What does it smell like?

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Hi, I'm a 'newby' to this forum and love the scent of Hoyas, many of the species having very different fragrances. The interesting thing about fragrance though is that it's very subjective and is sometimes interpreted differently by different people.

For example, Hoya subcalva has been likened to Welch's Grape juice, while those of H. pimenteliana are said to smell like wintergreen. Some describe H. lacunosa as having a scent of carnations during the day that spices up with incense during the evening; while H. ischnopus is said to smell of melon and the scent of H. macgillivrayi is said to rival expensive french perfume.

Would you agree with these descriptions or do some of these plants smell completely different to you? I thought it might be interesting to start a thread to find out what your favorite Hoyas are for fragrance and to see whether you would describe them in the same way as each other.

Take care and happy sniffing

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Great discriptions, Matt! Will give it some thought and go around sniffing today.....

San Francisco, CA

When I think of scent and hoyas, I allways think of carnosa first. It was the first one I smelled, and it hooked me. I've heard it compared to chocolate, and chocolate and vanilla, but I don't think thats it exactly. It is LIKE chocolate, in that it smells sweet, but not in a candy or floral way. Definitely more of a food smell. I think it smells most like one of those old-fashioned chocolate covered cherries (the kind in heavy syrup) when you first break them open. There are also some other less definable notes (raisins?), and something earthy that keeps it from being completely fruit-like. So I guess it really dosen't smell exactly like anything else, which is maybe why I like it. It is also a scent shared by many hoyas; carnosa, compacta, motoskei, fungii, obovata, and probably others, so I think of it as the quintessential hoya smell.
That being said, there are many that have very different and distinct odors. Odorata is said to smell like limes, and it sort of does, but like lime air freshner, or another unpleasant cleaning product I won't mention here so as not to spoil anyones enjoyment.
Australis has a very nice smell, like cherry juice with a bit of honeysuckle, to my nose.
Carol has mentioned that lauterbachii is reputed to smell foul, but she dosen't think so. Does it smell good, Carol, or just not objectionable?

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Hey Mark, you make the scent of carnosa flowers sound so delicious it'll take all my will power not to eat them next time it's in bloom - "old-fashioned chocolate covered cherries (the kind in heavy syrup) when you first break them open..." .......WOW!! But you're right I can identify with that, although H obovata to me has a more refined scent - less heavy than the others - the kind of scent you can drink in and get intoxicated by........You know, with all this talk of food and drink, I think I'm going to have to raid the fridge........!!

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

OK...the first that comes to mind is H. heuschkeliana: it blooms constantly and smells, to me, strongly of butter with a dash of vanilla...sort of butterscotch. I like to hang them head height so that I smell them throughout the greenhouse. H. DS-70 (aka H. tsangii, H. burtoniae) has the same essense but stronger, to me. The H. pusilla, H. walliniae and H. memoria are all around the same scent.. H. archboldiana smells like Nada to me...cant detect anything yet H. cv. Ruthie has a faint floral scent and H. cembra (aka H. odorata) and H. cv. Iris Marie smell, to me, like expensive French Perfume...Chanel #5 or something. H. lauterbachii just has a scent, to me....can't define it, but it isn't yucky. H. verticillata is a strong "candy store" scent, to me. H. cumingiana smells of cloves and allspice. H. pimentelliana smells of lime with some spicey cinammon or cloves added. H. bella smells like clean soap or baby powder.... this is all MY nose.


Houston, TX(Zone 9a)

Okay, after reading all of these I had to go out and smell my carnosa. To me it smells like cocoa butter. I have a hand lotion that is called NUT BUTTER..Its a mixture of shea butter and cocoa butter and the carnosa smells just like it.

My daughter Sarah said that it smells like bath water....

To each its own........

Long Beach, CA

I think everyones noses (olfactory nerves) are so different that it makes the smells fairly unique to oneself.
I find most of the carnosas and the pubicalyx cvs smell rather like the chicken feed we used to feed the baby chicks back on the farm in Indiana. Of course I think there was a certain amount of something sweet in that "chick mash" (maybe mollases or something) with all the ground up corn & oats. However, I do have one cv of plain ol carnosa that has a different "perfumy" smell to it. I love that ones smell, but it is totally different from all the others.
I agree with the above descriptions of lacunosa and DS-70.
Most of the other ones, I have not smelled yet (still waiting on blooms.
I do have a cummingiana that blooms every year now, and smelled like some spice. I really liked that smell, altho Paul said it smelled like cleaning fluid to him (thus my point). Ha. It is a strong smell tho.
I have several shepherdiis hanging in front of my various windows as they bloom profusly for me, and I adore that smell & as it wafts in my windows on these hot summer nights, I can smell it all over the house.
My serpens bloomed for the first time this year for me, and smelled like some wonderful perfume to me.
Aside from smelling, I have occationally touched my tongue to the sticky dew on the flowers, and it is always very sweet and nice tasting.

