Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) is a tropical tree that produces spidery, star-shaped flowers that have a heady floral fragrance.
The highly-prized oil is extracted from the flowers by steam distillation, and is often used in aromatherapy for its relaxing and uplifting properties.
Ylang-ylang has a long history of use in skin and hair care products and is widely used in oriental or floral perfumes.
The ylang-ylang tree (pronounced ee-lang ee-lang) originates from the Philippines, where it grows more than five metres each year, attaining an average height of 12 metres.
Part of the Annonaceae family, it is also known as ‘perfume tree’ because of its highly scented flowers that yield a beautiful essential oil with a similar scent to to jasmine.
The tree flowers throughout the year, but the main flowering seasons are immediately after the rain and during the dry season. The flowers are harvested during the early morning when the essential oil content is high, as they contain more essential oil at night, peaking just before daybreak. As the day progresses, the oil content rapidly diminishes, especially in strong sunlight.
Ylang-ylang essential oil is colourless or a very pale yellow with a distinctive sweet, soft, flowery scent. The floral fragrance is also believed to be an aphrodisiac, which is why in Indonesian tradition the flowers are strewn across the beds of newlywed couples.
Growing our own ylang trees in Ghana and producing the essential oil is a lengthy but exciting business. As our ylang-ylang plantation was originally a monoculture, growing only ylang-ylang trees, the prospect of introducing a more sustainable and self-sufficient permaculture set-up that works in harmony with nature is the ultimate aim.
All of this takes time, and the first trees are just coming to maturity, and beginning to produce precious oil for use in products.