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Essential Oil Crops

E.A. Weiss
Agricultural Adviser

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First published 1997

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Introduction vii
Acknowledgements xi

1. World Trade in Essential Oils 1

2. Annonaceae 10
Cananga 10

3. Geraniaceae 24
Pelargonium 24
Geranium 50

4. Gramineae 59
Citronella 67
Lemongrass 86
Palmarosa and Gingergrass 103
Vetiver 117

5. Lamiaceae 138
Patchouli 138

6. Lauraceae 155
Camphor 156
Cassia 168
Cinnamon 180
Sassafras 195
Ocotea 198
Laurel 200
Litsea cubeba 207

7. Myristicaceae 214
Nutmeg 215

Vi Contents

8. Myrtaceae 235
Clove 235
Euclayptus 259
Melaleuca 302
Leptospermum 319
Pimenta 322
Myrtle 333

9. Oleaceae 342
Jasmine 342
Osmanthus 359

10. Piperaceae 362

Pepper 363
Cubeb Pepper 384
Betel Pepper 386

11. Rosaceae 393

Rose 394

12. Rutaceae 417

Lime 435
Bitter Orange 444
Bergamot Orange 459
Lemon 464
Grapefruit 475
Mandarin 482
Sweet Orange 49 1
Boronia 501
West Indian Sandalwood 504

13. Santalaceae 516

Sandalwood 516

14. Zingiberaceae 539

Ginger 539

15. Distilling and Extracting Essential Oils 568

Glossary 579

Index 585

Plants producing an aromatic oil, fruit, or seed were used in religious

ceremonies or for personal use and adornment long before recorded history,
and remain popular for similar reasons. Words derived from their use,
including perfume from the Latinperfumum and alembic from the Arabic al-
inbic, are in common use.
The Vedic literature written in India around 2000 BC lists hundreds of
aromatic substances including cinnamon, ginger and sandalwood, and the
Rig Veda describes their use for religious and medical purposes. Aromatics
were considered more than perfumes, as in languages of the region atar
means smoke, wind, odour and essence. Probably the most well documented
and certainly the best known ancient use of a wide range of aromatic materials
was in dynastic Egypt. The gums and oils employed in embalming are
detectable today, together with the remains of scented unguents contained in
ornate funerary jars and cosmetic pots found in the Pharoah’s tombs.
The Greeks profited from Egyptian knowledge and experience in the use
of aromatics, but the Romans exceeded the Greeks in their extravagant use
of these materials especially oils. Romans recognized three basic perfumery
types: solid unguents ladysmata, scented oils stymmata, and perfumed pow-
ders diapasmata. Herodotus, around 425 BC, was the first to record the
distillation of turpentine, and his books provide information about perfumes
and aromatics then used in the Middle East. A detailed study of the source
and use of some six hundred plants and aromatics used by the Greeks and
Romans in the 1st century AD was compiled by Pedanius Dioscorides in his
De materia medica. Hippocrates, born about 460 BC, prescribed perfumed
fumigations and fomentations; one of the most famous compounded from
myrrh, cinnamon and cassia was named megaleion for its original maker
Megallus, and like a similar Egyptian remedy, the kyphi, was used as
perfume, to alleviate skin inflammations, and pain of battle wounds.
There is also an ancient link between perfume and sensuality; in Persia,
Greece and Rome, youths and girls wearing only fragrant flowers and

viii introduction

anointed with aromatic oils danced for the erotic pleasure of guests at ruler’s
feasts. Solomon, King of Israel, in his oft-quoted Song described the
exquisitely smelling ointments that stirred young maidens to love, and who
perfumed his bed with essences of myrrh, aloes and cinnamon; a common
contemporary practice by women wishing to attract a lover. It is recorded
that the great general Hannibal had good reason to regret the relationship;
after crossing the Alps and defeating the Romans he quartered his army in
Capua, capital of Campania. Defeated Romans corrupted his idle troops
and quickly made the town a trading centre for perfumes, aromatic oils and
associated sexual excess - practices which spread rapidly throughout the
Today the association between perfumes and sexual attractiveness con-
tinues to be exploited in the electronic and print media and names of major
perfumes; while insects and some animals disperse a pheromone to attract a
The author has long been interested in aromatic plants, and wherever
possible introduced them into research programmes or integrated their
production into agricultural projects under his control. The crops selected
are those the author believes should be encouraged in countries where cash
crops are limited, or outside inputs to raise rural incomes difficult to obtain.
For this reason the important pine oils have not been included, since these
are frequently produced in more developed countries. It is emphasized that
this book is basically concerned with growing essential oil plants to obtain an
aromatic derivative, and not with essential oils per se.
Oil is contained in specialized structures in all or some plant parts: cavities
or ducts in the epidermis as in eucalyptus leaves or citrus fruit peel; glands or
hairs originating from epidermal cells as in the modified leaf hairs on
geranium. Why plants secrete oils or waxes has yet to be fully explained,
although certain activities can reasonably be attributed to their presence; to
deter browsing animals, as an insect repellent or to increase disease resist-
ance, while terpenes leached from eucalyptus leaves contribute to allelo-
pathic effects on the forest floor thus inhibiting germination and growth of
competitors. Highly scented oil contained in flowers is the exception, and
generally accepted as an aid to reproduction by attracting pollinators. Hence
the recommendation to integrate bee-keeping into commercial production
of essential oil crops whenever possible, as the author demonstrated most
profitably with certain oilseeds, and why honey production has been men-
tioned where applicable.
While the advantage to plants of their oil remains unclear, so also is the
mode of action of essential oils in phytotherapy. It would appear the
lipophilic character of compounds in oils could be responsible for the broad
spectrum of biological activities; however, to massage oils into the human
skin as in aromatherapy is of little therapeutic value, although it may induce
a feeling of sensual well-being!
lntroduction ix

The plant metabolic processes involved in oil secretion, the rate it occurs,
the biosynthetic pathways determining its composition and evolution of
various components, require further investigation. The detailed composi-
tion of many essential oils, however, has been published in the literature, and
reviews such as those of Dr Brian Lawrence are a valuable reference
Oil composition, especially the terpene components, is now important in
plant classification as chemotaxonomy, since physical characters may be
virtually impossible to differentiate. The increasing precision of analytical
techniques, including enantioselective gas chromatography, allows very
accurate determination of oil composition. How this is linked to odour is
debatable, and assessing oil odour remains highly subjective. However,
determining a specific constituent or formulation is possible using an elec-
tronic nose, which is an array of chemical sensors linked to a neural network
(see Chapter 15).
Biotechnology can influence the breeding or development of essential oil
plants, and could theoretically produce plants containing oil of a required
composition or odour. It is also possible agronomically to modify a partic-
ular oil by varying the time of harvest, and thus regulating the abundance of
a specific constituent. Genetic manipulation can be commercially successful
as demonstrated on a fatty oil by scientists at CSIRO in Australia, who
successfully modified linseed to produce an edible oil, linola (Weiss, 1993).
French plant breeders have also used these techniques to alter the natural
scent of jasmine and rose flowers to produce novel odours aimed directly at
the fragrance industry.
Certain components of essential oils can be replaced by relatively cheap
synthetics, and although such compounds are useful in what are virtually
industrial products such as soft drinks, few are able fully to duplicate the
natural essence. Additionally, there is considerable worldwide pressure by
consumers on manufacturers to use what are perceived to be natural
compounds in edible and personal products. T o take advantage of this and
similar trends, growers in all countries must upgrade agricultural methods
and improve management techniques to either increase yield or raise profita-
bility. A range of suitable agricultural equipment is now available, including
a variety of small manually-operated machines, computer-controlled seed-
ers and transplanters, and integrated harvestingidistilling combinations.
Semi-automatic fruit pickers are available, and citrus-picking robots in-
dicate future trends.
Weed control should incorporate rotations and efficient use of herbicides,
which remain important and economical, while application machinery is
continually improving including weed-detecting sprayers. Integrated pest
management can reduce the amount of chemicals applied, since some
adversely affect oil characteristics or odour. Improvements in soil manage-
ment, especially irrigation techniques, could be more widely applied. Water
X Introduction

conservation will become of increasing importance as conflict between end

users for a share will intensify as human populations rise. In less developed
countries, provision of credit, greater use of cooperatives and more efficient
but not necessarily more expensive distilling methods should be intro-
It has been argued that growth in demand for naturally produced oils and
flavourings will slow, and there is little point in advocating their increased
production. This is not the view of many in the fragrance and flavour
industry (Grisanti, 1993) nor is it held by the author, since international
market studies predict consumption of flavours and fragrances will exceed
US$ 8 billion by the year 2000. It is important that developed countries
deliberately support essential oil production in those less developed if only in
self-interest, since this will reduce demand for aid and assist in limiting the
North-South confrontation. Governments in producer countries should
also support their growers by taking advantage of the world consumer
demand for natural products to expand their markets, and in so doing add
emphasis to the advantages of ‘Trade Not Aid!’.

