Once-in-a decade Super Bloom

Wild and wonderful floral phenomenon inspires epic field trip into the California desert.
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As the once-in-a decade ‘Super Bloom’ began carpeting the arid Death Valley with its epic display of flowers, a Givaudan team from New York and New Jersey headed to the Mojave Desert for a once-in-a-lifetime field trip. Perfumers Linda and Guillaume, together with Creative Vision Director Karen and analyst Jeff, flew to this fascinating region during the peak spring bloom time period, on a special ScentTrek® expedition to collect samples from the blooms and soak up the inspiration of this wild and wonderful floral phenomenon. 

Loaded up with equipment and anticipation, the team flew to the hottest, driest place in North America ready to work fast to capture and catalogue the scents of the wild desert flowers. The winter’s unusually heavy rainfall had created the perfect conditions for a ‘Super Bloom’ which transforms this Southern California arid desert into a sea of exquisite colour and scent, last seen in 2005 and 1998. 

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Givaudan perfumers Linda and Guillaume in the Mojave Desert
Guillaume and Linda in the Mojave Desert

Sudden burst to life

During a Super Bloom, over forty species of flowers suddenly burst into life across 3.3 million acres of spectacular desert scenery, including rarities such as the Death Valley Monkey Flower and the better-known Golden Yellow Evening Primrose.

The team collected the scent molecules from these flowers to study and use in entirely unique fragrance creations.

As Linda remarked: “I’ll never forget this once-in-a-lifetime experience; the conditions in the desert were so harsh and dry, and yet to see life and scent coming out of it was extremely inspiring.”

Guillaume added: “The diversity of flowers was astonishing; it was the first time I had experienced the true smell of the desert and could appreciate the pure raw beauty of this unusual landscape.”

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Desert plant strategies

The two perfumers and their team used Givaudan’s ScentTrek® technology which makes use of headspace analysis to extract the scent molecules of a plant or flower from the surrounding air without causing any harm. This particular mission had the pressure of time as they needed to perform their work at the peak of the bloom before the extreme heat and sun extinguished the flowers.

Jeff expressed his amazement: “The desert plants make use of many strategies, including scent production, to assure that their ephemeral lives come full circle before harsh conditions set in once again. Some species have timed their scent release to coincide with nocturnal pollinators which have chosen to avoid the heat of the day.”

The team collected scent molecules from the Yellow Primrose which possesses a floral aroma similar to that of carnation, accented with tuberose and clove. They also collected the Mojave Pincushion, named for its rayless flower heads resembling a pincushion. The white floral chocolate-vanilla aroma of its button-sized flowers tantalised the senses. Linda was thrilled to find ‘Larrea tridentata’, better known as the creosote bush; she describes it as having a ‘sexy desert smell’ that is considered a trademark aroma of this desert.

This magnificent experience has fueled the creative inspiration of Givaudan’s fine fragrance perfumers. They are eager to translate their experience into exciting new creations for customers and share the Super Bloom magic with us all.