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Curiosity Challenge: Why Do Flowers Smell Good?

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Allie W, Age 12

Dear Allie,

Flowers smell good and also look colorful for the same reason, to attract insects and birds. Flowers want these flying creatures to come visit them, so they can help them reproduce. Insects and birds spread the pollen and seeds of flowers to other ones, so they can be fertilized. This is also how flowers become fruit.

Beware, some flowers only smell good to some insects and in fact they smell foul to people. For example “Stinking Corpse Lily” and “Western Skunk Cabbage” smell just like their household name implies. These flowers want to attract flies, like the ones that you commonly see circling in garbage pails. They are very large and beautiful, but luckily not chosen for common yard ornaments!

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Doris Glykys is a Principal Chemical Engineer at Amgen.  She’s passionate about bringing lifesaving science to the people.

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