Cananga odorata

Cananga odorata




Uvaria odorata Lamk, Canangium odoratum (Lamk) Baillon, Cananga scortechinii King.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Kenanga, chenanga, kenanga utan (Wild forms).
English Ylang-ylang, cananga, perfume tree.
Indonesia Kananga (General), kenanga (Javanese), sepalen (Moluccas).
Philippines Ylang-ylang, ilang-ilang, alangilang.
Burma(Myanmar) Kadatngan, kadapgnam, sagasein.
Cambodia Chhkesreng.
Thailand Kradangnga-thai (Central), kradangnga-songkhla (Central, var.fruticosa), sabannga-ton (Northern).
Vietnam Ng[oj]c Ian t[aa]y, ho[ai]ng lan, ylang ylang.
French Ylang-ylang, cananga.

Geographical Distributions

C. odorata is thought to originate from South-East Asia and occurs naturally throughout South-East Asia, Australia and several Pacific islands. It has been introduced into China, India, Africa and the Americas.


This is an evergreen tree between 10-40 m tall.  In cultivation it is often pruned to 3 m. The trunk is up to 75 cm in diametre, without buttresses. The bark is pale grey or silvery and smooth. The branches are drooping, or slightly erect with dangling leafy twigs. The young twigs are minutely hairy and becoming hairless.

Leaves are alternate and regularly arranged in two opposite rows on either side of an axis, simple and without stipule. The stalk is slender, 1-2 cm long, narrowly grooved and hairy. The blade is 13-29 cm x 4-10 cm, elliptical to ovate-oblong. The base is often oblique and rounded heart-shaped. The margin is more or less undulating, apex is acutely acuminate, thin and semi-transparent. The midrib and lateral veins are mostly covered with whitish-hairs on both sides. The 8-9 pairs of secondary veins in are clearly visible on both sides. It is often with small, hairy and pitted glands in vein axils.

Inflorescence is raceme, 1-4 cm long, with 2-6 flowers on short, leafless, arising from axils shoots, dangling in clusters of 1-3 from the older branches behind the leaves. The flowers are 5-7.5 cm long, bisexual, green turning light dull yellow and overpoweringly fragrant when mature. The stalk of individual flower is 2-5 cm long with 3 5-7 mm x 5 mm egg-shaped and abruptly bent sepals. There are 6 petals in 2 whorls of 3, linear-lance-shaped size 3-9 cm x 5-16 mm. It is often curled or wavy, with purple brown spot on the base’s interior. The stamens are numerous, closely arranged, linear, 2-3 mm long, with a broad, cone-shaped connective appendix. There is no abortive stamen.

The fruits are numerous, with slender style and discoid stigma. Fruit is pendulous, consisting of many (7-16) separate, spherical-reverse egg-shaped monocarps, on 2.5 cm x 1.5 cm on 1-2 cm long stalk. The monocarp is dark green, blackish when it is ripe, 2-12-seeded and embedded in yellow oily pulp arranged in 2 rows.

Seed is flattened, ellipsoid size 9 mm x 6 mm x 2.5 mm, pale brown, surface pitted, hard and with a rudimentary aril.

Ecology / Cultivation

C. odorata thrives in the more humid lowland tropics with an annual rainfall of (650-)1500-2000(-4000) mm and an average annual temperature of 21-27°C. In Java it grows gregariously in moist evergreen forest and in teak forest. In New Guinea it grows up to 850 m altitude. When planted it is found up to 1200 m. It grows well on light, well-drained soils with pH 4.5-8, preferring rich volcanic or fertile sandy soils. Because of the long taproot, deep soils are required. Waterlogging for prolonged periods, but not permanent marshy conditions is tolerated; saline and alkaline soils should be avoided.

Line Drawing / Photograph


Read More

  1) Essential Oil


  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 19: Essential-oil plants.