Notes on the Text

The chapters were not written in numerical order since the book has had a
fairly long gestation. Thus the reader may be referred to operations or
techniques in a subsequent not preceding chapter. Essential oil has been
retained since it is generally understood by producers, traders and users,
rather than the sometimes more accurate volatile oil. Regrettably, there is a
lack of uniformity in the amount of information and data between the crops
discussed mainly due to absence of published material; hence the personal
comments and inclusion of somewhat dated but still-relevant material.
Certain important omissions, however, were due to refusal by authors or
publishers to release copyright material. The section heading Distillation has
been retained for conformity but includes other methods of obtaining oils,
concretes etc.; there is also a minor level of repetition for clarity. Cultivar is
used in its accepted definition, but for brevity to also include what are
described in the literature as selections, strains and local varieties; but
chemovar (chemical variety) or chemotype as necessary.
Two aspects of the essential oil industry are worth noting. Trade names
are frequently unrelated to either geographic or botanic origin and may be
deliberately misleading! Equally confusing are the various terms employed
to describe oil odour, quoted for reference, which remain a controversial and
subjective aspect of oil evaluation.

The author wishes to acknowledge, with thanks, permission to use the

following photographs and diagrams: Prof. J.E. Armstrong, Illinois State
University 7.2, 7.3, 7.4; Buderim Ginger Ltd, Queensland, Australia, 14.3;
Dr Manziri-i-Khuda, BCSIR, Bangladesh, 4.9; Mr B. Meyer-Warnod
Camilli, Albert and Lalone, France 9.2, 15.4, 15.5, 15.6, 15.7; Mr A.
Mohamed, Always, India 4.12; Dr F.S. Pallisco, Forest Research Institute,
Laguna, Philippines 2.2; Mr B. Perera, Colombo, Sri Lanka 6.3, 6.5; Prof.
M. Salvarjan, Madurai Agricultural College, India, 5.1; Mr. T. Sato, Japan
Flavour & Fragrance Manufacturers Association 4.13; Dr B.E.J. Small,
Department of Agriculture, NSW, Australia 8.1 1, 8.12; D r V. Topalov,
Plovdiv, Bulgaria 1 1.3; Department of Agriculture, NSW, Australia 8.9,
8.10; the Department of Agriculture, Western Australia 13.4.
The author also wishes to express his appreciation to all those people he
met or corresponded with, who gave valuable information or related their
experience growing essential oil crops, from smallholders to large producers.
Others have been mentioned as authors of published works, or whose private
communications are directly quoted. T o all these my most grateful thanks,
not only for the information but also for the opportunity to meet so many,
most interesting, people. Finally to my son John for his invaluable help in
locating references, and to my wife Winnie who typed the text and assisted in
the editing. Any errors are due to a virus!

World Trade
in Essential Oils 1
Total production of essential oils and aromatic plant derivatives is almost
impossible to quantify, as considerable amounts may be used nationally
without being recorded in production statistics; India and the ASEAN
countries for example. National trade statistics can also be variously in-
terpreted as they may include several oils under one designation, may be
collected by different ministries, and are frequently very inaccurate. The
following tables and comments are a general indication of world trends, and
considered sufficient to support the text. The period to publication of a book
of this type outdates annual statistics, and retrospective data (UNCTAD,
1982, 1986; Lawrence, 1984), while comprehensive, is of historical interest
only in a rapidly changing industry, and marketing executives normally
commission their own confidential surveys. An example of a significant and
fast change in the market followed establishment of the North American
Free Trade Area in 1994. Mexican citrus oils, particularly lime, thus enjoy
preferential treatment and local production rapidly expanded at the expense
of former suppliers. China’s production of rose derivatives in particular has
greatly expanded, and now rivals traditional European producers.
Major producers of aromatic materials discussed herein are, in alpha-
betical order, the ASEAN countries, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia
and the USA, but their relative ranking in terms of volume or value varies
according to product. However, China is becoming increasingly important
as a primary source since it remains one of the few countries with a huge
reservoir of low-paid labour, a major advantage in the production of many
aromatics, especially where flowers are the raw material (Zhao, 1993).
Calculated world usage of flavour and fragrance materials of natural origin
in 1984 and 1994 is shown in Table 1.1.
The member states of the European Union (EU) and Switzerland are the
largest world market for aromatic materials; many are imported, reprocessed
and re-exported and there is a significant internal trade. There are historical
reasons why the EU is a large consumer of essential oils, France in particular
is a long-established centre of the European perfume industry, but recently

2 Chapter 1

Table 1.1. World usage of flavour and fragrance materials of natural origin in
1984 and 1994 (US$ millions).

Aromatic material 1984 1994

Fragrance compounds 2000 3000
Flavour compounds 2000 3000
Aroma chemicals 1000 1600
Essential oils and derivatives 1000 1400
Total 6000 9000

flavourings have become more important. Following formation of the origi-

nal European Community many international companies established large
manufacturing plants to take advantage of regional trade preferences, and
tend to source their raw materials directly from producing countries. Major
EU imports (in alphabetical not volume ranking) are citronella, citrus, clove,
eucalyptus, lemongrass, mint, patchouli, rose and vetiver oils and their
derivatives. Table 1.2 shows the average annual imports of selected essential
oils by some European countries and Japan.
The USA is the world's largest single-country importer of aromatic
materials, followed by Japan, and thus prices to the USA generally establish
a world level. Imports for the years 1985, 1990-1991 are shown in Table
1.3A and 1992-1994 in Table 1.3B., which cover major products; Table
1.4. indicates the changes in import volume of selected oils from 1950 to
1990. The USA is also the world's largest user of citrus oils, and the Pepsi
Cola Co. of New York estimated the average annual domestic and world use
in beverages in recent years to be as shown in Table 1.5.

Table 1.2. Average annual imports of selected essential oils 1980-1990 (in tonnes).

