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Flowers losing fragrance due to global warming, say scientists

Rising temperatures interfering with ‘plant-pollinator mutualism’.

By Dileep Thekkethil


After effects of global warming are not restricted to depleting glaciers or climate change; even flowers are feeling the heat, and this has resulted in losing fragrance, say scientists.

Flowers release fragrance to attract insects to the reproductive organ of a plant, which carries the pollens. This is essentially the reason for the existence of a plant species. The fragrance is produced from the mixture of dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of volatile substances from several biochemical groups.

This is not the first time that scientists are warning about the effects of global warming on plant species. Delving more in-depth into the changes that are happening on the plant species, the scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel found that increasing atmosphere temperature has led to the decrease in the production of floral scents.

“Increases in temperature associated with the changing global climate are interfering with plant-pollinator mutualism, an interaction facilitated mainly by floral color and scent,” said Alon Can’ani, a PhD student at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Study conducted by Can’ani found that the plants in a controlled ambient can reduce the production of smell. The scientists are researching strategies to overcome the decrease in production of beneficial volatile substances, which requires a lot of energy from plants.

The scientists also found that Petunia plants grown in high temperature showed significant decrease in the production and emission of scent compounds.

“In my study, I show that increasing ambient temperature leads to a decrease in phenylpropanoid-based floral scent production in two Petunia×hybrida varieties, P720 and Blue Spark, acclimated at 22/16 or 28/22 °C (day/night),” Can’ani said.

Can’ani was awarded the Smith Vision Prize for his body of research, which included projects aimed at finding novel strategies that plants use in order to regulate, or fine-tune, the process of scent emission.

Currently, Can’ani is investigating a process called glycosylation, in which flowers conjugate a sugar molecule onto the scent compounds, thus rendering the scent non-volatile.

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