The Cananga odorata, known by the name of ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata (Lam.) Hook. F. & T. Thomson) is an arboreal species belonging to the Annonaceae family.
From a systematic point of view, it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Plantae Kingdom, Magnoliophyta Division, Magnoliopsida Class, Magnoliidae Subclass, Magnoliales Order, Annonaceae Family and therefore to the Genus Cananga and the Species Cananga odorata.
The term Cananga originates from the local name ilang-ilang or ylang-ylang, of Tagalog origin (language spoken in the Philippines), which means ‘with flowers that hang sparse’ or, according to some AA. also wilderness.
The specific smelling epithet comes from odóro exhale perfume: odorous, fragrant, with a pleasant smell
Geographical Distribution and Habitat –
Ylang-ylang is a plant native to an area that can encompass much of tropical Asia, from India to Papua New Guinea and Queensland, Australia.
This plant is commonly grown in Madagascar, Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Comoros Islands.
It grows in full sun or semi-shading conditions and prefers acidic soils typical of rainforests, its natural habitat.
Cananga odorata is a fast-growing tree that reaches an average height of 12 meters.
The leaves are shiny and dark, 13–21 cm long and have a lanceolate shape with wavy margins.
The numerous and fragrant flowers grow, solitary or gathered in small clusters, in autumn and spring; they are greenish-yellow (rarely pink) and have 6 elongated and curled petals, rather similar to a starfish and produce a highly fragrant essential oil.
Ylang-ylang is a plant that grows in full or partial sun and prefers acidic soils. Multiplication occurs by seed or by cutting. The easy germination of the seeds has contributed to a wide spread of this plant which in some areas is considered a weed tree.
Uses and Traditions –
Cananga odorata is known by various names including Mata’oi (Cook Islands), Mohokoi (Tonga), Moso’oi (Samoa), Moto’oi (Hawaii) and Mokosoi, Mokasoi or Mokohoi (Fiji).
It is a plant appreciated for the perfume extracted from its flowers which is an essential oil used in aromatherapy and an essence used in perfumery.
Its black fruit clusters are an important food for many birds.
The essential oil is used in aromatherapy and is believed to relieve high blood pressure and normalize sebum secretion for skin problems, and is considered an aphrodisiac.
Ylang-ylang oil is widely used in perfumery for oriental or floral perfumes (like Chanel n. 5); it also blends well with most floral, fruit and wood aromas.
In Indonesia, Ylang-ylang flowers are scattered on the bed of the married couple. In the Philippines, its flowers, together with the sampaguita flowers (Jasminum sambac Aiton, 1789), are tucked into a necklace and worn by women and adorn religious images.
Ylang-ylang essential oil makes up 29% of the Comoros’ annual exports (1998).
Ylang-ylang is grown in Madagascar and exported all over the world for its essential oils.
The essential oil of ylang ylang is one of the basic ingredients of macassar oil.
The fragrance of ylang-ylang is rich and deep with hints of gum and custard and bright with hints of jasmine and neroli. The main aromatic components of ylang-ylang oil are benzyl acetate, linalool, p -cresyl methyl ether and methyl benzoate, which are the components responsible for its characteristic odor.
The components present in the essential oil are:
– Geranyl acetate;
– p-Cresyl methyl ether;
– Methyl benzoate;
Method of Preparation –
The essential oil of the flower is obtained by steam distillation of the flowers and separated into different degrees (extra, 1, 2 or 3) according to the moment in which the distilled fraction is extracted.
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for information purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; therefore, no responsibility is accepted for their use for healing, aesthetic or food purposes.