Ylang ylang is a starfish-shaped, octopus-like fragrant flower that most people are unfamiliar with, starting with its name itself.
The word "ylang ylang" comes from Tagalog "alang ilang" with an uncertain meaning of "dangling fluttering blooms" or "wilderness". It evokes the strange flowers with six elongated drooping greenish-yellow petals of 2 inches long, originally from South East Asia.
The specie is called Cananga odorata from magnolia plant family, a tree that grows up into 2 different types. Up to 30 metres as a tree or shorter as a vine. Which is quite unusual!
Originally from Indonesian rainforests, ylang-ylang has been discovered in 1740 in Malaysia by French botanist Pierre Poivre. It was introduced in 1909 in the former French colony of Madagascar, then the Comoros. Till the beginning of the 20th century, the production of ylang-ylang oil was concentrated in the Philippines, Indonesia, South India and Madagascar, but since the 50s, the Indian Ocean region became the major production area with Madagascar and, especially the Comoros, where ylang-ylang oil is the major export good.
Ylang ylang is a very high-yield perfume plant. Each tree provides 20 kilos flowers per year, all year long, and this for 50 years, so half a century! It makes one of the most prolific perfume plant. Without it, modern perfumery would not have existed as ylang ylang is one of the main components of Chanel Number 5 and Guerlain perfumes, if not the Real Queen of perfumery.