Oil France Germany Netherlands UK Japan

Citronella 407(-1) 129(-1) 125 215 228( t 3 )
Eucalyptus 672(tl) 285(t1) 56(tl) 275jt1) 36
Geranium 47 "g ng 28(+1) 15
Lemon 328(t 1) 177 80(+1) 520(tl) 165(t1)
Mint" ng ng ng 617(t 2) 578
Orange 1374(t 2) 1730 470 101O( t 2) 30654t I )
Patchouli ng ng ng ng 27(tl)
Peppermint 823(t 1) ng ng ng ng
Spearmint ng ng ng ng 80
Vetiver 103(+ 1) 7 5 14(-1) 10
aother than specified; ng, not given.
Note trend in parentheses: t denotes up with number indicating degree (3 maximum): - denotes
down with number indicating degree (3 maximum); no sign = relatively static.
Source: International Trade Centre UnctadiGAll Geneva.
World Trade in Essential Oils 3

For c o m p a r i s o n , t h e S c h i m m e l R e p o r t of 1936 l i s t s total world p r o d u c -

t i o n of m a j o r c i t r u s o i l s in 1935, in t o n s with l e a d i n g oil p r o d u c e r s in
b r a c k e t s , as: l e m o n 750 (Italy), s w e e t o r a n g e 400 (Italy, Brazil, Jamaica,
USA), b i t t e r o r a n g e 5 (Italy, Spain), b e r g a m o t 170 (Italy, USA), l i m e t t e 35

Table 1.3A. United States imports of specified essential oils, 1985, 1990-1991,

1985 1990 1991

Oil Kilograms $ 1 0 0 0 ~ Kilograms $ 1 0 0 0 ~ Kilograms $1000~
Anise 18,976 177 20,391 247 64,702 768
Bergamot 31.423 657 40,605 3584 38,939 3858
Caraway 6008 197 8622 21 1 6672 21 6
Cassia 251,380 11,780 333,189 10,577 493,360 11,826
Cedarwood 169,626 415 460,953 1904 288,451 1776
Citronella 621,317 2402 504,120 1870 355,711 1412
Citrus 159,279 2561 178,288 2789
Clove 588,912 2211 366,047 1191 474,979 1814
Cornmint 134,199 1546 191,005 1837 359,677 2775
Eucalyptus 226,163 1023 377,932 2332 326,358 1709
Geranium 48,928 2589 61,922 2234 49,523 2045
Grapefruit 85,919 230 259,814 1539 295,065 1537
Jasmine - - 2329 1798 10,721 1898
Lavender 61,594 909 334,857 4847 403,101 5799
Lemon 998,117 12,471 1,368,054 18,698 1490,998 22,295
Lemongrass 61,471 396 56,175 578 37,193 330
Lime 622,973 13,486 852,748 12,768 970,635 13,038
Linaloe 66,255 641 27,960 822 28,193 91 1
Mint - - 36,135 445 94,814 720
Nutmeg 108,541 1995 105,751 1630 152,649 1289
Onion and garlic 6065 745 45,114 2938 54,205 3867
Orange 4,465,738 6330 6,546,542 9895 3,719,572 5726
Orris 21 60 636 1068 1458 2848 1841
Patchouli 247,148 4460 266,960 4253 246,096 3421
Peppermint 2652 95 15,524 293 25,293 527
Petitgrain 79,080 1297 69,607 2199 100,553 2916
Pine 72,547 69 1,553,161 1107 86,845 140
Rose 2648 681 1 3973 6358 4499 6027
Rosemary 33,600 308 48,792 616 54,882 782
Sandalwood 25,272 2754 29,377 4361 18,965 2471
Sassafras 458,610 1718 326,270 1060 192,837 1046
Spearmint 12,167 163 148,704 2704 186,171 3540
Vetiver 70,662 2865 85,348 3373 41,106 1512
Ylang-ylang 42,216 1448 37,913 3178 46,310 3333
Other oils 1,366,726 25,470 1,853,505 35,241 1,633,610 38,581
Total 10,989,093 108,294 16,599,746 150,707 12,533,821 154,535
Source: US Department of Commerce.
4 Chapter 1

(Spain, Dominican Republic), mandarin 25 (USA), petitgrain 85 (Para-

guay) and neroli 140 (France).

Table 1,3B. United States imports of specified essential oils, 1992-1994

1992 1993 1994

Total Dollars Total Dollars Total Dollars
Oil kgs /kg kgs ikg kgs ikg
Anise 53,557 9.94 49,455 8.10 70,399 7.99
Bergamot 42,362 89.29 37,821 62.48 37,970 42.34
Caraway 6557 32.15 10,878 37.86 5546 37.25
Cassia 445,091 33.96 385,158 42.78 473,738 37.09
Cedarwood 365,855 3.49 338,179 5.01 557,895 5.34
Citronella 567,597 3.99 885,843 4.46 626,l 07 7.61
Citrus 231,612 10.49 358,230 8.00 205,115 13.96
Clove 336,278 4.57 462,770 3.21 463,017 4.14
Cornmint 292,935 6.07 248,841 4.65 258,096 6.26
Eucalyptus 347,241 4.56 454,152 4.09 465,252 2.99
Geranium 53,074 37.1 1 64,251 45.52 82,707 56.95
Grapefruit 205,981 5.64 178,501 7.46 272,261 9.55
Jasmine 351 5 500.08 10,716 183.63 10,329 202.10
Lavender 484,628 14.27 417,518 14.98 339,621 14,67
Lemon 1,721,645 16.20 1,406,479 16.37 1,368,513 16.73
Lemongrass 86,608 6.69 67,796 7.07 79,963 8.29
Lime 1,037,955 13.88 756,724 17.53 864,563 17.55
Linaloe 40,974 23.91 30,088 23.29 31,265 23.68
Mint 116,015 7.05 79,498 10.81 76,858 10.86
Nutmeg 191,952 10.41 109,520 8.54 181,242 9.75
Onion and garlic 44,629 80.49 73,563 70.95 117,799 28.51
Orange 9,989,360 1.23 11,908,627 1.36 14,880,881 1.58
Orris 3354 654.47 3387 812.73 8867 263.89
Patchouli 246,352 16.50 390,100 18.97 454,918 19.78
Peppermint 40,704 16.08 146,739 17.43 305,417 18.41
Petitgrain 96,694 27.42 76,507 26.27 94,528 29.71
Pine 505,370 0.73 2117 5.80 40,326 3.69
Rose 3140 2394.62 2504 2662.14 5443 1233.44
Rosemary 57,740 12.35 63,894 11.23 58,576 16.43
Sandalwood 28,716 109.79 31,052 105.66 26,398 139.02
Sassafras 335,837 7.96 250,880 4.09 242,350 3.76
Spearmint 240,265 13.20 31 8,487 9.48 426,144 12.17
Vetiver 29,777 39.36 48,434 57.71 51,997 48.21
Ylang-ylang 48,954 67.28 45,105 63.53 30,556 79.04
Other oils 1,363,058 36.82 2,214,041 21.08 2,221,913 20.53
Total 19,624,448,974 4,312.05 21,927,855 4,404.27 25,436,570 3,905.60
Source: Horticultural and Tropical Products Division, FASIUSDA.
World Trade in Essential Oils 5

Table 1.4. Imports of selected essential oils - USAa,

1950 1960 1970 1990

Citronella 1, I 84,100 952,000 1,224,200 504,100
Clove 130,000 202,200 451,200 366,000
Geranium ng 64,000 58,000 62,000
Lemongrass 263,300 668,500 163,400 56,200
Patchouli ng 55,600 141,000 267,000
Sandalwood 4300 24,300 52,500 29,400
Vetiver 18,300 24,800 78,000 85,400
aAll amounts in kilograms (rounded to nearest 100); ng, not given
Source: US Deoartment of Commerce.

Japan is the second largest national market accounting for about 10% of
world demand. There is little domestic production and major oil imports are
cedar, clove, lemon, orange and peppermint. Imports for the period 1984 to
1994 nearly quadrupled in volume from 6000 to 22,000 tonnes but, due to
a steady increase in the international value of the Yen, total value increased
by only one half from Yen 12 to Yen 18 billion. A major reason for the
increase in imports was a greatly expanded use in flavourings.
Caution is necessary in interpreting world trade statistics as it may appear
from published data there is a surplus of some oils or demand for others is
low, but a new entrant to essential oil production should not be discouraged.
An excellent example is that of the Tasmanian Natural Plant Extracts
Cooperative Society founded in 1990, which achieved export sales of nearly
AU$ 7 million in 1995. Agronomic techniques, plant breeding, product
promotion and marketing can be directly controlled by producers or their
organizations, to supply manufacturers who are continually seeking cheaper
ingredients, new products, new perfumes, new taste sensations, new what-
ever to drive the market!
Introduction of a novel oil, or expansion of an existing oil or derivative
available only in small amounts (i.e. osmanthus and boronia) offer profitable
niche markets, while a Zimbabwe grower has successfully concentrated on
producing organically-grown oils. A completely new associated market can

Table 1.5. The estimated average annual use of citrus oils in beverages (in tonnes).

