Issue: February 16, 1998


Chocolate-scented flowers

Question:

With the approach of Valentine's Day, my thoughts seem to often be on flowers and chocolates. Are there any flowers which smell like chocolate?

Answer:

Yes, there are several. I have an orchid, one of several orchids which have a vanilla-chocolate fragrance. However, easier to grow for most typical gardeners without the proper environment for orchids is the "chocolate flower," a plant which does extremely well in our dry environment. It is a native plant which performs well in our xeriscapes or minimum water landscapes.

The chocolate flower has daisy-like flowers with yellow petals and a dark center. When each flower ages, the yellow petals fall leaving behind the large sepals which look like green petals, so a green flower remains as the flower ages. In time, this green flower turns brown but still looks like a flower. It produces new blossoms throughout the summer, continuing into the autumn until and sometimes beyond the first frost. And, not the least desirable of its characteristics is its ability to produce a perfume which smells much like chocolate. On a summer day as the temperature is rising and the flowers warm up, in the typical gentle morning breeze of summer, the fragrance of this flower may be detected 30 or more feet downwind of the plant.

In most parts of New Mexico it is a perennial, hardy to USDA hardiness zone 4. As a perennial, it returns for several years but is also capable of self-seeding. The seedlings may be allowed to remain where they grow or transplanted to other parts of the landscape.