Can Wintergreen Mask Odours from Compost Piles? II
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Justin
Posted on: May 28, 2007

Thank you for your answer.

Please tell me if the plants themselves have enough scent to cover the smell of a compost heap or other malodorous things? The scent, in my experience, is only from where it has been extracted and used in something else, so I have no idea if the plant itself gives off an noticeable fragrance, or, if it does give off some, how strong/potent it is. Could it be compared with something with a strong scent like say, stargazer lilies, or hyacinth? As you are probably well aware, some plants have scents that are only derived from brewing them, like mint which unless you break the leaf is hardly noticed. My primary interest is in whether it will cover bad smells as a plant, and not merely as a concentrated extract sprayed on to something.

Plants with scented leaves or berries have essential oils that are only released when the leaves are crushed or bruised. Sometimes these plants will release their oils on hot sunny days, but usually its not enough to really notice unless the plants are damaged in some way. These scents are entirely different from the scents emitted by flowers. In the case of the flowers the plants want to release the scents because they want to attract pollinators. In the case of scented foliage the plants do not want to release unless it is damaged because in this latter case the oils are a form a chemical protection from pests: once a pest starts eating the leaves the oils are released and the pests are repelled.

So, wintergreen would not work for you. Besides wintergreen is a relatively slow growing plant and you probably need a faster growing plant that can spread as the compost pile grows or shrinks. Also wintergreen needs acidic soil and that’s hard to fit in with a composting environment.

Would this plant grow readily in southern, coastal British Columbia? Is it quick spreading, or slow?

Wintergreen should grow well in much of British Columbia provided that soil is acidic. As mnetioned above, it is relatively slow growing; certainly it is much slower than creeping thyme, for example.

Looking forward to hearing back from you, and thank you for the information you have already provided.

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