Oil USA International

Lemonilime 850 1350
Orange 400 1900
Other 250 750
Cola 1040 900
Total 2540 4960
6 Chapter 1

also promote essential oil production. The export offresh jasmine flowers by
air from India to the Gulf States and Arabia, for example, resulted in
research into prolonging flower life and increasing oil odour and persistence,
all of considerable importance to concrete producers. Oil derivatives can
frequently be processed locally into higher value-added products, of partic-
ular relevance to developing countries. Many components, some in very low
amounts, have an important role in determining the sensory character of an
oil, while others in greater abundance can be extracted to improve quality or
reduce transport costs, and are themselves saleable.
Governments in developing countries should thus support independent
rural cooperatives as the most suitable system for increasing essential oil
production. Such societies provide a focus for introducing new methods,
obtaining credit, owning small processing plants, transport and marketing
facilities. It is vital to the success of such initiatives that the maximum of
locally available inputs be used, even if this reduces potential output to some
degree. It may, for example, result in greater use of manpower rather than
mechanical equipment, since the opportunity cost of labour in many devel-
oping countries is virtually nil.
It may also be profitable to concentrate on low-input techniques to obtain
a small quantity of high quality oil, or a larger amount of crude oil for local
processing. Traditional methods of crop production in underdeveloped
regions, although frequently outdated, often have a sound basis for their
continued use. Replacement by more modern techniques may well require
so great a social restructuring of the local community as to make the change
very difficult, sometimes virtually impossible, as the author well knows.
Where the introduction of farm or ancillary equipment is possible, the
emphasis should be on reliability, with oil quality the target rather than
quantity. Solar energy converters for instance are becoming more efficient,
and the equipment is not only relatively cheap with a low maintenance
requirement, but also can be easily transported and erected in remote areas.
Heating water for stills and reducing the need for wood or similar fuels is
only one use. Hot water for personal hygiene also generally improves
community health and thus the potential for increased manual labour.
As human populations increase so will pressure on available land to grow
food, fuel, or provide housing, and an important feature of essential oil
plants is that some local cultivars or landraces have drought resistance,
tolerance of saline soils or water, and thus are able to utilize environments
unsuitable for other crops. Large commercial plantations of many tropical
essential oil crops were unusual, mainly because of the labour intensive
methods previously necessary. Machinery and equipment now available,
together with the technology involved in its use, have radically altered the
potential for large-scale essential oil or spice production. Examples mentioned
in the text are eucalyptus, ginger, tea-tree, and some citrus species whose

Production of manufacturer
essential oils
as by-products .+


Flavour and


t c c c c
I f , I
Wholesaling networks


Fig. 1 -1, Structure of the international flavour and fragance industry, (Hunter, 1996.) NFDA, National
Food and Drug Administration; IFEAT, International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Traders;
FEMA, Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Association; IFRA, International Fragance Association; RIFM,
Research Institute for Fragrance Materials; IOFI, International Organization of Flavour Industries.
8 Chapter 1

production is now fully mechanized and plants selected or grown to be

incorporated in an integrated system, hedge-planting of lime for example.
There are often marked differences in oil obtained from the same plant
due to geographical origin, local environment, maturity at harvest, etc.
Singly or in combination all can affect plant oil content and composition, as
can field operations such as harvesting or distilling. Oil yield, composition
and character also change rapidly during growth, often from day-to-day, and
knowledge of and the ability to exploit these factors can greatly expand the
potential use of a particular plant by producing a range of different oils or
An understanding of the structure of the international flavour and fra-
grance industry is of great assistance (Fig 1. l), and described in a recent
review (Hunter, 1996). It must be emphasized that buyer requirements are
paramount in determining the commodity to be produced, and end-user
contacts a major factor in establishing their needs; thus it is vital that a
realistic production programme is based on reliable market research. It is
essential that producers, new or existing, should be able to service any
demand efficiently, economically and, above all, reliably. The author con-
siders there are basically no technical or management problems precluding
production of high-quality essential oils in suitable regions, and gloomy
forecasts should be regarded with scepticism. The Arabs used the trials and
tribulations of Sinbad the Sailor to deter European entry to the ancient spice
trade: today well publicized ‘difficulties’ may be used to discourage potential
producers (competitors?) from growing essential oil crops!


The following list includes references quoted in the introduction and this
chapter, important or interesting publications, or those covering aspects of
essential oils not discussed in this book. The proceedings of the various
international congresses on essential oils, fragrances and flavours also pro-
vide valuable information and references. Important periodicals directly
concerned with essential oils, associated products and their uses, are the
Journal of Essential Oil Research U.Ess. Oil R.), Perjhmer and Flavoriit
(Pe$um. Flav.) and Flavour & Fragrance Journal (Flav. Frag. J.). Access to
a computer also enables a wide range of databases to be consulted. Im-
portant industry organizations are the Research Institute for Fragrance
Materials (RIFAM), the Flavour and Extract Manufacturers Association
(FEMA), the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), the International
Organization of Flavour Industries (IOFI), and the International Federation
of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (IFEAT).
World Trade in Essential Oils 9

Atal, A.K. and Kapur, B.M. (1982) Cultivation and Utilization of Aromatic Plants.
CSIR, Jammu Tawi, India.
Arctander, S. (1960) Perfume and Flavour Materials of Natural Origin. ,Mrs M.G.
Arctander, 6665 Valley View Blvd, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Baerheim, S.A. and Scheffer, J.J.C. (1989) Essential Oils andAromatic Plants. Dr W.
Junk Publications, The Hague, The Netherlands.
Burkill, I.H. (1966) A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 2
vols. Government of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Grisanti, E.P. (1993) The challenges of a United Europe for the flavour and
fragrance industry. Perfum. Flav. 18(1), 3-7.
Guenther, E. (1 949-52) The Essential Oils (6 vols). D. van Nostrand Co., New York,
Hay, R.K.M. and Waterman, P.G. (1993) Volatile Oil Crops: their Biolosy, Bzo-
chemistry and Production. Longman, Harlow, Essex, UK.
Heath, H.B. (198 1) Source Book ofFlavours. The AV1 Pub. Co., Westport, Connecti-
cut, USA.
Husain, A. et al. (1988) Major Essential Oil-bearing Plants of India. Central. Inst.
Medic. & Aromatic Plts, Lucknow, India.
Hunter, M.V. (1996) The flavour and fragrance industry; structure and future
trends. Cosnzetzcs Aero. Toilet. 9(6), 20-31.
Lawless, J. (1992) The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. Element Books Ltd, Shaftes-
bury, Dorset, UK.
Lawrence, B.M. Reviews of Essential Oils. Published regularly in Perfumer and
Flavorist. Allured Pub. Corp., Wheaton, Illinois, USA.
Lawrence, B.M. (1984) A review of the world production of essential oils. Perfum.
Flav. 10(3), 21-33.
Miller, J.I. (1969) The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire. Oxford Press, Oxford,
Parry, J.W. (1953) The Story of Spices. Chemical Pub. Co., New York, USA.
Poucher, W.A. (1993) Poucher’s Perfumes, Cosmetics and Soaps. 9th edn, 3 vols.
Chapman & Hall, London, UK.
Purseglove, J.W. (ed.) (1981) Spices (2 vols). Longman Group, Harlow, Essex,
Rosengarten, F., Jr (1969) The Book of Spices. Livingstone Pub. Co., Wynnewood,
Stobart, R. (1977) Herbs, Spices and Flavourings. Penguin Books, Harmondsworth,
Middlesex, UK.
Suleiman the Merchant - 85 1 AD (1922) Memoirs. Gabriel Ferrand, Paris, France.
Tisserand, R. (1987) The Art ofAromatherapy (Rev. edn). C.W. Daniel Co., Saffron
Walden, Essex, UK.
UNCTAD/GATT (1974 and 1986) Essential Oils and Oleoresins. Geneva, Switzer-
UNCTADiGATT (1982) Spices: a Survey of World Markets, 2 vols. Geneva, Swit-
Watt, G. (1908) The Commercial Products of India. John Murray, London, UK.
Weiss, E.A. (1993) Linola - A new edible oil. Oils G. Fats 9(3), 23-24.
Zhao, Q. (1993) China’s perfumery industry picks-up. Pe$uuMz. Flav. 18(1), 47-48;
also 16(5), 51-52.
The Annonaceae, of the order Magnoliales, is a very large and rather ill-
defined family with 120 genera of mainly tropical species, half in Asia,
Australia and Polynesia, one-third in tropical America, the remainder in
Africa. The genus Cananga (DC) Hook. f. & Thoms. contains two species:
Cananga odorata, source of cananga and ylang-ylang oil, and C. latifolia Gin.
& Gagnep., producing an oil of no commercial importance. A liana Arta-
botrys odoratissimus (Lam.) Men-., known as the climbing ylang-ylang be-
cause its flowers resemble those of cananga, is not utilized for oil produc-


