Christina Agapakis, the creative director at the genetics company Gingko Bioworks, started the process of reconstructing extinct flower smells in 2016 by looking through the archives of the Harvard Herbarium and cross-referencing preserved plant specimens with a list of extinct species. She stumbled upon the Scurfpea among about a dozen other plants and sent small pieces of leaves to a paleogenomics lab at UC Santa Cruz, where researchers were able to isolate sequences of DNA that are involved in producing a flower’s scent for three of the flowers. Then, Gingko Bioworks engineers stitched these fragments of DNA together into 2,000 variations, then synthesized them using yeast to see what kinds of molecules they would produce.
— Smell artist Sissel Tolaas used the Gingko Bioworks data to develop the scent of the extinct flower Falls-of-the-Ohio Scurfpea, which you can smell at the Cooper Hewitt exhibit Nature, which runs through next January. Read more at Millions of animals are going extinct–and the race to preserve their memory is already on at Fast Company.
Wow, that’s incredible! I wonder how well this process would work for currently living plants and how a bioengineered rose scent, for example, would smell.
They are doing similar things for live plants already
I love that the other name for the Falls-of-the-Ohio scurfpea is largestipule leather-root. Both weird and great.
Wow, missed that. Scurfpea really is weird.