According to scientists the ability to stop and smell the roses is fading as roses losing their scent because consumers want better-looking blooms
In nature, everything has a purpose. It’s only when we see the world from our own limited perspectives that things seem redundant. Like the natural smell of a rose for instance. It’s not just us that want to stop and smell the roses. Scientists have discovered that wild roses could not survive without their scent because it attracts bees. Researchers have found that those bred for the flower market have been gradually losing their evocative scent as gardeners are breeding them for their appearance rather than for their smell.
Through continued research, scientists have pinpointed exactly how the flower produces their sweet aroma by identifying the gene that ‘switches on’ the scent.
The hope is that this discovery may allow gardeners to cultivate blooms that look good and smell good as they can now make sure the gene is present in any new varieties of rose.
The discovery was made by comparing two roses – the Papa Meilland, which has a strong fragrance, and the Rouge Meilland, which has a very little scent. They identified a gene that ‘switches on’ a crucial enzyme called RhNUDX1. The chemical acts in the cells of the flower’s petals to generate a chemical called monoterpene geraniol, one of the sweetest-smelling parts of rose oil.
Wild roses could not survive without this scent. This is the scent that attracts bees to stop and smell the roses in order to pollinate its flower.
In most cases, flowers often have to travel hundreds of miles to get to the shop. Eventually, they get to our hands to be admired so their toughness has also been valued more than their fragrance. As a result, the scent of roses has suffered, and become something of an afterthought.
Researcher Philippe Hugueny, whose work was published in the journal Science, explained: ‘In cultivated roses, the scent has no reproductive function, it’s only for our pleasure. So if roses lose their scent it’s too bad. But if a wild rose lost its smell it would die out.’ He added: ‘We discovered roses use a special pathway to make monoterpenes which have not been shown in other plants.’
Mr Hugueny, of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research, said the find may help develop roses that look and smell good. There is currently no demand for genetically modified roses in Europe. Mr Hugueny said that in Japan, where breeders have experimented with creating modifications including blue roses, the research might be considered useful.
What happens if we can no longer stop and smell the roses? What’s more important to you, the look or the smell of the rose?