What does Point Reyes smell like?
September 13, 2015 4:55 PM   Subscribe

There's a particular scent I associate with the coastal SF Bay Area, in particular the Point Reyes area, though I've smelled it as far south as Big Sur. Because of that, I associate it with redwoods, but I'm pretty sure it's not just the redwoods I'm smelling. It's a little floral but also slightly sharp and astringent--oddly, as lovely as it smells, it reminds me a bit of the Clairol hair dye I used as a teenager. What is it?
posted by rhiannonstone to Science & Nature (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I think its eucalyptus
posted by lakersfan1222 at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2015 [8 favorites]

Yeah, probably everyone's favorite scenic, smelly fire hazard: eucalyptus.
posted by wintersweet at 5:07 PM on September 13, 2015

Really? Eucalyptus as I know it is entirely astringent, with no floral notes to it at all.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:16 PM on September 13, 2015

also a lot of bay laurel around...
posted by straw at 5:19 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was going to say eucalyptus too. It's awesome. I miss it.
posted by pando11 at 5:28 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Hmm, well, IIRC Point Reyes has a lot of cypresses. Those have a kind of herbal scent. I haven't smelled it recently enough to remember whether they're astringent or not...
posted by wintersweet at 5:32 PM on September 13, 2015

I associate the coast smell with the grasses that grow on coastal bluffs.
posted by salvia at 5:39 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

There is some spots with a ton of bay trees.
posted by lepus at 5:46 PM on September 13, 2015

California sagebrush, maybe?
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:59 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was just going to say sagebrush! And other things. I was born and raised around there, and I often wonder about how to describe the beautiful smell exactly. There are smells particular to the trees (including eucalyptus and redwood -- even the madrones have a scent) but I suspect what you might be smelling is a combination of the several kinds of plants that grow there. If you have an opportunity, I'd smell sticky monkey flower, black and white sage, yerba santa, and coyote brush. Northern California coastal scrub has a lot of resinous plants with tangy, peppery smells which combine on the wind.
posted by Stevia Agave at 6:16 PM on September 13, 2015 [9 favorites]

This is a tough smell to describe. However, in some rich-hipster boutique, I have stumbled across candles scented as "point reyes," so others Get You (and are trying to monetize, apparently...).
posted by samthemander at 6:47 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fennel. Wild fennel. It's going off right now, all over the bay area.
posted by missmobtown at 8:03 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

St. George makes a "Terroir Gin" that smells just like California coastal hiking. Primary botanicals are Douglas fir, California bay laurel, and coastal sage.
posted by mshrike at 8:08 PM on September 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

I was going to say Eucalyptus, it isn't super astringent (like shampoos or other products you buy with the oil) - the trees smell like spices and incense to me.
posted by Toddles at 8:25 PM on September 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Fennel! That might well be it. The same smell (or the smell *I* associate with Pt. Reyes, anyway) occurs in various random Bay Area locations that are fairly disturbed. My guess would be that it is something fairly common and quite possibly introduced (rather than native).
posted by salvia at 9:22 PM on September 13, 2015

It's definitely not wild fennel, I can't stand the smell of it and it is indeed everywhere in the East Bay right now. I was grateful to have spent the weekend in Point Reyes, where I could still see it occasionally but mostly the smell was overpowered by the scent I'm trying to pinpoint here. :)
posted by rhiannonstone at 9:41 PM on September 13, 2015

Another vote for the bay laurels. Especially right now; they seem to be particularly pungent.
posted by jaguar at 6:15 AM on September 14, 2015

I'm going to toss in Ceanothus and Manzanita which can get quite fragrant.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:54 AM on September 14, 2015

Decomposing seaweed has a rather sharp and astringent smell. Not sure if it wafts over the Inverness Ridge to PRS or not, though.
posted by Lynsey at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2015

I think it's maybe California sagebrush, which is not a sage but an Artemisia; or Coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis). Coyote is resiny and floral, while sagebrush has a bit of a tannic/creosote scent to it.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:39 PM on September 14, 2015

Could it be millipedes?
posted by zamboni at 11:20 AM on April 4, 2016

« Older How many times can an organization require a DBS...   |   Help me ID this song I heard at Burning Man with... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.