Grape Soda Flowers

Grape-scented sage
Grape-scented Sage

Our usual idea of a flower scent is something that smells of perfume like freesia or jasmine or just a fresh flowery scent. These two flowers go a different way. They smell a lot like grape soda. The first one pictured is a salvia or sage called grape-scented sage (Salvia melissodora). Grape-scented sage is a wild plant native to the Sierra Madre Orienta mountain range in Mexico. The Tarahumara who live there use the seeds and leaves for their medicinal properties.

In its native range, grape-scented sage is a perennial woody shrub growing to two meters. Where I live winters are too cold for it to survive. I grow grape-scented sage in large pots and harvest the leaves in late summer. Grape-scented sage flowers prolifically and the nectar-rich flowers are attractive to bees.

Grape-scented iris
Grape-scented Iris

The second one is a bearded iris called, yes, grape-scented iris, a cultivar of the Florentine iris (Iris pallida cv. Dalmatica, syn. Iris germanica subsp. pallida). Grape-scented iris has been in cultivation since at least 1597, a true heirloom. I also grow the standard I. pallida, which has white flowers faintly tinted with rose pink. The rhizomes of I. pallida are the same ones used in perfumery as a fixative. The rhizomes must be carefully dried for two to three years so that chemicals in them will oxidize. The final product is violet-scented.

Florentine Iris source of orris root
Florentine Iris, source of orris root, merely fragrant

While researching the grape-scented I. pallida I learned about another grape-scented iris variety, Swerti, introduced in 1612. Swerti, which has white standards and curled pointed falls fringed with lavender veins (“plicata”), is now on my list of new plants for this spring.

Clebsch, Betsy and Barner, Carol D. (2003). The New Book of Salvias. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

5 thoughts on “Grape Soda Flowers

  1. More on the flower-fragrance theme: I remember a flowering bush from my childhood home, and the feeling of sadness when I realized that once I left for college, I wouldn’t ever be there in the spring to smell the blossoms. My family moved from there soon after, and I can’t be sure what the bush was, but since then I’ve concluded that it might have been Star Jasmine. Such a lovely fragrance! By the way, thanks for subscribing to

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oops, sorry, I meant to write “you’re welcome” (I was confusing you with another blogger when I thanked you for “liking”. I blame the heat here today.). I found your site I think on the Reader either as a suggested blog or following tags. However I came across your site and I look forward to reading more of your writing.


  2. Speaking of beautiful smelling flowers- in college i worked at Home Depot in the garden center. Gardenias are by far my favorite, well minus Lilacs. There also was a sweet smelling orchid. Love beautiful flowers and love them more when they smell beautiful!


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