Every year since I was a small child, every late spring or early summer there is smell in the air that is sickening to me. It’s kind of like a bleach smell. You can smell it all over the county in different places, so I always attributed it to some sort of flower or weeds. Any ideas?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Cindy in Indiana: Smells can trigger memories and take us back to places we have been, but in some cases they can be offensive and there are certainly plants that can be attributed to smells that are not pleasing to our senses. From what you have described it sounds like you are referring to a chestnut tree and most likely a Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima). The Chinese chestnuts were replaced by the American chestnuts that were radically reduced in numbers in the 1900s due to chestnut blight. These nut-bearing trees (if they have a pollinator) are used as a medium-sized shade tree that doubles as an ornamental. They bloom in the late spring/early summer and occur in clusters at the ends of the new growth. Cream in color, both the male and female flowers omit a foul bleach-like odor. There is no mistaking these trees when they are in bloom; unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about the scent but thankfully they are not in bloom for very long! I hope this is helpful information.