What has been your favorite and least favorite smell that you’ve encountered in nature?
See Also: Scents and odors
This one’s open to everyone, not just plant people. There are stinkhorns, stink bugs, and skunks, for example.
Share your favorite and least favorite.
Favorite is my pink rose bush and a gentle breeze through a pine forest
Least favorite is any kind of fresh scat
favorite is smell of cedar
(also does this count but like wood stove/wood fyre? but let’s not make a forest fire. control burns fine. I actually love smells of that)
least fav is…whatever flowering bush was planted by our garage up north when i was a kid; it smelled sickly sweet to the point it made me nausious and i was allergic to it to boot. It was large, 8ft tall shrub thing, little white & light light pink flowers, leaves were smallish as well. that’s what I have from like 5 year old memory.
the worst thing I’ve ever smelled in my life:
Back in 2019 when I was doing my honours thesis on goose barnacles, I was collecting barnacle samples from a mooring ~3 km off the Sydney coast. For one of my very first sampling trips, I was sick and couldn’t get out there, so one of my colleagues was kind enough to collect them for me. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to pick them up for the next week, and so several hundred fleshy Conchoderma spent an entire week in a sealed bucket, no refrigeration, during late summer and 30 degree (celsius) weather.
They got dropped off at my house after a week; when I opened that bucket, I had to immediately leave the area otherwise I would have thrown up. The smell was so strong it had a physicality to it. I ended up sorting them with big rubber gloves and a mask on, and the smell was still all over my hands for the rest of the day. Had to find a dumpster a kilometer away from my house to get rid of them
I really like this question @vreinkymov! I am a habitual food sniffer and someone who gets migraines from certain fragrances. So I think about and notice scents, odors, and smells a lot.
Cultivated flora: I really like citrus, not just the fruit but the smell of citrus blossoms because they are tied to memories of my grandparents who were citrus farmers. My grandparents are long gone but every year there is a Feria de la Naranja (an Orange Festival but so much more) en Oxkutzcab so I go and just close my eyes and bask.
Flora growing wild: I really love the way Pluchea carolinensis smells. It’s like a warm, clove smell.
Domesticated fauna: I enjoy when my wiry-haired pup gets sweaty and smells a bit like Fritos.
Fauna running amok: I like the smell of opossum, which here are called o’och. They leave a little aroma trail when they climb our trees or walk along the walls. They smell like… I cannot explain it. Not stinky but like an honest day’s work. They just have their own little scent. I am happy when I smell one and always look to find the nearby silhouette because the scent dissipates very quickly.
Other smells: I like the smell of certain minerals, the way dirt in a particular place smells unique to that place, that the water will taste a certain way because of what it holds. That feels sacred to me.
…and least favorite: pine trees and potato trees (Solanum erianthum). The first give me migraines, the second are GREAT for observing but if touched require washing with vinegar to destink fully.
I do love petrichor and the smell of try pine needles in the sun.
I don’t like most flower scents, especially of they are intense. Just walked past a tree that seems to flower tonight, and it really stinks to me
I love the smell of wood and of forest in general, and I think especially that of an old dark picea abies forest, I think it’s the faint smell of the needles combined with the smell of the tree raisin melting along the trunks that makes it very unique. Or of a sun-baked pinus mugo mountain side, I always feel like I can smell the sun itself through them. (Probably as simple as both smells reminding me of when I was a little kid, running around in the mountain forest all day.)
I find the smell of most flowers not to be very pleasant, even when people tell me it’s the best smell they ever smelled (and also most perfumes and deodorants smell terrible to me, much worse than the smell of human they are trying to hide…).
My favorite smell I’ve ever encountered in the wild is walking past swamp roses in full bloom. I’ve never liked roses before, but their light, yet strongly fragrant rose smell filled the entire trail. I was filled with euphoria. I’ve been on a venture ever since to fill my garden with them. I go out of my way to smell the fresh sap of a pine tree, but I still love these swamp roses more than anything.
My least favorite or most repulsed by smell is… death. I hate the smell of rotting flesh or plant material. That’s a smell i can’t even cover my nose for. the smell of death will stain your memory. It’s hard to forget.
Bestest: Freshly-mown grass.
Worstest: Wet golden retriever.
It is hard to pick just one for either category. I mentioned a few on a previous thread (Thank you for adding a link @vreinkymov): Eucalyptus, California bay leaf, yerba santa are all lovely scents, and I tend to pluck a leaf for two to keep in my pockets when I go hiking. More general scents I enjoy are the odor of mossy forests, petrichor, especially in the mountains (it’s got a different character than the smell of rain in the desert or on the plains), sea air on a breezy day, and the sharp sensation (maybe not quite a smell) of frigid air after fresh snowfall.
The worst smells I’ve encountered aren’t exactly natural. There was always at least one laboratory class a year throughout high school or undergrad that involved some absolutely horrific smell. Usually it involved thiols or some biochemical product that reeked of concentrated sulfides. In nature, the closest I’ve found to that is the Sulfur Works area at Lassen Volcanic National Park: bubbling mudpots belching away like the Bog of Eternal Stench.
