I have a basil plant that's getting plenty of sunshine (it's around 29 °C today, with clear skies). It's in a big pot, not shaded, and the soil is damp. We had a lot of rain a few days ago, and I've never seen this basil plant wilting. The leaves have been yellow in the past and then they turn green again, but a darker green, and now, when I rub the leaves, I get a smell that is sharp and unpleasant (but still somewhat like the basil smell we all know and love). Is this a problem for the plant as a whole? Should I discard all affected leaves, or will they recover?

Edit: The plant has not flowered, and the stems are all green and supple. Here are some photos for those who would like to take a look: I hadn't noticed these marks before

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    It is quite common for some basil varieties to smell like cat pee to some people. I didn't find an answer as to why or which varieties smell less like cat pee than others.
    – That Idiot
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:15
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    How long have you had the plant - long enough for it to be woody at the base? Has it flowered?
    – Bamboo
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 14:32
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    Please post some photographs of the plant and a close-up of the affected leaves. Thanks!
    – Niall C.
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 15:15
  • I can attest to the "cat-pee" smell of basil plants. I had several plants outside for a season and I brought them into the house and was sure that a cat had snuck in and peed somewhere! After some serious sniffing I found out who the real offenders were. The pesto was still delicious, tho!
    – Nova
    Commented May 1, 2019 at 2:11

2 Answers 2


If it smells "off" I'd discard the whole plant and start a new plant from seed (and not from its seed.) I have stressed basil in many ways and it has continued to taste good, so I think it's unlikely that it's a stress reaction or reversible. I'd go with "a bad plant" or "a plant that's bad when mature, even if it was OK before maturity" and change plants.


basil plants can produce different scents akin to cat urine, lemon, licorice, or even cinnamon due to the presence of particular compounds like mercaptan, anethole, citral, cinnamate. Some of these compounds can be externally introduced while others are naturally produced by specific basil varieties.

ref: https://yourindoorherbs.com/why-basil-smell-cat-urine-lemon-licorice-cinnamon/

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