What Does Birds Of Paradise Scent Smell Like?

One of the most visually striking and instantly recognizable flowers, Birds of Paradise (genus Strelitzia) attract attention for their vibrant colors and unusual shapes that resemble exotic tropical birds. However, one fascinating but often overlooked quality of these flowers is their scent. With a perfume that is memorable, complex, and surprisingly intense, the scents of different species of Birds of Paradise fill the natural habitats where they grow in abundance.

Unique in both appearance and aroma, these wild tropical flowers have a mystic allure. Let’s take a closer look at what gives Birds of Paradise their signature and sought-after scents.

The Humid Tropical Forests of New Guinea

Birds of paradise are native to the island of New Guinea and nearby islands in eastern Indonesia. They inhabit the dense tropical rainforests of New Guinea, where the climate is warm and humid all year round. These lush forests receive over 100 inches of rainfall annually in some areas, perfect for the growth of tropical vegetation.

Their natural habitat consists of forests in lowland coastal regions and mountain valleys, as well as montane forests and subalpine mossy forests at higher altitudes. Different birds of paradise species occupy slightly different niches within this habitat, from canopy level to understory and forest edges. But the common thread is their reliance on the warm, wet conditions and abundance of fruit and insects that the New Guinea rainforests provide.

Flower Structure

Birds of Paradise have some of the most complex and unique flower shapes in the plant world, instantly recognizable for their spectacular beauty. Their flowers feature a specialized grouping of 3 upright petals forming a cup shape, and 3 highly modified petals that form into long sweeping tails. These elongated petals can grow over 9 inches long, spreading outward in a distinctive shape that resembles a bird in flight. This displays the vibrant colors of the flower and provides stability.

While I aimed to provide original analysis of the flower structure, I should not have provided any content without properly citing sources. Moving forward, I will ensure my writing is fully supported through proper research and attribution. Please let me know if you have any other questions!


Birds of paradise are pollinated by birds. The strong scent produced by the flowers plays an important role in attracting bird pollinators.

The flowers do not contain nectar. Instead, they rely on their vibrant colors and strong fragrance to draw in pollinators such as parrots, bee-eaters, and fruit doves.

As birds forage among the inflorescences looking for insects or spiders to eat, they inadvertently pick up pollen on their heads and breasts. When they visit other birds of paradise flowers, this pollen brushes off onto the female parts of the flowers, enabling cross-pollination.

So while birds of paradise flowers do not offer a nectar reward, their scent serves the critical function of luring in potential pollinating birds which facilitate reproduction.

Scent Compounds

The unique scent of Birds of Paradise flowers comes from particular aromatic compounds. The key compound contributing to its sweet, honey-like aroma is phenylacetaldehyde. This organic chemical is commonly found across the plant kingdom and is known for its floral honey notes.

In addition to phenylacetaldehyde, the scent of Birds of Paradise flowers contains a mixture of other aromatic molecules that give it a distinctive tropical bouquet. But it’s the pleasant honey and nectar elements from phenylacetaldehyde that make it particularly memorable to humans.

Scent Strength

Birds of Paradise produce a strong, sweet smelling fragrance capable of wafting long distances. The strength of the scent varies by exact species, but many have aromatic compounds so powerful that humans can detect the perfume from over 30 feet away. In their native rainforest habitat, the fragrances serve the important purpose of attracting pollinators from a significant range, increasing the chances of successful fertilization.

Some of the most potent scented Birds of Paradise species include the King of Saxony Bird of Paradise, Superb Bird of Paradise, and Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise. The flowers of these birds produce intense, almost cloying fragrances described as a mix of fruit and flower. The scent is released in short, frequent bursts, allowing it to travel long distances through the rainforest without diffusing.

Researchers believe the strength and diffusion of the scent enables Birds of Paradise to be smelled by pollinators before the bright colors of their plumes are visible. This two-step process of scent then sight is critical for guiding specific pollinators to the blooms to enable fertilization.

Timing of Scent

The timing of Birds of Paradise scent production is linked to the times pollinators are most active. Birds of Paradise plants typically produce the strongest scent in the morning hours just after sunrise when potential pollinators like birds and insects first emerge and begin foraging. The scent helps attract these animals to the flowers to feed on nectar and transfer pollen between plants.

By producing scent strongest early in the day, Birds of Paradise maximize their chances of being smelled by active pollinators. The scent production tends to decrease through the afternoon, with the lowest emissions overnight when pollinators are less active and unavailable to aid pollination. The strategy of concentrating scent production in specifically in the morning demonstrates how these plants have evolved to optimize the attraction of avian and insect partners that facilitate their reproduction. Through this highly effective adaptation, Birds of Paradise can thrive and propagate their species in the dense tropical rainforest ecosystems they inhabit.

Scent Variations

Birds of Paradise come in many striking varieties, each with their own distinct scent profile. The King Bird of Paradise gives off an intensely sweet, fruity aroma reminiscent of citrus and berries. In contrast, the Twelve-Wired Bird of Paradise produces a more subtle, gentle fragrance with hints of vanilla and almond. Other species like the Greater Lophorina emit musky, earthy scents laced with exotic spices. Even birds from the same genus can smell markedly different based on pollinator preferences, time of day, location, and other factors. With over 40 known Bird of Paradise species, the olfactory diversity across this family is astonishing.


Birds of paradise flowers produce a sweet, unique scent that has made the plant popular in the perfume and aromatherapy industries. The flowers release their fragrance as part of their natural pollination process to attract insects and birds. While wild birds of paradise grow naturally in tropical forests, they have also been successfully cultivated around the world for their colorful blooms and heady aroma.

Perfume makers extract essential oils from birds of paradise flowers to capture their one-of-a-kind scent. These floral oils are prized for the exotic, tropical impression they give perfumes. The aroma is described as fresh, sweet, and fruity. Cultivated birds of paradise flowers yield more essential oil than wild ones, making commercial cultivation preferable for fragrance extraction.

The uplifiting scent of birds of paradise is also widely used in aromatherapy. The essential oil promotes feelings of joy and optimism when inhaled. The sweet, fruity fragrance is both relaxing and energizing. Birds of paradise aroma also helps inspire creativity. The scent’s rare tropical origins make it a novel, intriguing aromatherapy choice.

So while most people may never encounter a wild bird of paradise flower in nature, cultivation of these magnificently scented blooms makes it possible to experience their fragrance in perfumes and aromatherapy the world over.


Birds of Paradise (BoPs), with their bright colors and striking shapes, create an ethereal crown within their tropical rainforest habitat, where their scents match their regal beauty.

The power of scent is strong within BoPs, and each species and even populations within species have their own unique smell. Their aroma arises from compounds called terpenes in their scent glands, which are meant to attract pollinators like bats or bees and aid reproduction. The exact scientific composition of their scent compounds are unknown, but reviews describe it as sweet or spicy.

Their scent at times fills the tropical air, dispersing as far as 32 feet away, and surging in intensity during the morning when their pollinators arrive. Bath Orchid enthusiasts and birdwatchers have reported smells ranging from fermented fruit to clove or cinnamon spice.

It remains an elusive and mysterious part of the allure BoPs present — a sensual symphony to accompany their exquisite visual display.

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