Cananga, also known as ylang-ylang ( but hereafter cananga), was originally

named Arbor sogm'san by Ray (Histom'a plantormm London 1704), but the first
accurate description was by Blume (FloraJavae Brussels 1829). The original
home of cananga is probably South East Asia, although it is now native or
naturalized in Burma, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and other
Pacific islands, and the Philippines where it is a familiar village tree.
Cananga has been introduced into tropical countries in Africa, Asia, the
Caribbean, the Americas, and the then French colonies of the Indian Ocean,
specifically as an essential oil producer. Commercial cultivation and oil
production is now concentrated in Indonesia and Madagascar, with small
amounts of oil from Reunion, Comoro, and the Philippines. The area under
cananga in Indonesia has steadily increased according to official statistics,
from 86,000 ha in 1985 to 160,000 ha in 1995 when oil production reached
120 t, most of which is exported. In many other countries, fresh flowers are
sold in local markets for personal adornment, to scent clothes and houses,
and as temple offerings.

Annonaceae 11

The first distillation of cananga oil is credited to Albertus Schwenger, who

reached the Philippines in the middle of the nineteenth century. He re-
portedly operated a small mobile still moving from district to district to
coincide with flowering of local trees. A German, F. Steck, and his nephew
Paul Sartorius, were the first to construct a commercial distillery to produce
high quality oil. Marketed as Ylang Ylang Oil Sartorius, it established an
international reputation for quality. The demand for ylang-ylang oil became
so great that extensive plantations containing an estimated 100,000 trees
were established around Manila servicing distilleries using equipment im-
ported from Europe (Bacon, 1908). The First World War almost destroyed
the local industry and despite efforts to revive it, only one plantation existed
in 1939 (Guenther, 1952), and this finally ceased production during the
Second World War. Ylang-ylang oil is now produced almost wholly from
smallholder stills for local use, and only a very small amount of good quality
oil is exported.
Production of cananga oil from indigenous trees on Java was encouraged
by the Dutch, but the very poor quality finally led to the import of Philippine
cananga trees. These produced ylang-ylang oil, and it was this difference
that resulted in the classification of two types of C. odorata by Koolhaas
(Landbouw, Java, 1939). Chemotypes may however exist, since a minor but
well-defined regional difference is recognized in local oils, lost when bulked
for export. Cananga and ylang-ylang oils are produced mainly on Java
(Wiyono and Silitonga, 1988), where flowers are strewn on the bridal bed of
newlyweds. Local oil mixed with coconut oil is used to alleviate skin
conditions, and as a base in cosmetics and hair care products.
Cananga was introduced to Bengal from Sumatra in 1797, and is now
widely distributed in India (Burkhill, 1966; Anon., 1989). Although the
fresh flowers are commonly used for adornment and in temples, somewhat
surprisingly no commercial plantations have been established nor oil pro-
duced. Cananga was also introduced to southern China and is now commer-
cially cultivated in Guangdong Province, and official reports indicate a
steady increase in the number of trees planted and oil production.
The introduction of cananga to Reunion is credited to a French expedi-
tion under a Captain d’Etchevery in 1770, although oil was not produced for
another 100 years. By the end of the nineteenth century commercial planta-
tions were well established, containing about 200,000 trees, and substantial
amounts of ylang-ylang oil were exported prior to outbreak of the First
World War. In 19 12, a solvent extraction plant built by a Charles Garnier
produced ylang-ylang concentrate which continued in production until the
mid-1 930s. Substantial amounts of high-quality ylang-ylang oil were pro-
duced from modern plants between 1918 and 1928, but the world depres-
sion of the 1930s and competition from Madagascar caused a major decline.
By 1939 only 12,000 productive trees remained, supplying the last two
distilleries, but the industry is now virtually moribund.
12 Chapter 2

Cananga trees were introduced to Madagascar, but only on the small

island of Nossi-Be off its northern coast has the industry become estab-
lished. Development of the Nossi-Be ylang-ylang oil industry is attributed to
the enthusiasm of Rev. F. Raimbault, and by 1939 production had'reached
20-30 t annually. In 1950, eight large and a score of smaller distilleries were
operating, but there has been a steady decline in both quality and quantity.
This was partially due to wartime neglect, but there has since been little new
planting and older plantations have received scant attention (Demarne,
1989). Yield of flowers is low and their collection made difficult by the
increasing height of trees.
Cananga was introduced to the Comoros at the beginning of this century
where conditions are most suitable for plantations although periodically
disrupted by the devastating local cyclones. In the early 1980s there were
reportedly nearly a million trees, with oil production a t 30-50 t annually,
half from Mayotte, which rivalled Nossi-Be in ylang-ylang oil production if
not always in quality (Megis & Zissis, 1991; Valade, 1994). This oil
continues to be produced although the rapid growth of the tourist industry
has reduced its importance and attractiveness to local workers. Contributing
to the decline was the forced repatriation of some 17,000 Comorians from
Madagascar in 1974, whose re-settlement resulted in the destruction of
almost 60% of existing cananga trees to provide land for food crops.

Canunga odoruta (Lam.) Hook. f. & Thoms. (syn. C. odorutum Baill.;
Canatzgiuwz odoratum Lam.). Commonly cananga or ylang-ylang in English;
India (Tamil) karumugai; Sri Lanka wanasapu; Philippines ilong-ilang;
Burma kodapnyan; Malaysia kenanga, which is believed to be the origin of
the genus and English name.
Th e basic chromosome number of the genus is x = 8, Cananga odoruta 2n
= 16, and although there are no accepted varieties two types are now
recognized which have minor botanical differences but produce two differ-
ent oils. C. odorata forma macrophylla produces cananga oil, and C. odoruta
forma genuinu ylang-ylang oil. In general, cananga oil is obtained from
flowers on uncultivated trees, while ylang-ylang oil is obtained from planta-
tions. The following description applies to both, but comments on cultiva-
tion, etc. refer to the production of ylang-ylang oil from planted trees.
The difference between cananga and ylang-ylang whole oils is believed to
be due to selection by growers, thus cultivated trees produce flowers with
required oil characteristics. Reprocessing of cananga whole oil, however, can
produce various grades of ylang-ylang oil as will be discussed later. It is also
possible that isolation on various Pacific Islands has resulted in local cananga
trees producing slightly different oils while remaining botanically almost
identical; C. odoruta trees growing in Java, Fiji and Samoa produce oils
which have quite different characteristics (Table 2.1).
Annonaceae 13

Table 2.1. Main characteristics of some cananga and ylang-ylang oils

Cananga Ylang-ylang
Reunion Comoro Philippines Madagascar
Java Fiji extra extra extra extra
Specific 0.896 0.932 0.911 0.965
gravity (20") 0.942 0.421(28') 0,969(15') 0.975 0.958 0.970
Optical -27" - 7O -30" -19" -30" -25O
rotation (20') -87O -35O - 45" -45" -35s
Refractive 1.4788 1.491 1.465 1.4948 1.4747 1.500
index (20") 1.5082 1,494(25') 1.475(15") 1.4900 1 ,05(20°)
Solubility (viv 1:l-2 - 110.5 110.5 1 :0.5 1:0.5
95% alcohol)
Ester value 42-94 75-84 96-134 200 90-1 50 125-1 60
Figures in columns are ranges.
Source: Duve et al. (1975).

