect.”
Over the years, Clark says, breeders have selected flowering plants that produce bigger, more attractive flowers with long vase lives; but in doing so, they may have been inadvertently selecting plants that were willing to devote less to producing fragrance.
That may change. For example, a customer may someday be able to walk into a florist and select from scented or unscented varieties of the same flower.
In work published in the January issue of The Plant Journal and the February issue of Phytochemistry, the researchers describe how various genes in petunias help regulate the amount of the 13 major aromatic compounds in that flower’s fragrance. (more …)