Floral fragrances in herbaceous peony cultivars

Authors of a study from China and Japan examined 30 different cultivars using both test panelists who voted on the intensity of fragrance as well as chemical analysis using automatic thermal desorption-gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The authors isolated 130 volatile organic compounds of which 72 were part of the scent components of peonies. Nine of the compounds were newly identified when compared to earlier studies, but they hint that the previous authors were working on cut stems whereas they were sampling flowers in the field. It is possible that just in the process of cutting, some scent compounds are lost. Some of the compounds they isolated were in fact due to the instruments and methods used to analyze the scent compounds.

The authors concluded that some cultivars had sufficient quantities of scent organic compounds that the flowers could be harvested by the chemical industry for perfumes, air fresheners, toothpaste and more. Here is their summary:
  • No detectable aroma: Cultivars: Carina, Joker, Red Magic, Etched Salmon, Lovely Rose and Fairy Princess
  • Light fragrance with nonobvious aroma: Cultivars: May Lilac, Roselette, Red Charm, Prairie Moon, Cytherea, Scarlet O’Hara, Coral Sunset, Old Rose Dandy.
  • Moderate aroma: Cultivars: Sorbet, Sarah Bernhardt, Lemon Chiffon, Lian Tai, Zhong Sheng Fen, Gao Gan Hong, Zi Feng Yu
  • Intense Fragrance: Duchess de Nemours (rose fragrance), Cream Delight (lily frag), Going Bananas (lily frag with slight fruity and woody scent), Yang Fei Chu Yu (Orange blossom frag.), Zhu Sha Pan (orange blossom frag.), Qiao Ling (rose frag.).
  • The Cultivars, Lemon Chiffon, Cream Delight, Old Rose Dandy and Going Bananas have a distinctive lily scent which is attributable mostly to a compound called linalool. Coincidentally, this chemical is the predominant aroma in Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis). It is used to produce essential oils and other flavors. And by the way, they are all yellow peonies.
  • The cultivars, Sarah Bernhardt, Sorbet and Duchess de Nemours all had a rose scent with the main compound being (R)-citronellol. This compound is used in the production of perfumes, essences, spices, flavored foods and rose tea.

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