Decoding the scent of flowers

Wed., Feb. 23, 2022

By Na Wei, PhD, Scientist

Holden Forests & Gardens Scientist Na Wei, Ph.D., and her collaborators from Oakland University andthe University of Pittsburgh decoded the scent of flowers and its influence on flower microbes.

Flowers are often fragrant. The scent of flowers is made up from diverse volatile organic compounds and is important to attract pollinators. Dr. Wei and the team found that these volatiles can also attract microbes that can consume the compounds as food and repel other microbes due to the antimicrobial functions of some volatiles. This finding is important for horticulture and agriculture because microbes on flowers can influence flower health and crop yield.

Wei N, Whyle RL, Ashman T-L and Jamieson MA. 2022. Genotypic variation in floral volatiles influences floral microbiome more strongly than interactions with herbivores and mycorrhizae in strawberries. Horticulture Research, 9, uhab005.

Photo credit: Dr. Mary Jamieson, Oakland University

Na Wei, PhD

Na Wei, PhD


My research program seeks to elucidate the ecological and evolutionary mechanisms that confer or constrain plant adaptation to environmental change. By leveraging the rich collections of wild apples (or crabapples) and the natural populations of wild strawberries at Holden, our lab addresses eco-evolutionary adaptation through the lenses of ecology, genomics, and microbiome. Currently, we are working on: (1) harnessing microbiome for disease resistance and stress tolerance; (2) examining the perks of genome size in a rapidly changing world; 3) investigating the emerging threats of nanoparticles to the evolution of plant–microbiome interactions; (4) exploring plant–pollinator interactions and their roles in microbiome assembly. To address these questions, we are using interdisciplinary approaches by integrating functional ecology, community ecology, microbial ecology, population genomics, phylogenomics, and quantitative genetics.

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