Botanics visitors overcome by smell of candyfloss

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EDINBURGH’S Royal Botanic Garden has been overcome by an unexpected smell - of candyfloss.

Visitors to the 70-acre grounds are overwhelmed by the sweet smell of burnt sugar as they take in the sights.

To the untrained nose it may appear as if a fairground attraction has parked up nearby.

But those in the know will point towards a single tree - the Katsura.

Every year the plant, which originates in Japan and China, emits the distinctive candy floss scent but “fantastic” recent weather has resulted in an especially strong smell this autumn.

Experts at the gardens have explained that a lack of wind means the unusual scent is stronger this time around.

David Knott, Curator of Living Collections, said: “As soon as you come into the garden you can smell the candyfloss.

“It’s really strong this year because the weather has been so good. We haven’t had much wind to dissipate the smell.

“The leaves emit a burnt sugar smell that you can pick up from all around the gardens - it’s lovely.

“You notice people picking up the scent and wondering what it is.

“The weather has actually been great recently, with warm days and cool nights, which I also think will result in fantastic autumn colour.”

The smell can be traced to the chemical compound maltol, which is found in the tree’s heart-shaped leaves and expressed in the air.

It is usually emitted as the leaves start to go through their colour change and drop off, though it is unknown whether there is any evolutionary advantage.

The tree’s smell is so distinctive that in Germany they call it ‘Kuchenbaum’, which translates to ‘cake tree’.