Smelly Trees and Stinky Plants

by Rees Cowden on October 10, 2009 · 4 comments

in All Posts,Cool Stuff,Flowers & Trees,Plan & Design

It’s well known that beautiful fragrances can be derived from plants and their flowers. Roses, lilacs jasmine are a few beautiful scents that come to mind.

As with most things, there is also an opposite, and this time of year the opposites of the beautiful fragrances become evident.  Summer and fall seem to be a time when the smelliest, stinkiest and most noxious odors are released by plants into the air to be inhaled and processed by our olfactory nerves.

Many plant nerds, myself included, find the smells, well, interesting. Mother nature has given these plants an unusual smell for a purpose and that sort of thing always intrigues me; but if you are put off by bad odors, here are a few plants to avoid.

Ginkgo Trees

Ginkgos are very popular urban street trees for several reasons, but boy do they stink!  Their smell is unmistakable and should be taken into consideration when planting. Think rotten eggs or according to some…vomit.  Eww.

Viburnum

There are several nice varieties of viburnum and most are great plants and small trees. The species “suspensum” is used commonly for a hedge plant. It takes to shaping well and is pretty resistant to insects and low water areas. This makes it a perfect candidate for foundation plantings and plants used to hide the concrete foundations of homes and office buildings. Unfortunately, there is a three-week period at the end of summer where a distinct stink comes from this one. I think the positive aspects outweigh the smelly period though.

Amorphophallus

A.K.A. smelly corpse plant or sometimes called corpse flower…….need I say more?  ……Yes, the plant nerd in me thinks this is a really cool plant. And if you have a chance to check it out, you should. Botanical gardens are probably the only place most of you will encounter it.

Rafflesia

Another one that smells like rotting flesh. If you have ever smelled it you will always remember it, and if you ever have a chance to see it, consider yourself lucky. This is an incredible flower, 4-5ft wide and a deep red with speckles.

Tulbaghia

This is a low-growing herbaceous plant with a beautiful pink flower the sits on multiple stocks about the strap like foliage. It’s the foliage that smells. The odor is not as distinct as some of the others mentioned, but when crushed, a pseudo garlic smell permeates the air. (This is one of my favorite plants) I love to plant it near the sliding doors of clients’ homes so that they catch a whiff of it now and then, drawing their attention to the garden.

There are many more smelly plants, but these are a few of the stinkiest plants and trees. I guess, like beauty, the attraction to smell is in the eye of the “besmeller”.  I, for one, like flowers and plants from the wrong side of the tracks!

If you can think of any other stinky, smelly plants leave me a comment below and I’ll add it to the list.

Happy Gardening,

Rees

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Rose Johnson May 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I’m looking for the name of a plant that comes up every 2 years. It is very tall (over 6 ft) has green leaves at the base and the flower is tall cone shaped and light purple in color. The one I have a picture of is growing in Healdsburg, CA.

Rees May 26, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hi Rose,
Great name by the way. The plant you are asking about is probably the morphophallus titanum, or “corpse plants”, that is shown above. It can actually bloom every two to five years and really smells horrid. Pretty cool though don’t you think?

Holly November 19, 2011 at 8:21 am

My house is across from a school track/field and everyday people park on 2 sides of it, throw their trash out, stomp the yard dead and then hang out well after dark (bedtime). I built a privacy fence (only allowed on one side) and planted cactus to discourage them but no help. Are there any smelly plants I could plant that might discourage their lingering? I’m in Austin, Texas and the ground is great for cactus and I don’t want high maintenance or high water plants. Full sun, very hot in summer and I need suggestions. Help, please!

Teresa September 2, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Please help!!! I seem to have – ONLY AT NIGHT – a fishy/rubbery smell upstairs in one of my bedrooms, when the windows are open! I have tried to find the source of the smell and am at an end. It is only at night when my windows are open and is only over by the windows and seems to be in the air, not on anything imparticular and I have smelt it very quickly on a couple of occasions in my garden. Does anyone have any ideas as it has to be coming from the garden somewhere, but I am confused as to where? Any ideas anyone? HELP it is driving me insane!!!!!

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