Scent of nature: Popcorn and fruit cocktail
The African bush provides lots of interesting scents. Some are nostalgic while others require some time to get used to. The following blog introduces you to nature's world of scents.
Leopard urine or buttered popcorn?
Leopard urine smells like buttered popcorn! That's a fact. When leopards mark their territory, they emit a distinct smell and one inevitably feels reminded of going to the movies. This smell is often not noticed in the off-road vehicle. So if you’ll ever join a bush walk and are able to smell popcorn out of a sudden, you can be sure that there was a leopard in the area marking its territory.
Impalas have characteristic black drawings on their hind legs that cover special glands. One way of communication between impalas is to jump up into the air with the hind legs, which causes an odour to be emitted to other antelopes. Many people say that the smell is similar to the smell of cheese.
Who's baking potatoes in the bush?
There is a variety of plant species that have very characteristic smells, many of which remind you of the kitchen. The so-called potato bush (Solanum ellipticum), for example, smells exactly as it is called - or rather like baked potatoes. The bush is very attractive, can grow up to 1.5 m tall and wide and is very popular in garden clubs.
Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus Rendle)
There are over 10,000 domesticated and wild grass species on the planet – better known as Poaceae or sweet grasses. Citronella grass, a very large species, smells (and tastes) like paint remover. Even if it is poorly suited for grazing, it can be used very effectively to cover your roof.
Carrion flower (Stapelia Gigantea)
The smell of the carrion flower may not be everyone's cup of tea, unless you're a fly. This plant produces a very unpleasant smell, which most people would describe as the smell of rotting meat. However, methodology is behind the madness, as this characteristic smell attracts flies that are either digested by the carrion or help pollinate.
This plant is our personal favorite. It simply leaves me speechless how the smell of lemon can be found in both lemon trees and lemon grass! What's going on? Who copied who? It is obvious that this citrus-scented plant is cultivated as a culinary and medicinal herb. Try to eat some lemongrass when you've got a cold.
Petrichor – The smell of rain on earth
pet-ri-chor ˈpeˌtrīkôr – Noun: A pleasant smell that occasionally accompanies the first rain after a long, warm dry period. The smell of rain is a smell that most people and animals like very much. Many people also describe it as their favourite natural smell.
The fragrant Acacia Nilotica, which belongs to the acacia family, is an extraordinary plant. While it is toxic to goats, it reminds most people who smell a whiff of it of a refreshing, edible fruit cocktail – making it one of nature's most delicious smells.
Acacias are amazing. The bark of this special acacia produces a medical resin that can also be used as an adhesive. The inhabitants of Zululand use a brew of bark as cough medicine. This all-purpose plant was also used to treat tuberculosis, impotence, diarrhea, bleeding, toothache, gonorrhea, abdominal pain during menstruation, eye infections, various ulcers and indigestion. It was also used as a sedative and (like everything else) as an aphrodisiac.
Volunteer in Africa, take part in one of our field guide courses in Botswana and South Africa or enjoy an awe-inspiring safari in Zambia, South Africa or Botswana and experience this truly wild composition of scents.
As a conservation volunteer in South Africa you help protect the country's unique flora and wildlife