Aromatic plants

Cananga odorata

The characteristics of the cananga odorata tree

The cananga odorata is a tree that belongs to the Annonaceae family native to the Philippines and Indonesia, but also widespread in Australia and part of Asia. The first thing you can notice about this tree is that it has a considerable development in the sense of height: it can in fact reach 12 meters, or 15, something to keep in mind if you decide to plant one in the garden. Its foliage is evergreen and well branched, the stem is tall and straight, and the leaves are shiny and dark green. The cananga blooms twice a year, in the intermediate seasons, then in spring and autumn, producing greenish-yellow flowers that often gather in clusters. Sometimes the trees, in their lands of origin, can stay in bloom all year round, giving off a very pleasant scent.


The reason why the cananga odorata treeis universally known lies in its flowers. In fact, through the distillation of the flowers, two fragrances are obtained which are macassar and ylang ylang. Very often the tree is referred to as ylang ylang. There are cananga trees that also produce pink or mauve flowers, but the only ones that can be used for the extraction of fragrant essential oil are yellow ones. The difference between macassar and ylang ylang lies in the distillation procedure: the latter undergoes a much longer and more complex process, and for this reason it is more valuable and sought after. These oils are used in cosmetics and phytotherapy, because both macassar and ylang ylang are recognized as having beneficial virtues for the body and spirit of man.

Macassar and ylang ylang


Macassar and ylang ylang therefore derive from the distillation process of the flowers of the cananga odorata. As for macassar, it is the product of the second or third distillation; while ylang ylang derives from distillation called extra, and this makes it more expensive and sought after. Macassar essential oil has a reddish-yellow color and a sticky texture. Its scent is very reminiscent of jasmine. It is used to make shampoos, as it strengthens the hair, and as an anti-inflammatory cream. Ylang ylang is used to relax the body, and to combat anxiety and stress. It is often used to package massage oils; some even attribute to it aphrodisiac properties. Both macassar and ylang ylang are also used to make scented fragrances.

Cananga odorata: The cananga odorata in the garden


Obviously, the process of extracting the essential oil from a flower cannot be done at home: but nobody forbids making your garden more beautiful and fragrant by planting a cananga odorata tree, which grows well even in our latitudes. Generally, a two or three year old sapling is bought, and the place where it is placed must be chosen carefully, because it will grow very quickly, so it must have enough space, especially vertically. The place must be sunny and sheltered from bad weather, because the cananga does not like the cold. So it’s best not to grow it if you live in an area where temperatures get very cold in winter. It must be watered regularly from March to October, because the cananga can not stand drought, but avoiding water stagnation.

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