Do Plants Eavesdrop on Floral Scent Signals?

Trends Plant Sci. 2016 Jan;21(1):9-15. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2015.09.001. Epub 2015 Oct 17.


Plants emit a diverse array of volatile organic compounds that can function as cues to other plants. Plants can use volatiles emitted by neighbors to gain information about their environment, and respond by adjusting their phenotype. Less is known about whether the many different volatile signals that plants emit are all equally likely to function as cues to other plants. We review evidence for the function of floral volatile signals and conclude that plants are as likely to perceive and respond to floral volatiles as to other, better-studied volatiles. We propose that eavesdropping on floral volatile cues is particularly likely to be adaptive because plants can respond to these cues by adjusting traits that directly affect pollination and mating.

Keywords: floral volatile; phenotypic plasticity; plant–plant communication; pollination; volatile organic compound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Ecological and Environmental Phenomena
  • Flowers / metabolism*
  • Odorants*
  • Plants / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / metabolism


  • Volatile Organic Compounds