Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: What exactly is the "breath of spring?" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: What exactly is the "breath of spring?"
Category: Science
Asked by: pcventures-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 10 Mar 2006 09:38 PST
Expires: 09 Apr 2006 10:38 PDT
Question ID: 705764
I'm smelling it now, since it's the warmest day so far out of a lovely
warming trend.
 It's that warm, sweet smell in the air when the Earth starts to wake up again.
 What exactly is it that I'm smelling?
Subject: Re: What exactly is the "breath of spring?"
Answered By: thx1138-ga on 10 Mar 2006 10:25 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello again pcventures and thank you for your question.

What you are smelling (among other things) is Geosmin, and Butyric acid.


"To work in a garden is to understand that it is just fine to take
your pleasures where you find them. For example, on the first warm
spring days, my friends know to expect an early morning call from me
exhorting, ?Go outside and take a deep breath!? I rave yearly about
the first fragrant scent of geosmin, that quintessential smell of
spring, which is actually an odor produced by actively working tiny
actinomycetes in the warming soil. To me, it is a signal that the soil
is awakening and the grand growing cycle is about to begin again."

"Question and Answer on "The Smell of Spring"

I had a natural history question that might fall in your area of
expertise. In very late winter and very early spring, as soon as the
ground is thawed for an appreciable amount of time, there is in the
air a sour, earthy smell. It seems to vanish as the season progresses.
After accounting for other possibilities (not the paper mill, not the
spreading of manure by the U.Maine Farm, etc.) this seems to be an
annual phenomenon caused by Nature. Also, it seems I remember this in
Connecticut, too. My guess is that it is due to soil microbes that can
flourish at these low temperatures, until the temperature rises and
others crowd them. Do you know if I am on the right track?
Frank Wihbey, Maine Nature News

You are definitely on the right track. There are hundreds of
odorant-type chemicals that are released by the microbes of the soil
and litter when microbial activity increases in the spring. Butyric
acid is one of the odor-compounds that can be produced. This is an
unpleasant pseudoseptic tank smell that can emanate from wet soils.
The common "earthy" smell of garden soil and the smell of spring is
usually due to a compound called geosmin.
Jon Connolly, U.Maine Plant Biology and Pathology Department"

"Ann Kennedy hands me a petri dish that an assistant has just brought
into the room. I lift the lid. What greets my nose is a dark, familiar
smell of earth, rich and dank and ripe. The smell brings back warm
spring evenings and freshly plowed midwestern soil.

This is the smell of healthy soil?it can actually be traced to a
compound, geosmin, produced by the crusty little globs in the petri
dish of actinomycetes. Actinomycetes are microorganisms that are a
sort of transitional group between bacteria and fungi. Like fungi,
they produce tendril-like hyphae. But they also have cell walls, like

Thank you for your question, and if you need any clarification of my
answer, do not hesitate to ask prior to rating my answer.

Very best regards


Search strategy included:
"spring smell" acid
pcventures-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $1.25
Nicely done! Thanks for the answer!

Subject: Re: What exactly is the "breath of spring?"
From: myoarin-ga on 11 Mar 2006 04:40 PST
How prosaic.  :-|

The Breath of Spring

When the bold moon glides naked through night skies
And earth now waits, with lustful intentions,
The golden heat of her lover, the sun,
And succulent petals bear fragrant dew
The breath of spring in kisses we will share?
A touch so exquisite, savor of souls
Recovering from the winds of winter
With its cold voice and icy memories?
Now softly, let?s steal away, night or day,
To lay entwined?we will make the roses blush!

 ewrichardson, 2005 


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy