Gardening Lawn

The Smell of Freshly Mown Grass is a Cry of Distress

20160721A.jpgThe smell of freshly mown grass that many gardeners find so appealing is actually caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from shorn leaves in order to notify its neighbors that they are under attack. In nature, the grass releases these compounds when it’s a victim of an insect pest or a grazing mammal. Thus it warns neighboring grasses of an eminent attack and they can start preparing themselves by producing deterrents: toxic compounds or unpleasant tastes to ward off predators.

In addition, certain compounds emitted by mown grass stimulate the formation of new cells on the wound so it closes more rapidly. Still others act as antibiotics to prevent outbreaks of bacteria and fungi. Some VOCs also attract beneficial insects such as parasitic wasps and predatory bugs, which come in expecting to find their prey, a plant-eating caterpillar, chewing on the leaves.

So mowing the lawn products a multitude of different effects, both in the grasses that are being sheared, in other grasses in the vicinity and even in nearby insects. That’s quite a chain reaction when all you thought you were doing was reducing the height of your lawn!

20160721B.pngNo doubt, in time, turf grasses will evolve and learn to emit foul odors or toxic fumes when being mowed in order to discourage human beings from touching them. You have been forewarned!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

4 comments on “The Smell of Freshly Mown Grass is a Cry of Distress

  1. It has been at least three weeks since we mowed, and I don’t have to worry about mowing any time soon. We’re burning up. 🙂

  2. No! No1 Tell me it ain’t so!!!

    I’ve been delighting in the suffering of mown grass all my life!


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