Cananga odorata: Ylang-ylang, Perfume tree

Family: Annonaceae
Common name: Ylang-ylang, Perfume tree, Fragrant Cananga, Manoranjini

A beautiful tropical tree, Ylang-Ylang tree (pronounced Lang-Lang) flowers are used in making Chanel No.5 perfume. It is a fast-growing tree, native of the Asian continent and grows to a height of 15-20 meters. The leaves are large and glossy with wavy edges and prominent veins. Flowers are inconspicuous when they are small, but turn light green when they grow bigger, covering whole branches with octopus-like flowers.

They have six long, slender, twisted petals – a very uniquely shaped flower indeed. The flowers have a light, heady scent that can spread about long distances when there is good wind. Ylang-Ylang trees are fast-growers, adding about 5 meters per year. But they start blooming only after 3-4 years.

Ylang-ylang flowers are used to make essential oils through a process of distillation; and the scent is fruity, flowery and rich. The oil has different intensities according to their scent. Ylang-ylang extra has the most powerful scent, but it dissipates quickly. This is used as a top note in high-end perfumes. The next levels of intensity vary from strengths 1 to 3 and are used in perfumes, soaps, deodorants and lotions.

Cananga oil is said to lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and depression; and is also used in hair and skin care products. The oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and insecticidal properties.

The seeds are dark green, globulous, slightly elongated and grow in bunches. The intense fragrance of the flowers attract birds and insects; the seeds are eaten by small birds, helping in pollination and dispersal of the seeds.

Propagation is from seeds.

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