Cananga is a fast growing, medium to tall evergreen tree to 35 m, but

usually pruned to about 3 m under cultivation, with a deeply penetrating
taproot. There is normally a single trunk to 15 cm diameter at breast height
(DBH). The sapwood is whitish, heartwood darker, soft and easily worked
but not durable, and of little commercial value. The bark is smooth, light
brown, becoming darker, rough and fissured with age; the inner bark is
lighter brown, fibrous, slightly bitter, and used in local herbal remedies. The
trunk is much branched, the brittle branches tending to droop. Young twigs
are light green with a slightly spicy taste, becoming brown with age.
Leaves are numerous, thin, alternate, oblong, with a sharply pointed apex,
base rounded, margins entire, 15-20 X 4-7 cm, on light green petioles (Fig.
2.1). Laminae are dark shiny green above, dull light green and slightly hairy
below. Leaf anatomy and morphology has been described by Fisher (1990).
An essential oil is obtained by distilling fresh leaves of forma genuina but has
no commercial value. A Java leaf oil was bright yellow with the following
characteristics: specific gravity (15°C) 0.908-0.925; optical rotation - 15"
to -40"; refractive index (20°C) 1.495-1.506; soluble in 1:3 vol 95%
alcohol; acid value 0.5-2.0; ester value 15-35.
The flowers are numerous, large, yellow-green, strongly scented, and
borne on slender light green stalks in axillary clusters. Individual flowers
bear a narrow pendulous structure composed of three ovate, hairy sepals and
six almost lanceolate petals with slightly recurved tips, 4-8 cm in length,
arranged in two rows (Fig. 2.1). The flower centre is composed of separate
carpels arranged in two series, each carpel containing a single ovule develop-
ing into a separate fruit. Flower colour is greenish yellow on first opening,
becoming more yellow after 20-25 days. Flowering is often year-round and
a large tree or a plantation in full flower is a sensory delight. Main flower
I4 Chapter 2

harvests are in the early dry season, usually April-June on Nossi-Be,

October-June in Reunion and the Comoros, February-May and mid-June
to October in the Philippines, with seasonal variation based on duration of
the rains.

Fig. 2.1. Cananga odorata: Flowering shoot and fruit. (Department of Agriculture, Manila, Philippines.)
Annonaceae 15

An essential oil is obtained by steam distilling fresh flowers with a yield of

(per cent): 0.3-0.5 from the Philippines (Manila), 1.O-2.0 from Comoros,
1.5-2.25 from Madagascar (Nossi-Be), with 0.5-1 .O from wild cananga
trees on Java, 0.2-0.5 from Fiji and Samoa. The forma providing the flowers
basically determines oil characteristics and composition, i.e. cananga or
ylang-ylang. The main characteristics of the two oils from various origins are
shown in Table 2.1 ., but there is very wide variation indeed, due mainly to
production techniques (Ding et al., 1988; Zhang & Jin, 1991).
Cananga whole oil has a high sesquiterpene content but is low in alcohols
and esters; conversely ylang-ylang contains a high proportion of alcohols and
esters. The approximate composition of ylang-ylang oil is (per cent): alco-
hols and esters 52-64, sesquiterpenes 33-38, phenols and their esters 3,
terpenes 0.3-0.6, aldehydes and ketones 0.1-0.2. Similarly to oil character-
istics there is wide variation in published analyses of the oil. The British
Standard Specification for cananga oil is (all at 20°C): specific gravity
0.903-0.920; refractive index 1.495-1.503; optical rotation - 15" to -30";
ester value 13-35. Specifications for ylang-ylang oil are shown in Table
The fruit is a fleshy green ovoid resembling an olive, 2.5-4.0 cm, on a
short stalk. Twelve, sometimes more, fruits can develop from a single flower
appearing as green clusters along branches (see Fig. 2.1). The fruit is readily
eaten by birds who void undigested seed, and are thus a significant factor in
tree distribution and establishment of a naturalized population. Seeds are
disc-shaped, 6-8 mm in diameter, brown to reddish brown when ripe, and
there are approximately 13,000 per kg, but seed size and weight are very
variable. Viability is also very erratic, and why this is so has still to be

Table 2.2. Standards for ylang-ylang oils

(at 20'Cci A G R A G R A G R A G R

Specific 0.950 0.946 0.950 0.933 0.928 0.932 0.923 0.918 0.922 0.906 0.906 0.910
gravity 0.965 0.982 0.986 0.945 0.949 0.953 0.929 0.933 0.937 0.921 0.923 0.920
Optical -45" -40' -40" -44 -60° -60° -55" -68' -68$ - 63" -67" -67O
rotation -36" -25" -25" -28" - 4 4 -33" -40" -40" -40' -49" -3v -35"
Refractive 1.501 1.498 1.498 1.500 1.500 1.500 1.505 1.506 1.507 1.506 1.507 1.507
index 1.509 1.509 1.509 1.510 1.509 1.509 1,511 1.512 1.517 1.513 1.515 1.515
Acid value c3 c 2.8 (2.8 c3 c 2 . 8 c 2.8 c3 c2.8 c 2.8 <3 c2.8 c2.8
Ester value 125 130 132 90 89 89 65 56 56 38 34 34
160 182 162 120 130 130 80 89 89 58 54 60
Figures in columns are ranges.
Source: A, Afnor (1986);G, Grasse Essential Oil Association; R, Reunion.
16 Chapter 2

Cananga is native to monsoon areas with a rainfall of at least 3000 mm
annually. It also grows well under more dry conditions, but trees which
suffer a moisture stress flower less profusely and flowers have a lower oil
content but not necessarily of lower quality. Under suitable conditions,
cananga quickly becomes established and self-sown naturalized trees now
occur on various Caribbean islands, Central America, in monsoon India and
on Zanzibar. Cananga is basically a forest tree and requires shade when
young, but heavy shade when mature retards growth and plantation trees
must be spaced so all receive direct sunlight. Shelter belts are advisable in
areas where there are strong winds. Cananga plantations are usually estab-
lished at low elevations, but there are no data on the effect of increasing
altitude on tree growth, flowering, or oil content of flowers. In China, where
cananga is grown in areas with low winter temperature, trees are protected
with straw or plastic sheets to minimize frost damage (Liao, 1984); however,
cananga should not be grown commercially in regions where frosts occur, as
the cost of protection is normally unprofitable.

Soils and fertilizers

Cananga grows naturally in forest soils, but under cultivation is planted on a
range of soils. Shallow soils or soils with hard or impacted subsoil are not
suitable, as trees produce a long and penetrating taproot and, if this root is
unable fully to develop, the tree is invariably stunted. Cananga may tolerate
waterlogging for extended periods, but permanently marshy areas should be
avoided, as should saline and alkaline soils. A neutral to somewhat acid soil,
p H 6.0-7.5, is most suitable. Trees grow well in soils of varying fertility, but
to produce well-branched individuals with abundant flowers trees must be
well nourished. Since only forma genuina is cultivated, selection of soil type
is thus important.
Where fertility is low, plant nutrients must be supplied, but plantations
usually receive only bulk material as fertilizers, i.e.plant and animal residue,
spent flowers and the like, or benefit from nutrients which become available
from the decay of mulch materials. Thus the effect of individual nutrients on
growth, flowering, oil content and composition remains to be determined.

