The Sweet Scent of ….

The Great-Scent-Debate is currently raging through the expat community of the City of Atenas, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica.
No, not really. But there have been some questions about what blooms when and where. Above all, though, the main questions is, from whence cometh this enticing scent, which has been hovering around our delighted noses for a couple of weeks or so? Especially our early evenings are deliciously flavored by an almost overwhelmingly sweet scent. Assuming this heavenly aroma is of plant origin, which seems likely, the following candidates have been put forward. 
A. The blooms of coffee bushes, Coffea arabica, Rubiaceae
B. The blooms of sugar cane, Saccharum sp., Poaceae 
C. The blooms of corn plants, Dracaena fragrans, Asparagaceae
Coffea arabica, Atenas, Alajuela, CR, September 2010
According to all-knowing Wikipedia, coffee indeed has highly fragrant blossoms. However, there is this tiny timing dilemma. Putting it into only the vaguest of terms, because actual harvest times depend largely on growing altitude and species, we’re smack in the middle of harvest season. I can see for myself that the bushes of my coffee growing compañeros cuidadanos are adorned with bright red berries or cherries, since coffee doesn’t have berries, officially. I’ve also gotten the impression that the Beneficio San Isidro, the processing plant where I buy my coffee, is busier, than last time I purchased there. Lastly, and this cinches the argument against coffee as the generator of our current plethora of scent in the air, my friend Marietta has just harvested her coffee cherries. I’ve seen the picture, it’s true. 
In the case of the sugar cane, I have no opinion. 
I can tell you that sugar cane in modern, large production consortia is both planted and harvested with specialized equipment, which I’m doubtful could be utilized here, in mountainous CR. There are, I believe, several harvests possible per year. My former biological self remembers that sugar cane needs a lot of water and has a high rate of photosynthesis. When and how does it bloom? Are the blossoms fragrant? I just don’t know. Wiki doesn’t mention anything aromatic. It’s a grass and as such a relative to bamboo and rice. Are they fragrant? The world has too many questions.
My vote goes to scent candidate number three, Dracaena fragrans. We’ve had one, an absolutely gorgeous specimen, which my parents gave us as a housewarming gift, when we moved into our first hose in, oh, let’s just say during the Neolithic age. We had that splendid potted tree through all our moves, barring the last two. We sold it in a garage sale before our second to last move. I’m sure it continued to bring joy to its new family. However, in 25 years of living with a corn plant, there has never been a single blossom! Here in Costa Rica, where Dracaenas or corn plants or Fragrans cane or Dracaena cane or cane plants grow everywhere and then some, they like the climate and weather conditions and they bloom like crazy. This year, it seems, we’ve had a veritable Dracaena blossom bumper crop!
Dracaena fragrans is native to Africa, but it certainly settled comfortably in Central America. Just like the naked Indian, no offense intended, that’s what the Gumbo-limbo tree, Bursera simaruba, is called around here, corn plants are
often used as living fences, not only between fields but also along the roads in rural neighborhoods. If you drive from Atenas to Palmares, the road first climbs to lofty heights in death-defying switchback curves, before it gently descents again into the Palmares valley. Long stretches of this shoulder-less road are lined with tall, towering, densely packed Dracaenas. Does ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ have giant picket fences? It’s like that, unreal. Especially when a bus on the Palmares-Atenas route barrels with mind-boggling speed around a curve, seemingly straight at you.
Dracaena lends itself as a scent candidate for two more reasons. A few weeks ago, my before mentioned friend Marietta exclaimed in joyous expectations of the anticipated ‘gorgeous sweet scent of cane’ to be happening soon, as a prelude of the summer season. At the time, I simply assumed, she was referring to sugar cane, which is quite exotic to this old German girl. I had long ago forgotten that Dracaena is also called cane or corn plant, so I never made the connection. Secondly, the ladies of my book club have explained to me that it’s the corn plant, which produces the perfume, I kept babbling about at our last meeting. And they all have a vastly longer tenure in this country than I have. Therefore they must be correct!
A wall of cane “trees”

Who would’ve thought that asparagus has such tall and sweet smelling relatives?


One thought on “The Sweet Scent of ….

  1. toller bericht. sehr informativ.
    smell coffee and sugar bis hierher!
    vielleicht sollte ich mir eine Dracaena zulegen.
    muss ein fantastischer duft sein!


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