Botanical bad smell problem.

Duncan Adams duncan at
Thu Nov 28 11:33:43 EST 2002

Hi experts,

May I bounce a problem off you?  My wife I live in the UK, and we have a
largish conservatory that is heavily stocked with a wide variety of plants.
This conservatory is an important part of our lives - we eat breakfast in
there in a morning, and I read in there at night.

In the conservatory is a large (and very heavy) ornamental stone fountain.
We don't use it as a fountain - it makes a superb planter for our cacti and
succulents.  In fact, it has 'pride of place'.  By the side of the fountain
is a manhole cover, and beneath that is access to our drains.  Naturally,
the manhole is kept air-tight so that drain smells do not enter the

Several days ago, I noticed a smell, exactly like drains.  It was strongest
in the vicinity of the manhole and the 'fountain' - naturally, I suspected
the manhole, and I did some work on it to make absolutely sure it was
airtight.  If it wasn't before (and I believe it was), then it definitely is
now.  But the smell persists.  I am completely sure it isn't my drains.  So
we have suspected the plants.

We have tried removing all of the plants, except for the fountain of cacti
and succulents (which is immovable), but that hasn't helped.  So, by
elimination, it has to be in the fountain.  But we can't pinpoint the actual
culprit (pointing one's nose amongst cacti is hazardous, to say the least).
I should add that being a fountain, the bowls we have planted have no
drainage in them, so we are sparing with the water.  We have excavated right
down to the bottom of the bowls, between cacti, and there is no trace of
excess water, and the soil smells as it should.

It is also significant (I think) that the smell is almost completely absent
first thing in the morning (just before sunrise), and it is at its most
intense later in the day.  I know that plants metabolise differently during
the day and night cycles, so I now suspect this cyclicity of the smell is
further evidence of a botanical source.

Can anyone shed any light on this please?  Perhaps point me at a likely
culprit amongst the cacti and succulents (we have many varieties)?


Duncan Adams

More information about the Plantbio mailing list