T o establish a plantation, the area must be cleared and all debris removed or
burnt and the ash spread as fertilizer. Where high winds are common, it is
advisable to leave existing trees on borders or between planted sections as
wind-breaks. Plants may be grown from seed sown in nursery beds, but the
long easily damaged taproot, which is quickly produced following germina-
tion, renders transplanting difficult, and seed should preferably be sown in
Annonaceae 17

prepared pits where trees are to grow. Alternatively, pots should be large
enough to allow unrestricted root growth and made of biodegradable
material to allow planting directly into holes. Several seeds should be sown
per pot or pit, thinned to the most vigorous. Seed viability is frequently low
but as seed is normally available in large quantities, this presents few
problems. Fresh seed reportedly germinates less readily than seed 6-12
months old, and there may thus be a dormancy period. Soaking seed in hot
water for several hours is considered to hasten and assist germination on
Nossi-Be. Propagation by cuttings is also possible but seldom used.
Pits should be prepared well in advance of sowing, be at least 50 cm deep
to allow unrestricted taproot growth, and filled with topsoil or a mixture of
soil and well-rooted organic material. Seed should be placed about 5 cm
deep and seedlings kept moist and shaded. Initial spacing should be at least
6 X 6 m, with alternate trees removed to leave a triangular spacing should
this be necessary as trees mature; on sloping land or hillsides, trees should be
planted in rows following the contour. A circular area around seedlings
should initially be kept weed-free and inter-rows slashed or mown. Herbi-
cides are seldom used. Cananga can be intercropped in the first 2-3 years
with low-growing food crops such as pulses, but underplanting cananga in
plantations of other trees is seldom successful.
Trees are usually topped at about 3 m and pruned to maintain this height
(see Fig. 2.2) and may also be grafted in China (Liao, 1984). Topping
encourages growth of the naturally drooping lower branches, which are also
pulled down by ropes attached to small posts to keep flowers within reach of
pickers, since branches are brittle and climbing to pick flowers can cause
extensive damage.

Trees flower from the second year, when a small harvest may be taken, and
flower profusely from the fourth or fifth year. Flowers have little fragrance
initially, and green petals covered with fine white hair which disappears with
maturity. After 14-21 days the petals become pale green, then yellow and
their scent progressively stronger. When two small reddish spots appear on
base of the petals the flowers are ready for picking. This should be as early in
the morning as possible when oil content is highest, and normally ceases by
10 a.m., as in strong sunlight the oil content rapidly diminishes. Composi-
tion and characteristics of the oil changes as flowers develop, with the light
oxygenated compounds highest at maturity; thus inclusion of immature
flowers is detrimental to oil quality (Stashenko et al., 1995).
Rain has apparently little effect on oil content, but distilling wet flowers
reduces still efficiency and may also adversely affect oil quality. Maximum
flowering normally follows cessation of the rainy season, when 50-60% of
flower yield is obtained. Oil content is usually highest early in the dry season
and also of higher quality.
18 Chapter 2

Fig. 2.2. Pruned canaga tree, Philippines

Flowers are picked manually and this limits commercial production to

areas where labour is readily available or cheap. Flowers within reach are
plucked by hand, those higher up the tree by long-handled cutters. Pickers
often climb wild trees to reach the higher flowers, a dangerous practice since
branches are very brittle. Experienced pickers harvest 20 kg of flowers per
shift, but as most are paid on weight of flowers delivered, there is a natural
tendency to be unselective. Thus an adequate inspection procedure is
necessary or inferior oil will be produced. Mechanical picking has been
investigated but there is currently no economic pressure to do so in tradi-
tional producing areas. A 7-year-old tree in a well-managed plantation can
produce 30-100 kg of flowers annually, a fully mature healthy tree to 300 kg,
but average yield from poorly managed trees (the majority) seldom exceeds
20 kg. The inclusion of buds, immature and over-mature flowers reduces
yield of oil per unit of material and also substantially alters its scent and
characteristics. Rough treatment of flowers after picking also alters the
character of the oil, as bruised or partially fermented flowers produce off-
odours. The productive life of a cananga plantation can be 50 years and
depends basically on the standard of management.

Flowers should be distilled immediately after picking to obtain highest yield
of best quality oil, but some delay is usual and flowers should be thinly
spread on some suitable surface out of the sun, as it is essential to avoid
fermentation. Wilting or delayed distillation normally reduces oil yield but
the effect on oil composition is less obvious; there is apparently little change
Annonaceae 19

in oil characteristics. The main effects of air-drying Philippine flowers from

1 to 7 days before distilling was to change specific gravity (20°C) from
0.93-0.96 to 0.913-0.914, and ester number from 120-190 to 145-150
(Anzaldo, 1980).
Distillation is frequently in small, direct-fired water stills, and heating
water to near-boiling prior to adding flowers results in higher-quality oil.
Still bodies should preferably be undercharged with flowers, since this
reduces spot fermentation or overheating, either being detrimental to oil
quality. Distillation by any method must be carefully controlled since the oil
fractions in the distillate have different characteristics and market value.
Modern Madagascan distilleries produce four, sometimes five grades of
ylang-ylang oil: Premier (mainly to order), Extra, First, Second and Third
with quality and price decreasing in the same order (Buccellato, 1982). In
general specific gravity, total esters and saponification number decrease,
while optical rotation significantly increases (Gaydou et al., 1988). Lower
grades are also virtually insoluble in 90% alcohol.
The weight of flowers to produce 1 kg crude oil varies from 350-700 kg
depending mainly on time of year and flower maturity. In a modern steam
distillery a total oil yield of 2.0-2.5% is usual, about 25-30% being the first
two grades. The time of year flowers are picked can directly affect the
proportion of esters in fractions; in the wet season a high moisture content
frequently reduces the proportion of extra grade, while the reverse occurs
when the rains cease. Since the two lower grades also have a substantially
lower market price, distillation may be stopped once the higher fractions in
the oil have been obtained. Smaller operators producing cananga whole oil
frequently prolong distillation and may also remove spent flowers and
recharge the still, merely topping up the water. This reduces oil quality by
retaining unwanted artefacts in the water which react with the desired esters.
Ylang-ylang and cananga oil are light sensitive, and must be stored in full,
dark, sealed containers.
Flowers can be solvent extracted with petroleum ether or benzene to give
a yield to 1.2%, and the resultant concentrate has an odour virtually
identical to the natural flower. Main characteristics of the concentrate are
usually: specific gravity (20°C) 1.020-1.035; optical rotation -5.5" to
-6.5'; refractive index 1.50-1.52 (20°C); ester number 200-250; but
quoted data varies widely for no apparent reason.

Pests and diseases

The pests of cananga have been poorly investigated, mainly because a
considerable proportion of the oils is obtained from wild or naturalized trees
which receive minimum attention. Additionally, a number of reports origi-
nate from botanic gardens or aboreta, and thus are not generally applicable.
The most important insect pests are various stem-borers, twig wilters and
flower-eating beetles, since these are a direct cause of flower loss. A similar
20 Chapter 2

situation exists in respect of diseases of cananga, and there is little published

information which accurately identifies the pathogen concerned or the
degree of damage.

