Cananga Odorata or Ylang ylang Tree is reaching 15-20 m tall, trunk to 40 cm dbh, bark smooth, gray, branches spreading horizontally, new growth minutely puberulent, glabrate, branchlets brown, lenticellate. Leaves distichous, blade narrowly ovate to oblong-elliptic, (5-)10-22 cm long, 2.5-9 cm wide, chartaceous, dark green when fresh, oblong to lanceolate or elliptic, with 5-10 pairs of lateral veins, glabrous or glabrate above, hirtellous-strigulose especially along costa and veins beneath, apex acute to short acuminate, base rounded or obtuse.
Flowers axillary or ramigerous on spur shoots, solitary or usually in loose, sometimes branched cymes of 4-20 flowers, fragrant when fresh, axes hirtellous, pedicels 30-40 mm long; sepals 3, 5-6 mm long, 4-5 mm wide, ovate, apex acute, both surfaces densely and finely puberulent; petals 6, 5-8 cm long, 0.3-0.8 cm wide, yellowish green, linear-oblong, somewhat narrowed at base, apex acute, long tapering, both surfaces finely hirtellous-strigulose; stamens numerous, 2 mm long, clavate with conical apiculate apex; gynoecium apocarpus with numerous, hirtellous carpels borne on flat receptacle surface. Carpels few to many per receptacle, on stipes 15-20 mm long, each fruit 1.5-2 cm long, 1.3-1.4 cm in diam., broadly ellipsoid to broadly obovoid, purple-black and juicy when ripe. Seeds 6-12, small, ovoid-discoid, pale brown.
The species is commonly cultivated in tropical regions for its use as an ornamental roadside or garden tree, in food flavouring, as a timber source and for the essential oils which are extracted from its fully opened flowers. It is for the essential oils that the species is considered a good agroforestry species and was introduced to non-native places including Guam, Comoros Island, Reunion Island and Fiji.
The flowers provide two essential oils, ylang-ylang oil, used in expensive perfumery and cananga oil, used in cheaper perfumes and for scenting soaps. Statistics from the late 1980s reported the world production of Cananga odorata oil to be an estimated $7 billion for ylang-ylang oil and $1.35 billion for cananga oil.
The flowers of Cananga odorata are often used in traditional ceremonies, to adorn and scent hair, and as decorations in celebrations and festivals. The bark can be used to make coarse rope in Sulawesi but its wood is non-durable and mainly used to make boxes.
The species is also known to be sold and used for folk medicine. Medicinal uses include treatment of boils, as a carminative, for treatment of cephalgia, diarrhea, gout, malaria, eye problems, rheumatism and as an emmenagogue.
Ylang-Ylang: used to treat headaches, nausea, and skin conditions