The Legend of Ylang Ylang (Perfume Tree)
The flowers of ylang-ylang or perfume tree aren't just highly sweet scented but unusual as well in shape, unlike any other flowers, the flowers droops down like human fingers. The strong sweet scent makes the flowers of cananga odorata highly regarded in aromatherapy, even in making perfumes. This is why one of the common names of the ylang ylang is the "perfume tree." And for some reason, looking at an ylang-ylang flower reminds me of either a star or the starfish because of its shape.
Ylang-ylang flowers are made into leis in the Philippines and worn in different kind of occasions, whether it's a graduation, a party, or for welcoming visitors and tourists. It is often sold near churches as well for churchgoers. The sweet aroma of the fresh flower is inviting. Even the dried cluster of flowers still has the fragrant in them. Students love tucking ylang-ylang flowers in their books and notes, and I think I had done it myself too when I was in high school. Somehow it is comforting seeing that ylang-ylang flower while flipping into notes when it was already forgotten of being there.
But why is the ylang-ylang or prefume tree sweet scented? There is an interesting legend that might just have the answer to that as well as to the flowers unusual shape.
A long time ago, the goddesses are in charge of selecting which of the trees are worth their blessing to bear flowers. Some of the lucky trees which they blessed are the calachuchi tree, katuray or the scarlet wisteria, the mango tree, the adelfa and many others.
But there's this one tree which hadn't been blessed to bear flowers. That is the ylang-ylang tree.
This made ylang-ylang so sad as the tree also wants to bear flowers. Ylang-ylang overheard its fellow trees nearby proudly talking about their beautiful flowers to one another. The neighboring trees became boastful as each one believes they are prettier than one another.
"Trees that doesn't flower should be cut down instead. That would be useful on home building or for firewood," ylang-ylang overheard the other trees talking. This made the ylang-ylang tree sorrowful. The poor tree cries at night as no one would be able to hear the sobs, specially the boastful neighboring trees.
It rained so hard one day. It looks as if a storm is on its way. All the flowering trees prepared for the storm they are all expecting to come that day. The trees clang tightly on the ground and their flowers to the trunks so their precious flowers won't get carried away by the strong wind and rain. On the other hand, the ylang-ylang is so unconcerned as it doesn't have any flowers to worry about.
While the rain keep on pouring, there are two woolly worms at the distance looking for a shelter from the furious weather. Both had already asked few of the trees if there's one that will be willing to help them and give them shelter. But all the trees they asked turned them down, specially those with flowers.
"You two would surely eat up our leaves, and not only our leaves, you probably will eat our flowers too," said the flowering trees.
The poor woolly worms left, with the fear that anytime the rising water would surely carry them away.
The ylang-ylang heard the flowering trees drove the two worms away so the flowerless tree called both out loud.
"Hey, why don't you two stay in my trunks? Make yourself comfortable and you're free to eat my leaves for as long as you want," ylang-ylang told the woolly worms. The kind tree thought that the life of the two worms are more important than its leaves and its flowerless trunks.
It took few days before the storm ceased. Every tree was excited and happy when the sun showed up. Ylang-ylang was checking its trunks, looking for its new friends, the woolly worms. But it saddened the tree as the woolly worms wasn't on the trunks anymore, they might got carried away by the wind. Both are nowhere to be found.
But the kind tree saw something else on one of its trunks, something clings on the trunk that looks like flowers. Alas! It was the ylang-ylang's friends. On the middle of the storm, the two woolly worms had transformed to be beautiful butterflies!
The goddesses found out the good deed the ylang-ylang tree had done.
With a good news, they visited ylang-ylang. They are going to give the gracious tree a reward for thinking about helping others first instead of itself.
"Ylang-ylang, from now on you will bear flowers just like the folded wings of the butterflies that you sheltered," said the goddesses.
But not only that, the flowers of the fortunate ylang-ylang tree has a sweet fragrant that can be smelled on the entire woodland.
This made ylang-ylang very happy. From then on, the ylang-ylang is one of those fragrant flowers that is always admired and appreciated because of its sweet scented flowers, earning the ylang-ylang the title 'Flowers of flowers.'
Have you ever seen and smelled an ylang-ylang flower?
Did you know?
* Other names for ylang-ylang is cananga tree, fragrant cananga, perfume tree and is called kenanga in Indonesia.
* Its name ylang-ylang is derived from Tagalog, (Philippines language) and could either pertain to the word "ilang" (the wilderness) or "ilang-ilan," (which means rare.)
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