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Cananga odorata - (Lam.) Hook.f. & Thomson

Common Name Ylang Ylang, Perfume Tree
Family Annonaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Moist evergreen forests and teak forests[ 303 ]. From sea level to mid-montane elevations[ 311 ]. Common in secondary forest formations and along forest edges in Vietnam[ 598 ].
Range E. Asia - Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea to northern Australia.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Cananga odorata Ylang Ylang, Perfume Tree

Cananga odorata Ylang Ylang, Perfume Tree


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Native to the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia and is known for its fragrant yellow flowers, Ylang Ylang or Cananga odorata is a fast-growing, evergreen tree with drooping branches of up to 6 m long. It grows up to 30 m high with a trunk diameter of up to 30 cm. However, there is a dwarf variety which grows only up to 1.5 m tall and is commonly used as an ornamental tree since it flowers throughout the year but never sets fruits and it is characterized by very curly petals. Ylang ylang is very known for the essential oil obtained from its flowers which has various uses (as flavouring in food, perfumery, soap making, aromatheraphy etc.). Medicinally, ylang ylang is used against fever, blood pressure, malaria, asthma, various skin conditions, conjunctivitis, hypertension, stomach pains, indigestion, colic, and toothache among others. Aside from wide range of medicinal uses, ylang ylang is a great source of wood and fibre. The flowers are made into leis and used as decorations.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Cananga odorata is an evergreen Tree growing to 20 m (65ft) by 7 m (23ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid and saline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cananga scortechinii King. Canangium odoratum (Lam.) Baillon. ex King. Uvaria odorata Lam.

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

The essential oil from the flowers is used by the food industry, especially in peach and apricot flavourings[ 238 ]. It is used in candies, icings, baked goods, soft drinks and chewing gum[ 301 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antiasthmatic  Antidiarrhoeal  Antifungal  Antipruritic  Antiseptic  Aphrodisiac  Febrifuge  Hypotensive  
Malaria  Sedative  Skin  Stomachic

The flowers, and the essential oil obtained from them, are antipruritic, antifungal, antiseptic and sedative, relieving tension, lowering blood pressure and reducing fever[ 238 , 311 ]. They are also said to be aphrodisiac[ 238 ]. The dried flowers are used in the treatment of malaria and the fresh flowers are made into a paste for treating asthma[ 303 ]. Applied externally, they are used to treat skin irritations, conjunctivitis, boils and gout[ 238 ]. They are added to bath water to treat impotence and frigidity[ 238 ]. The essential oil is important in aromatherapy, where it is used in the treatment of tachycardia, rapid breathing, hypertension, gastrointestinal infections and psycho-sexual complaints[ 238 ]. The flowers are harvested of a night time and dried for infusions or distilled for their essential oil[ 238 ]. The leaves are used in a treatment for diarrhoea in infants[ 311 ]. The leaves are also used in a remedy for treating boils[ 311 ]. They are rubbed on the skin to treat itch[ 303 ]. The bark is applied against scurf[ 303 ]. An infusion of the bark is used for treating stomach ailments such as pains, indigestion and colic[ 311 ]. Fluid from the pressed bark is used in treating toothaches and migraine headaches[ 311 ]. The seed has been used externally to cure intermittent fever[ 303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Containers  Essential  Fuel  Hair  Houseplant  Oil  Soap making  String  Wood

Other uses rating: High (4/5). Small Shade Tree, Specimen, Courtyard, Large Planter, Public open space, Civic Centre, Large conservatory. Agroforestry Uses: Because of its fast growth and its ability to attract birds and bats to its fruit, it is being used for rainforest regeneration in Australia[ 307 ]. Other Uses Two types of essential oil are obtained from the flowers, both of which are used to supply the dominant odour note of many perfumes:- Cv. Group 'Ylang-ylang' produces ylang-ylang oil, which has a more subtle perfume. 'Extra' quality ylang-ylang oil is much used in high-class perfumery[ 303 ]. Third grade ylang ylang oil has a harsher, more tenacious odour and, like cananga oil, is mainly used in soaps and toiletries for men[ 303 ]. Cv. Group 'Cananga' yields cananga oil which has a harsher, more tenacious odour[ 303 ]. It can be mixed with coconut oil and used as a hair oil named Macassar oil[ 303 ]. It is also often used in soaps and toiletries for men[ 303 ]. The fragrant yellow-green flowers are made into leis[ 302 ]. They are also used to scent coconut oil[ 302 ]. The fragrant flowers are used for personal adornment and decoration at festivities and other celebrations. Malaysians and Indonesians are very fond of the scent, and the women like to hide a flower in their hair. The fresh flowers are used in various ceremonies in Java and Bali. The flowers are also put away with clothes, or scattered about the bed[ 303 ]. The bark can be beaten to make coarse ropes[ 303 ]. The heartwood is pinkish-buff, yellowish to light gray; it is not differentiated from the sapwood. The texture is coarse; the grain straight; there is no distinctive odour or taste. The wood is light in weight; not very durable, being vulnerable to termite attack. It is easy to season with little or no degrade. It is said to be easy to work and finishes smoothly. The wood is used locally for general construction, turnery and making canoes, and is also used for making boxes, tea chests and plywood[ 303 , 307 , 316 , 339 ]. It has potential for making small drums and matchsticks[ 303 ]. The wood is sometimes used for fuel[ 339 ].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

