I hear leaves drinking rain; I hear rich leaves on top Giving the poor beneath Drop after drop; 'Tis a sweet noise to hear These green leaves drinking near.- William Henry Davies
Rain… Who doesn’t love the first rain?
The nature transforms immediately. The trees shake off their old, tired, wrinkly selves and stand up straighter; the leaves wake up and start drinking in the water and glow brighter, the buds start opening up, the birds start chirping, the frogs start croaking… It’s a wake-up call to the nature…
And then there is the sweet smell of the soil which lingers in the air…
You know that earthy odour which emanates from earth after the first rain following a long dry spell, right? You recognise that wonderful sweet smell, right? The smell which makes us all feel more alive and awakens the romantic poet in everyone…
That particular smell, my friends, has a name. It is called Petrichor.
“She opened the window and inhaled the petrichor, and felt herself calm immediately. Oh! How she loved the smell!”
A pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather.
e.g.: Other than the petrichor emanating from the rapidly drying grass, there was not a trace of evidence that it had rained at all.
Source: Oxford Dictionary
The term Petrichor was coined by two Australian researchers in 1964. Petrichor – derived from the combination of two Greek words petros, which means stone, and ichor, the “ethereal essence” believed to flow through the veins of their gods, or the blood of gods.
But have you ever wondered where comes from or why we detect it at all?
During the dry months, the plants secrete a mix of oils which inhibits further growth during the dry season where sufficient water might not available to sustain that growth. This mix of oil accumulates in rocks and the soil. When rain hits these particles, the compound breaks up and the petrichor is released. Another chemical called geosmin, secreted by a group of soil-dwelling bacteria, called actinomycetes, mixes with the plant oils to contribute to this smell.
And that’s why the world smells so different after rains
Apparently, nature is hard-wired to detect petrichor. Scientists believe that we might have inherited the affinity for petrichor from our ancestors, who relied on rains for their survival. In the desert regions, it works as a signal to the camels that water is now available and they should fill up their tanks. The geosmin is carried to the waterbodies by the rain and it also acts as a cue to the fishes that it’s time to start breeding!
It’s strange thinking how the smallest of things in the nature might be such a huge contributing factor to its survival, and maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Everything is connected!