Ylang Ylang

Posted on Friday 11 April 2008

Ylang Ylang is produced from Cananga odorata trees grown in plantations, in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, where they rarely reach heights above 2.5 metres. Plantation trees are cropped so they spread rather than grow tall, as the branches are brittle, and climbing them can cause damage to the tree, flowers and the picker!

Plantation trees are grown from seeds of highly productive trees, and are planted during the rainy season. They have a long tap-root, which can be easily damaged through transplanting, so great care is taken to the plant the trees when they are about 80cm tall, in the place where they are intended to grow. Ylang Ylang trees do not reach maturity until they are 4-5 years, and are pruned every 2 months for the rest of their life cycle, which can be up to 70 years of age.

The first flowers appear after 2 years. The flowers are initially white, and change to yellow as they mature. A fully mature flower has two red spots on the inside of the flower, an indication that the flower is ready to be picked.

The flowers have six long slender petals, which droop from a stem protecting their red centres. They extend along the branches in equal strands of 2 to 20 buds. The large leaves hang suspended from the branch below them. A fully mature tree produces from 5-100kg of flowers every year depending on conditions, but the amount of oil extracted decreases as the tree gets older.

The flowers have to be hand picked, as they damage easily and only mature flowers produce oil. The flowers are hand picked early in the morning and brought directly to the still before 10am.

Flower picking occurs all year round, however higher yields are usually obtained from May to July and November to December. The annual rainfall needs to be a minimum of 3000mm, otherwise the amount of oil produced by each flower drops significantly.

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