The tree thrives in the more humid lowland tropics, where it is found at elevations below 1,200 metres. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 30c, but can tolerate 16 - 34c[ 418 ]. It can be killed by temperatures of 5c or lower[ 418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 2,000mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,800mm[ 418 ]. Prefers a fertile, moist but well-drained soil in a sunny position[ 302 , 307 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5 - 6.5, tolerating 4.5 - 8[ 418 ]. Trees have escaped from cultivation to become naturalised in some areas[ 307 ]. At sea-level, saplings of cultivated trees flower when 1.5 - 2 years old and 2 metres tall, though at an elevation of 500 metres flowering may start only after 7 years[ 303 ]. Trees can reach full production of essential oils when they are about 10 years old[ 418 ]. Individual trees can produce about 120 kilos of flowers a year, yielding about 350g of essential oil[ 238 ]. A dwarf variety of C. Odorata known as var. Fruticosa (Craib) Sinclair, is a bush 1 - 1.5 metres tall, with frequently supernumerary, very curly petals. It flowers throughout the year, but never sets fruits[ 303 ]. There are two main groups that can be distinguished in cultivated ylang ylang plants:- cv. Group Cananga (forma macrophylla Steenis), flowers are the source of cananga oil; branches perpendicular to the stem; leaves 20 cm x 10 cm; cultivated in Java, Fiji and Samoa[ 303 ]. Cv. Group Ylang-ylang (forma genuina Steenis), the source of ylang-ylang oil; branches more drooping; leaves smaller; probably originating from the Philippines and cultivated throughout the tropics[ 303 ]. When the buds open, the flowers are not yet fragrant and the petals are green and covered with white hairs; the petals enlarge, become glabrous and turn from green to yellow after 15 - 20 days and then the flowers emit their powerful and agreeable odour, discernible at a distance[ 303 ]. Both cultivated and wild trees flower throughout the year, but with marked seasonal peaks after periods of dry weather[ 303 ]. The tree is often pruned to 3 m height to make oil harvesting more easy. Flowers all year round. The flowers are picked early in the morning then the oil is extracted by steam distillation . Ylang-ylang has been cultivated in temperate climates under conservatory conditions.

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - Fresh seed germinates erratically, however, after 6-12 months storage the germination rate is higher [303]. Pre-soaking the seed in hot water can increase germination rates[ 303 ]. Plants may be raised in nursery beds, but should be handled with great care during transplanting to avoid damage to the long taproot[ 303 ]. Direct sowing is common and seed is placed 5cm deep in well-cultivated and fertilized planting pits of at least 50cm depth[ 303 ]. Cuttings

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Ylang Ylang or Cananga odorata. Other Names: Apurvachampaka, Cananga, Chettu sampang, Ilang-ilang, Kananga, Karumugai, Kradanga, Lanalana, Llang-Llang, Macassar Oil Tree, Maso'oi, Moso'oi, Muso'oi, Perfume Tree, Sa'o.

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Found In: Andamans, Angola, Asia, Australia, Burma, Central Africa, Central America, Colombia, Comoros, Cook Is., Costa Rica, East Africa, Fiji, Guam, Haiti, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Kenya, Kosrae, Laos, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Niue, Pacific, Palau, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Samoa, Seychelles, SE Asia, Solomon Islands, Tahiti, Tanzania, Thailand, Tonga, USA, Vietnam.

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Possibly weedy or invasive. Some reports of problems in the Caribbean.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed.

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


Expert comment


(Lam.) Hook.f. & Thomson

Botanical References

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here
A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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