Breeding over hundreds of generations has helped roses look better and live longer, but at the expense of their sweet-smelling scent, reports the AP. After all, those buying bouquets don't really care about a flower's ability to attract pollinators. A new study in the journal Science, however, may help restore the distinct aroma to roses that have become less potent over time. Experts were already aware of some 400 chemical compounds, the majority of which are alcohols, responsible for the scent of roses, Popular Science reports. This finding surrounds alcohols known as monoterpenes and what French researchers say was a previously unknown gene. Roses that "strongly expressed the gene produced more monoterpenes and had stronger scents," Discover explains.
The gene, called RhNUDX1, was revealed as researchers compared the genomes of fragrant Papa Meilland roses—70% of their scent comes from monoterpenes—and scentless Rouge Meilland roses. In Papa Meilland roses, the RhNUDX1 enzyme produced a monoterpene called geraniol, which is actually the main component of rose oil. The gene was also found in Rouge Meilland roses, but it appeared to have been "turned off." An analysis of 10 other rose varieties proved roses with the active gene produced more monoterpenes and smelled sweeter. With a little meddling, scientists say the gene could be reactivated in less-potent flowers. As they found no genetic link between scent and a rose's ability to stay fresh after it’s been cut, they add breeders may soon get their rose and smell it, too. (Another study found a simple sniff test could diagnose autism.)