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Nancy Wiersma: How I enjoy the ‘stink’ of marigold and tomato foliage

Published 9:30pm Thursday, September 30, 2010

As I walk around my garden paths, how they wind and meander.

Often the legs of my pants as I go walking by brush up against and I come into contact with the foliage of some of my voluptuously lush plants.

Which, by the way, cannot seem to live within their set boundaries and are heartily spilling over unto the walkways.

Thereby, I discover upward rising wafts of lemon thyme, sage, basil, marigolds and the foliage of the tomato.

Inhaling deeply, I catch the heady perfume of some of their “stinky” foliage, which fills my nostrils and lungs.

A lusty gardeny fragrance that some find repulsive.

But I find it comforting and intoxicating.

After all, these are the scents of a garden — my garden.

But there is another reason, a motive, for the perfumed “stench” of their foliage.

The wisdom of God’s nature is infinite!

Plants, some research scientists claim, can actually emit chemical distress signals.

These signals are very specific about the pest that is attacking them, and they can actually summon the required “good insects” to their aid!

The plant releases chemical blends of 10 to 12 different compounds, called volatiles.

A plant can “communicate” its attacker’s identity, quickly and accurately, via these compounds.

And still, some plants go a bit further in their protection because they have built up physiological determinants, such as producing toxic compounds and even internal antibiotics that aids them in repelling pests.

This also aids them in healing and tolerating damage.

Take the marigold for instance.

It seems when they are planted around crops they repelled nematodes (tiny soil-dwelling worms that feed on plant roots) in which when they bit into a marigold’s roots they gave off ozone, which killed the nematode.

So, as I go strolling by, brushing up against their foliage, who’s to say, maybe they “think” I am an attacker and they’re emitting this “stinky” signal, hoping to repel me.


Men only doth smell and take delight in the odors of flowers and sweet things.

— William Bullein

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