The heady scent of a perfumed rose is one of life’s great pleasures, but sadly it’s been bred out of many cultivars and commercially available cut rose flowers in favour of other characteristics. But scientists have finally unlocked the secret of the rose’s scent…and how to get it back.
Cut rose flowers look like they’re on steroids, with super thick stems, upright angled petals and astonishing vase life. One of the first things people usually do when presented with a bunch of these gorgeous-looking roses is put it to their face to inhale the expected perfume. But mostly they smell…nothing.
Although we’ve known for a while that 70% of rose smell is created by alcohols called monoterpenes, which genes were responsible for expressing that scent was not known. Now scientists have unlocked the secret of the genetic code.
By studying the highly fragrant Papa Meilland rose and comparing it to Rouge Meilland roses which have no discernible scent, researchers discovered the gene called RhNUDX1, an enzyme that allows roses to make a monoterpene called geraniol, the main ingredient of rose oil. Examining another 10 fragrant varieties confirmed their discovery.
The discovery of this genetic code will make it easier for rose breeders to select plants for their fragrance. We could even see the gene inserted into existing cultivars to create genetically modified roses with all the existing vase life/strong stem characteristics, but with added perfume. If you want GMO roses, that is.
Abstract at Science