We examined relationships between fragrance and phylogeny using a number of approaches to coding fragrance data and comparing the hierarchical information in fragrance data with the phylogenetic signal in a DNA sequence data set. We first used distance analyses to determine which coding method(s) best distinguishes species while grouping conspecifics. Results suggest that interspecific differences in fragrance composition were maximized by coding as presence/absence of fragrance compounds and biosynthetic pathways rather than when quantitative information was also included. Useful systematic information came from both compounds and pathways and from fragrance emitted by both floral and vegetative tissues. The coding methods that emerged from the distance analyses as best distinguishing species were then adapted for use in phylogenetic analysis. Although hierarchical signal among fragrance data sets was congruent, this signal was highly incongruent with the phylogenetic signal in the DNA sequence data. Notably, topologies inferred from fragrance data sets were congruent with the DNA topology only in the most distal portions (e.g., sister group pairs or closely related species that had similar fragrance profiles were often recovered by analyses of fragrance). Examination of consistency and retention indices for individual fragrance compounds and pathways as optimized onto one of the most-parsimonious trees inferred from DNA data revealed that although most compounds were homoplastic, some compounds were perfectly congruent with the DNA phylogeny. In particular, compounds and pathways found in a few taxa were less homoplastic than those found in many taxa. Pathways that synthesize few volatiles also seem to have lower homoplasy than those that produce many. Although fragrance data as a whole may not be useful in phylogeny reconstruction, these data can provide additional support for clades reconstructed with other types of characters. Factors other than phylogeny, including pollinator interactions, also likely influence fragrance composition.

Author notes

Present address: 2 Mayo Smith House, Amherst, Massachusetts 01002–2316, USA E-mail: rlevin@lab.si.edu