Cananga odorata

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Ylang-ylang tree
Cananga odorata flowers.jpg
Flowers of Cananga odorata
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Magnoliids
Order: Magnoliales
Family: Annonaceae
Genus: Cananga
Species: C. odorata
Binomial name
Cananga odorata
(Lam.) Hook.f. & Thomson
A Cananga odorata in Maui

Cananga odorata, commonly called ylang-ylang (/ˈlæŋ ˈlæŋ/ EE-lang-EE-lang),[1] cananga tree, ilang-ilang, kenanga in Indonesian, fragrant cananga, Macassar-oil plant or perfume tree,[2] is a tropical tree which originates from the Philippines[3] and is valued for its perfume. The essential oil derived from the flowers is used in aromatherapy.

Artabotrys odoratissimus, ylang-ylang vine,[4] and Artabotrys hexapetalus, climbing ylang-ylang,[5] are woody, evergreen climbing plants in the same family. A. odoratissimus is also a source of perfume.[4]


C. odorata is a fast-growing tree of the custard apple family Annonaceae. Its growth exceeds 5 m (15 ft) per year and attains an average height of 12 m (40 ft) in an ideal climate.[citation needed] It grows in full or partial sun, and prefers the acidic soils of its native rainforest habitat. The evergreen leaves are smooth and glossy, oval, pointed and with wavy margins, and 13–20 cm (5–8 in) long. The flower is drooping, long-stalked, with six narrow, greenish-yellow (rarely pink) petals, rather like a sea star in appearance, and yields a highly fragrant essential oil.

C. odorata var. fruticosa, dwarf ylang-ylang, grows as small tree or compact shrub with highly scented flowers.

Ylang-ylang has been cultivated in temperate climates under conservatory conditions.

Its clusters of black fruit are an important food item for birds, such as the collared imperial-pigeon, purple-tailed imperial-pigeon, Zoe's imperial-pigeon, superb fruit-dove, pink-spotted fruit-dove, coroneted fruit-dove, orange-bellied fruit-dove, and wompoo fruit-dove.[6]

Chemical constituents[edit]

Cananga odorata illustrated in Francisco Manuel Blanco's Flora de Filipinas
Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) essential oil

Typical chemical compositions of the various grades of ylang-ylang essential oil are reported as:[7]


The name ylang-ylang is derived from Tagalog, either from the word ilang, meaning "wilderness", alluding to its natural habitat, or the word ilang-ilan, meaning "rare", suggestive of its exceptionally delicate scent.[citation needed] A common mistranslation is "flower of flowers".[4] The plant is native to the Philippines and Indonesia and is commonly grown in Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Comoros Islands.


The fragrance of ylang-ylang is rich and deep with notes of rubber and custard, and bright with hints of jasmine and neroli. The essential oil of the flower is obtained through steam distillation of the flowers and separated into different grades (extra, 1, 2, or 3) according to when the distillates are obtained. The main aromatic components of ylang-ylang oil are benzyl acetate, linalool, p-cresyl methyl ether, and methyl benzoate, responsible for its characteristic odor.[8]


The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. It is believed to relieve high blood pressure, normalize sebum secretion for skin problems, and is considered to be an aphrodisiac. According to Margaret Mead, it was used as such by South Pacific natives such as the Samoan Islanders where she did much of her research. The oil from ylang-ylang is widely used in perfumery for oriental or floral themed perfumes (such as Chanel No. 5). Ylang-ylang blends well with most floral, fruit and wood scents.

In Indonesia, ylang-ylang flowers are spread on the bed of newlywed couples. In the Philippines, its flowers, together with the flowers of the sampaguita, are strung into a necklace (lei) and worn by women and used to adorn religious images.

Ylang-ylang's essential oil makes up 29% of the Comoros' annual export (1998).[citation needed]

Ylang-ylang is a common flavoring in Madagascar for ice cream.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ OED
  2. ^ "University of Melbourne: multilingual plant names database". 2004-08-05. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  3. ^ "Ylang- Ylang "Flower of Flowers"". School of Holistic Aromatheraphy. Retrieved 6 October 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c "". Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  5. ^ "Tropicos". Tropicos. Retrieved 2012-12-30. 
  6. ^ Frith et al. 1976[vague]
  7. ^ "Ylang-Ylang Essential Oil - Chemical Composition". 
  8. ^ Manner, Harley and Craig Elevitch,Traditional Tree Initiative: Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry (2006), Permanent Agricultural Resources, Honolulu, Hi.

Further reading[edit]

  • Elevitch, Craig (ed.) (2006): Traditional Trees of Pacific Islands: Their Culture, Environment and Use. Permanent Agricultural Resources Publishers, Honolulu. ISBN 0-9702544-5-8
  • Frith, H.J.; Rome, F.H.J.C. & Wolfe, T.O. (1976): Food of fruit-pigeons in New Guinea. Emu 76(2): 49-58. HTML abstract
  • Manner, Harley & Elevitch, Craig (ed.) (2006): Traditional Tree Initiative: Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry. Permanent Agricultural Resources Publishers, Honolulu.
  • Davis, Patricia (2000): "Aromatherapy An A-Z". Vermilion:Ebury Publishing, London.

External links[edit]