Nov 02, 2019
The Unfortunate Scent of Fresh Cut Grass
You know the best smell in summer is a fresh cut lawn. While the activity itself may not be pleasant, the fresh, amazing smell has inspired soaps, and fresheners, and scents dawned by many. You may already know, but if you don't; that smell is actually a defence mechanism that it emits when it's dying. What you may not have concluded though, is that the odour that it is emitting is a signal to other grass blades. Danger is coming! The untouched blades will then detect that smell and go in to a defence mode with a mechanism that further emits that smell until the danger is beyond reach.
Every plant actually does this.
Some plants emit a fresh scent, others a bitter one, some a sweet and the evolutionary favourite; sour.
Plants smell. Obviously. Plants and flowers emit amazing scents that humans and animals are attracted to. But, plants emit those amazing scents not for us, but for them.
Advent of Advil
In ancient Greece, the physician Hippocrates described a bitter tasting substance from the bark of a willow tree that eased aches and reduced fevers. It wasn't just ancient Greece though; the ancient Middle East and Native Americans also used willow bark as medicine.
We know this bittern elixir as salicylic acid or it's more commercially available brand offshoot; Advil.
It seems for every alignment or appetite we may have, a solution is provided to us by plants. The plants aren't doing it as a sign of goodwill for humanity though, they are doing it for themselves. Plants produce salicylic acid (willow does it at a higher rate) as a pain reliever for plants when it's confronted with any type of aliment.
Plants can get ill like humans. The salicylic acid produces and runs through the veins in the leaves and helps it recover.
Have you ever noticed on your plants any holes in the middle of leaves? That's from the salicylic acid rushing to kill the intruder and notify the next row of healthy defenders to end their existence for the protection of the rest of the leaf.
So, those holes you see on your leaves? That outer edge of the hole is the result of the brave parts of the plant that killed themselves to stop the virus from spreading and for the greater good of the plant leaves survival.
We're the beneficiaries of the plants natural protection mechanism it developed to fend off dangerous intruders... we just happen to use it to cure our aches and mask our old car smell.
They're not alone
As a species, plants aren't alone. I'm sure you're familiar: humans emit their own scents and smells and if you are a visual thinker, you've probably thought of some less desirable smells that humans excrete, but stop to think about some saying that may take on a whole new meaning. Can you really smell the fear? Can you really smell success? Scientists have concluded you can.
So next time you take an Advil, remember that it actually came from the fear the willow plant emitted trying to protect itself from certain death.
Maybe don't. Just take it and try to get some sleep.