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Pelargonium: Fragrant leaves

The leaves of these scented pelargonia give off a captivating citrus-like aroma. These aromatic compounds are produced and stored in tiny glands on the leaves. When something touches a leaf’s surface, these glands burst open and release their scent. Scents play a big role in communication between plants and animals, especially in attracting the right pollinators to a particular flower. But what purpose is served by fragrant leaves?

Many animals eat plants. Plants protect themselves with spikes and thorns, or try and make themselves inedible with poisons. Scented leaves are another method some plants use to keep animals away. The chemical substances they give off are poisonous to herbivores, or at least taste unpleasant. It’s not just large animals that these substances are meant to keep away, but the legions of insects that eat plants. A cloud of essential oils like those produced by scented pelargonia can keep pests at arm’s length. You can take advantage of this effect in your own garden at home: by planting lavender amongst rose bushes, pests are kept away from the roses by the strong scent of their fragrant neighbours.

Audio file download
Pelargonium: Fragrant leaves (MP3, 499 KB)

Audio production and copyright: Soundgarden Audioguidance GmbH
Text: Günter Gerlach, Botanischer Garten München-Nymphenburg

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