Scent can be a useful way of finding and identifying some plants. Take today for instance. I was mowing the lawn and suddenly was hit by a stong smell, slightly antiseptic, that told me there was a decent sized stinking hawksbeard in the lawn - a relief since on our gravel garden hardly any of these rare plants germinated last summer, and I had not found any in the lawn yet. So smell can be a useful way to pick up the presence of these plants - just standing on them can release the distinctive odour. The trouble is not everyone can smell it, which I find very strange because to me it is immediately obvious.
I experienced the opposite phenomenon with some fritillaries I was given by a friend a few years back. Fritillaria graeca to be precise. Not a pretty plant, but it has an interesting shape. One spring I was bringing in pots of Alpine bulbs to brighten up the office, but to my surprise this particular plant got a virulent reaction. Apparently it reeked. The books decribe it as smelling of non too fresh raw meat (although some of my colleagues described it as foxy), and it is very attractive to wasps, though not English Nature Conservation Officers. I just couldn’t detect it at all.
So next time to are puzzled by a flora that describes an odour you just cannot pick up on a plant at all, the book might not be wrong. You just lack the appropriate olfactory sensors!