Desert rain: What gives it that sweet smell?

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Have you ever noticed rain has a certain smell here in the desert? (Source: snehit via 123RF) Have you ever noticed rain has a certain smell here in the desert? (Source: snehit via 123RF)
Joe McAuliffe, the director of research at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, said what you're smelling is the creosote bush. (Source: CBS 5 News) Joe McAuliffe, the director of research at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, said what you're smelling is the creosote bush. (Source: CBS 5 News)
The sweet smell of the creosote leaves wafts into the air during and after rain in parts of Arizona. (Source: CBS 5 News) The sweet smell of the creosote leaves wafts into the air during and after rain in parts of Arizona. (Source: CBS 5 News)
The creosote bush is found in Arizona and its neighboring deserts. (Source: Eugene Tochilin via 123RF) The creosote bush is found in Arizona and its neighboring deserts. (Source: Eugene Tochilin via 123RF)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Have you ever noticed rain has a certain smell here in the desert?

Next time, after it rains, go outside and take a whiff!

That smell has a name -- petrichor. What you're smelling isn't rain, though.

Joe McAuliffe, the director of research at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, said what you're smelling is the creosote bush.

But does that mean our in Arizona rain smells differently than other parts of the country? I mean, rain is rain. Right?

Yes. And no. You have to remember that rain itself has no smell. The dirt the rain hits, however, well, that's different.

"If you're in the Eastern Tennessee, after rain, you smell that musty organic smell, " McAullife said.

And here the sweet smell of the creosote leaves wafts into the air during and after rain in parts of Arizona.

The creosote bush is found in Arizona and its neighboring deserts. And boy is it old, making a 300-year-old saguaro cactus seem like a seedling.

"Some of those creosote bushes are many thousands of years old," McAullife said. "Six thousand, perhaps as many as 10,000 years old, making them the oldest plants in the world, really."

Creosote leaves smell great but taste nasty, keeping many hungry animals away. They can also live through droughts no human would ever want to experience.

So next time the rain starts to fall, open your umbrella and your nose!

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