San Francisco, CA

Here is something interesting: I've allways really liked lacunosa, which is a very pleasant smell, often called "soapy". When I worked in an all night diner about 10 years ago I took a hanging lacunosa in and hung it where it bloomed constantly (often dropping little flowers into the malt machine). Pretty much everyone admired it, except for one co-worker who said it smelled "like a crack pipe". Well!

Prescott, AZ

Hi Matt, and welocme to DG. I agree with you on the Lacunosa, smells to me like carnations. Love it. The carnosas smell like Dairy Queen to me. The smell of warm icecream or something, maybe it is the chocolate. verticillata smells somewhat like cotten candy. My tsangii does not have a smell to me.

I've never smelt a crack pipe, but I just can't imagine that it smells like a lacunosa. Hmmm there ya have it, to each there own.

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Great story, Mark – . Perhaps your ex co-worker just had a crack pipe (and nothing but a…….) on their mind!!
I’m also intrigued about the flowers that fell into the malt machine. Did anyone ever ask what they were? ..........Very funny!!

Hi TamiF, Thanks. It’s good to meet you.

The replies have been really interesting with some amazing contrasts of opinion already. I’ve summarized them below to make them easier to compare. I particularly like the extremes in H. carnosa and H. cembra. All I can say is.......Carol, never accept an offer of Chanel # 5 from Mark……..you’d never know what you’d be getting!! LOL


• Very strong essence of butterscotch
• No scent

• old-fashioned chocolate covered cherries (the kind in heavy syrup) when you first break them open
• mixture of shea butter and cocoa butter
• chicken feed (containing molasses, corn and oats)
• bath water
• warm ice cream and chocolate

• Limes
• Lime air freshener
• ‘Unmentionably unpleasant’ cleaning product............
• Expensive French Perfume...Chanel #5

• Lime with some spicy cinnamon or cloves added
• Wintergreen

• Smells of cloves and allspice
• Spice
• Cleaning fluid

• Carnations
• Crack pipe
• Soapy

Long Beach, CA

Wow Matt, Thanks for doing that. I printed that out & will stick it in my Hoya book. Makes it easier to diagnose the smells when something does bloom. Or tell other people what smells it has been compared to.
Now as we have other ones bloom, we should keep this record up and see what "smell comparisons" we can come up with.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

I want to add that H. cumingiana is sold here sometimes as the Coconut Plant (HUH?) because, I am told, the flowers smell of coconut. I find it spicier...but the coconut is still there.

H. carnosa and H. pubicalyx cultivars smell a bit like walking past those open candy stores in the malls...with variations on the theme. Not a bad smell, just sweet. A friend of mine says they smell like 'the devils own feet'...LOL


Las Vegas, NV

Thanks Matt, the list is great for future reference. Come on Carol, Awanda, Mel, and all of you that have shared your beautiful pictures of your bloomers. You should be able to continue to add some more names to this list. Unfortunately, I haven't had a good year for blooms this year.

This has been a great and interesting thread. I appreciate all the information shared here.


London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Hi Marcy and Deb,

Here's a summary of the remaining plants mentioned in the thread that only had one or two descriptions each of their scent


• cherry juice with a bit of honeysuckle

• strongly of butter with a dash of vanilla...sort of butterscotch

• No scent
• Expensive French perfume

• Expensive French perfume

• Very strong essence of butterscotch

• Very strong essence of butterscotch

• Very strong essence of butterscotch

• Strong "candy store" scent
• Cotton candy

• Clean soap or baby powder

• Like a wonderful perfume

• Strong "candy store" scent

• Melon

• "Welch's" grape juice

• Faint floral scent

• Expensive French perfume, like Chanel #5

• Undefineable - but nice

Chicago, IL

I have a carnosa in bloom and here's my spin (way oversensitive sniffer here)

40% vanilla
25% honey
15% molasses
10% floral perfume
5% musk
5% urine

Long Beach, CA

hoa_rd......you should be a wine taster. :-)

Fair Lawn, NJ(Zone 6b)

Interesting thread!
I can add my limited Hoya sniffing experience here. My Hoya cumingiana is flowering very nicely and its scent is very strong. I read that it is supposed to have a scent of Citrus and Coconut. Not really!
I smell Citrus first, it is perhaps closer to a grapefruit scent and then, well you said it - cleaning fluid comes close. How about Grapefruit scented Pledge with a touch of musk! It is not unpleasant, just not what I had expected.