Best: Damp woods
Worst: Mass graves
Our sense of smell is not keen. When we would go on family road trips, we wouldn’t even notice skunk or manure smell until everyone else was covering up their noses.
So smells that please us we often have to seek out. Favorite: conifers, notably cedar (here, it’s Eastern Redcedar)
The smells we deplore involve feces: the attempt to bird at hornsby bend water treatment plant in Austin, Texas, was a challenge. Almost as intolerable to us is when an agricultural field has been fertilized with manure, and we can’t escape it for miles.
Ongoing mammal decomposition smells awful, once somebody left a huge bucket of fish to rot in the woods in summer, had to go around that spot that year.
Also intestines of a roach, they stink! Not a fan of carabid stuff and what columbridae have to “show” you.
I love most normal scents, from those I remember is wild Manchurian apple tree, Rhododendron tomentosum is a scent of marshes, also wild berries like wild strawberry.
I’m pretty sure stinkhorns also belong on my list of “iNatter ruins nature for others”.
I find several stinky mushrooms horrible, and yes, I sniff around until I find them.
As for the manure issues, some I find “comforting” in small whiffs, as scent brings memories. Some better ones are cow and horse.
I learned to tell where we were on the way home ( with eyes closed) by scents: pig, sheep, cow, horse, all different and recognizable. And as manure, chicken and turkey rank as Rank! Fowl manure IS foul!
Great smells are plentiful! Wintergreen and Sweet Fern are yummy as well as good scents. Virginia chain fern in the sunshine. White Baneberry flowers. All the daffodils.
One of my best friends lost his sense of smell as a youngster. I unsuccessfully try to restrain myself from describing or offering scents. I’d love to be able to photograph them.
Same here, perfume is absolutely unbearable to me, deodorant less so but mostly because I don’t stick my nose in people’s armpits (hopefully nobody does). Even worse than perfume: nail polish and gasoline. They cut my breath short and give me nausea.
Of the flowers I’ve smelled, sweet violets give off the most pleasant aroma. It reminds me of raspberry, which coincidentally is my favourite fruit (when properly ripened anyway). Crushed ground ivy leaves smell mintier than mint, and the (unfortunately invasive) plant is so common locally that I always have some within reach to reinvigorate my spirits. Cow and horse manure bring fond memories of my grandma’s countryside estate, where she let me feed and pet her horses.
On the other hand, most of the disagreeable odours I encounter in nature are related to pets and human activities: cat and dog scat, half-full beer cans (hate the smell of alcohol), food containers sealed shut, fertilizer runoff, even freshly-mowed vegetation, probably because I associate it with environmentally unsustainable practices. I remember swimming in the murky, foamy waters of a temporary beachside “pond” in Florida, whose horrendous smell most likely had to do with the sewer pipe that fed it. Didn’t deter me from trying to catch whatever critters lurked at the bottom of the pond, apparently. Oh and also cyanobacteria stink cheeks
I love the smell of Filipendula ulmaria (apparently, it’s called Meadowsweet in English. Very fitting name)! It’s probably my most favorite smell. No wonder bees and other insects like it that much, too. I also kinda like the “mossy” smell of Lophocolea heterophylla, it’s strange but not unpleasant and kind of calming. A colony of these liverworts once grew on some dead wood and I sat close to it, observing them. I came back to that specific log multiple times: it was easy to remember the place and I could see it from afar because the liverworts’ characteristic light green color almost made it glow. It also wasn’t far from the road in the forest park. Unfortunately, one day someone noticed this log as well, and thought it would be a good idea to beat and destroy it together with (almost) all of the liverworts and a young Dryopteris fern growing there. Bit of a sad story - sorry about that.
Agreed. Perfume is terrible for me and gives me headaches. I sometimes need to leave when people with too much come through an area, and I used to run through department stores perfume counter areas as a kid while holding my breath.
A favorite is dry pine needles/floor of a longleaf forest. Almost reminds me of Rice-a-roni for some unknown reason.
Worst is necropsy of a humpback whale in a landfill in June.
Favorite: Not sure I can pick just one. Vanilla is definitely up there. “Plain vanilla” is an oxymoron! Wood smoke brings back pleasant memories. Oh, and there was this one nocturnal flowering tree at La Selva, Costa Rica – a really heavy scent, reminiscent of privet blossoms only stronger – that to me embodied the romance and exoticism of the rainforest.
Least favorite: Well, let’s just say that my world got a whole lot less pleasant when marijuana was legalized.
Cigarette smoke will give me a headache if not a migraine so if you suffer anything like that I am so, so sorry for you, because people do not seem to understand how the smell of smoke travels and clings.
Another nature smell that I do not enjoy: patchouli. It just clings to everything terribly and smells like molding damp to me. We were watching a show about the history of toys some years ago and there was an action figure named Stinkor or Smellio or something similar where patchouli oil was mixed into the plastic and I thought Well, that makes perfect sense.