One of many reasons for clearing several acres at False Bluff was to be able to plant things I wanted to live with. I left all of the coconut trees and planted several hundred more. I left and pruned selected clusters of sea grapes.
And I planted more than a dozen Ylang Ylang trees. The 'cananga odorata' thrives in lowland tropical areas and was common at one time in this part of Nicaragua. Two women here, one who grew up in Bluefields and one in Pearl Lagoon, told me that when they were little girls they would pick the tree's star-shaped yellow flowers and soak them in alcohol...and wore the scent that was thus distilled. We all laughed when I told them that the essential oil of the Ylang Ylang flower is said to be the basis for Channel No. 5 perfume: they enjoy knowing they'd been so sophisticated so young.
I've had an Ylang Ylang tree in a pot at home in Virginia for years. I'm pretty sure it'll never bloom because the tree has a tap root and even in a really large, deep pot there's just so much space for that root; but I like the plant simply because of the way it looks. The branches sweep down toward the ground like the skirt on a ballerina and the pointed oval leaves are emerald green.
The tree begins blooming young and planted in a place it likes, a young Ylang Ylang can grow as much as five or six feet a season. When an agricultural technician from a nearby farm saw them he was pleased and surprised because the Ylang Ylang has nearly disappeared from around here. Propagation can be tricky with fairly low seed germination and almost no success from cuttings. Recovering from a rough trip across Nicaragua to get to False Bluff, the trees are babies that so far seem to enjoy having been put into sunny deep soil.