Knoxville, TN

All the descriptions are great. I am not that good at describing fragrance. I usually walk away with a simple "I like that" or "I don't like that." You guys have inspired me to start making notes when bloom sniffing so I can add to threads like this . My favorite sents are those that you faintly smell in the distance and have to hunt down to find the source. I have a dozen Casa Blanca lilies blooming in the garden right now and they overpower most other blooming beauties.

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Wow, hoa_rd, that nose of yours should be destined for a job at a Perfumiers!! Amazing description! I agree, there is definitely honey there and molasses - which i hadn't identified. Before, I would have said H. carnosa smelled of malted chocolate with a dash of maraschino cherry.

I looked on another forum today and discovered on the subject of scent, how much controversy H. cumingiana was creating between those who liked the scent and those who didn't. One guy had been taking photos of his plant developing its peduncle only to discover that when it did finally flower that he had to put it outside his apartment as he couldn't live with the smell; yet others said they liked it.....makes you kind of wonder what's real and what isn't doesn't it!!?


This message was edited Jul 26, 2005 4:57 PM

This message was edited Jul 26, 2005 5:03 PM

Long Beach, CA

As I mentioned....aroma is in the nose of the "besniffer". :-)

Chicago, IL

Chocolate and Maraschino-- you're making me hungry.
I came home to a closed-up stuffy apartment with the new carnosa blooms after a week away, and it was not an entirely pleasant smell . . . funny that I smelled the Hoyas immediately upon entering the back of the apartment, even though it's in the front window. Makes me want to get 10 more of them . . .

uh oh.

Whitby, ON(Zone 5b)

When my carnosa bloomed for the first time this year, late at night I could smell the aroma a floor below on the other side of the house. None of the flowers its had since then have been as powerful this year.

Fair Lawn, NJ(Zone 6b)

Perhaps you might enjoy reading this article by Roman Kaiser:

Roman Kaiser wrote a wonderful book called the Scent of Orchids and in this article he talks about trapping, extracting, analyzing and reconstructing the scents of many flowers, fruits and such of rainforest regions. He describes in detail how he floats into the canopy and does the collecting and he talks about the chemistry of the scents.

This is a 2.8 Mb file.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Here's one for you: Ed Gilding says H. lauterbachii smells like baby vomit/chocolate. I tried, but couldn't find either in the scent....LOL

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Gross!! Bet you were pleased you couldn't find any evidence of that mix Carol!!

Hey hoa_rd, You know what? Sounds to me like you're getting hooked........!!

Thanks for the link RUK, - it was very interesting. I think I'll try and hunt down the book on the Scent of Orchids too.

I read some information today while surfing through some websites that I thought might be interesting.

The scent of oil of wintergreen is apparently one of the components of the complex perfumes produced by many hoyas and orchids. It seems, oil of wintergreen is used by certain species of ants both as a pheromone and as a disinfectant in their nests!! That might explain how closely Hoyas have evolved with ants as in Hoya darwinii and Hoya imbricata which provide ant hotels too. It's a great symbiotic relationship. The plant produces something that's of use to the ants while getting protection from them against predators.

Another insect that is very attracted to oil of wintergreen, among other scents, is the brightly coloured male euglossine bee. This little fellow actually rubs off the fragrance from the flowers and plasters it all over himself; and in so doing pollinates the flower. The purpose of this behaviour is apparently unclear except that it appears to be a precurser to mating. Sounds like he's a bit of a male dandy smothering himself in cologne before going out on the town!!


This message was edited Jul 27, 2005 11:57 AM

Long Beach, CA

Ok...my H. obscura is finally blooming it's little head off. Someone said once that their son thought it smelled like "fruit loops" cereal. Well....I have to agree. Having kids around here alot, I have smelled enough of that cereal to know the smell, and that is it. I had forgotten about that until I smelled it this morning (the flowers...not the cereal). They are cute little flowers too.
So there is another "smells like" for this thread.

San Francisco, CA

Matt, I have a H subcalva (SBI-1) X austalis I got from Carol recently as a cutting that has some flower buds due to open any day now. I'll post pictures and a scent description if they make it (it's a just barely rooted cutting). I am very excited, as both of these Hoyas are very fragrant, and the hybrid is apparently different from both.

London, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Mark, I can imagine your excitement, and I would love to see the flowers when they hopefully do open. I wonder if they will smell like the flowers of one or other parent or somewhere in between? It'll be really interesting to find out.

I'm also going out Marcy, to see if we sell 'fruit loops' cereal over here and if so, buy some to have a good sniff!!

Los Angeles, CA(Zone 9a)

As soon as I can get my obscura to bloom we can ask an expert about the fruit loops smell, my husband. This ceral is a staple in his diet! Gives you an idea of how good of a cook I am! Lol!

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