Products and specijkations

Two types of oil are produced from the flowers of C. odorata: cananga oil
from forma macrophylla and ylang-ylang oil from forma genuina. Cananga oil
is the total amount of oil recovered by water distilling whole flowers; ylang-
ylang oil is obtained by selective steam distilling flowers or reprocessing
cananga oil, sold by grade.
Cananga oil is a yellow to orange-yellow, or yellow to greenish yellow
rather viscous liquid, whose colour rapidly darkens on exposure to air or
light; odour heavier, more harsh than ylang-ylang, but sweet, fresh-floral,
with a characteristic woody-leathery note. The usual designation is Javanese
Cananga Oil which indicates the main source not the actual origin, does not
imply a standard quality, and is a trade name. The main use of cananga oil
is in soaps where its tenacity is valuable, toiletries, especially those for men,
and less expensive perfumes and similar products. It was previously the main
ingredient of Macassar hair dressing, popular in Victorian England. Can-
anga oil is often adulterated or blended with other synthetic materials mainly
to modify its odour, but this is easily detected. Lower boiling-point fractions
from production of ylang-ylang oil are also sold as cananga oil.
Ylang-ylang oil is normally available in four grades: extra, first, second
and third. The first and second grades have little appeal and are not well
defined; extra and third will probably become the main grades traded.
Ylang-ylang extra oil has a high level of p-cresyl methyl ether, methyl
benzoate, linalool, benzyl acetate and geranyl acetate in comparison to the
other grades, and the probable relationships between these compounds and
characteristic odour of the oil has been described (Buccellato, 1982). Extra
oil is a clear, pale yellow to yellow-orange mobile liquid; odour sweet, floral,
very powerful and distinctive but not as true to the natural flower scent as the
absolute. Extra grade is extensively used in high-quality perfumes where its
powerful odour enables inclusion in very small amounts. However, there can
be hypersensitivity to cosmetics containing the oil, attributed to eugenol and
related compounds (Watanabe et al., 1985). While there is considerable
production of the extra grade, it is frequently adulterated with a range of
other essential oils, oil fractions and many synthetics.
Ylang-ylang third oil is a clear (occasionally slightly turbid) yellow,
somewhat oily liquid; odour tenacious, sweet-floral not resembling extra
quality with which it is neither interchangeable nor a substitute. Third grade
oil is extensively used in less expensive soaps, toiletries and fragrances. It is
frequently adulterated, but also deliberately modified by exporters to pro-
duce an exclusive oil. Third-grade oil is often confused with cananga oil for
which it is neither a substitute nor alternative, since cananga oil is a complete
Annonaceae 21

(whole) oil. Approximately 60 compounds have been identified in ylang-

ylang oil (Timmer et al., 1975; Gaydou et al., 1986, 1988; Ding et al., 1988;
Anon 1989; Morin et al., 1989; Stashenko et al., 1993). The relative
composition of four grades of Madagascar ylang-ylang and cananga oils are
shown in Table 2.3.
Ylang-ylang concentrate is obtained by solvent extracting flowers, but the
commercial product usually consists of flower extract and distillate from
water or steam distilling extracted flowers. Petroleum ether extracted con-
centrate has a superior odour but benzene gives a higher yield. The concen-
trate is a brownish yellow to dark amber liquid, usually with a deposit or
particles in suspension which disappear on slight warming. Odour is con-
sidered almost equal to the true flower, but the concentrate is seldom used
except to produce absolute.

Table 2.3.Approximate percentage of various oil components

Extra 1 2 3 Cananga
Alpha-pinene 0.3 0.1 0.1 0.1
p-Cresyl methyl ether 8.4 3.1 1 .o 0.4
Benzyl alcohol 0.5 0.2 ng ng
p-Cresol 0.1 0.1 ng ng
Methyl benzoate 4.0 1 .o 0.3 0.1
Linalool 10.3 5.5 3.2 2.0
Benzyl acetate 12.6 4.2 1.2 0.5
Alpha-terpineol 0.1 ng ng ng
Methyl salicylate 0.1 0.1 ng ng
Geraniol 0.2 0.2 0.2 ng
Linalyl acetate 0.2 0.2 0.2 ng
Safrole 0.3 0.1 0.1 ng
Methyl anthranilate 0.1 ng ng ng
Eugenol 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.3
Geranyl acetate 4.0 3.0 2.2 2.0
lsoeugenol 0.2 0.4 ng ng
Beta-caryophyllene 6.8 11.5 12.8 16.3
Alpha-caryophyllene 3.1 4.2 4.1 8.8
Farnesene 18.0 16.8 17.0 21 .o
Delta-cadinene 8.9 15.1 20.4 16.3
Gamma-cadinene 2.0 5.3 7.0 7.5
Nerolidol 0.5 0.8 0.5 1.8
(Z).(E)-Farnesol 0.9 1.7 1.7 1.4
Benzyl benzoate 4.3 8.5 9.7 5.3
Benzvl salicvlate 1.9 1.2 2.7 1.7
ng, not given.
Source: F. Buccellato (personal communication).
22 Chapter 2

Ylang-ylang absolute is produced by aicohol washing concentrate with a

yield of 75-85%, and is a pale yellow oily liquid with an intensely sweet-
floral, extremely powerful odour, characteristic of the natural flower. It is
extensively used in high-quality perfumes and toiletries of all kinds and,
because of its power, can be used in very small concentrations. The taste is
bitter but can be modified for use in sweets, drinks, ice-cream and similar
products. Both concentrate and absolute have a higher content of linalool,
geraniol, geranyl acetate, benzyl benzoate and benzyl salicylate than ylang-
ylang extra oil.
Various ylang-ylang oils or flower extracts are available commercially
described as a complete oil or absolute oil, and also special grades of cananga
oil; most are of suspect composition. A range of synthetic or semi-synthetic
products simulate, with varying degrees of success, the odour of ylang-ylang
oil, but none reproduce the true flower scent and are easily identified by the
experienced perfumer.

AFNOR (1986) Recueil de Nomzes Fraqaises des Huiles Essentielles. 2nd edn. Assoc.
FranCaise de Normalisation (AFNOR), Paris, France.
Anon. (1989) Bibliography of Cananga odorata. Med. Arom. Plt. Absts. 11(1), 91-93.
CSIR, New Delhi, India.
Anzaldo, F.E. (1980) Essential oil production in the Philippines. N S D B Tech. J.
5(2), 67-71.
Bacon, R.F. (1908) Philippine terpenes and essential oils. Philipp. J. Science (Sect. A)
3(1), 65-86; also (4) 127; ( 5 ) 265.
Buccellato, F. (1982) Ylang survey. Perfum. Flav. 7 ( 5 ) , 9-12.
Burkhill, L.H. (1966) The Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula, 2
vols. Government Printer, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Demarne, P-E. (1989) Production d'Ylang-Ylang et de Poivre Vert a la Societe Agricole
de Bevoay, Nossi-Be (Madagascar). CIRAD-IRAT, Saint-Denis, Reunion.
Ding, J.K. et al. (1988) Studies on constituents of the essential oils of different
varieties of C. odorata in different flowering periods. Acta Bot. Yunnananica
10(3), 331-334.
Duve, R.N., Vithalbhai, C.L. and Smith, R.M. (1975) Chemical composition of the
essential oil from flowers of endemic Cananga odorata from Fiji. Flavours
December: 341, 346.
Fisher, D.G. (1990) Leaf structure of C. odorata; morphology and anatomy. Can. J.
Bot. 68, 534-563.
Gaydou, E M et al. (1986) Composition of the essential oil of ylang-ylang from
iMadagascar. J. Agric. Food Chem. 34, 481-487.
Gaydou, E.M. et al. (1988) Multidimensional data analysis of essential oils: ylang-
ylang. J. Agric. Food Chem. 36, 574-579.
Guenther, E. (1952) Oil of cananga and ylang-ylang. In: The Essential Oils, vol. 5.
Van hlostrand, New York, USA, pp. 267-316.
Annonaceae 23

Liao, Y.Q. (1984) A preliminary report on the introduction of Cananga odorata.

Forest. Sci. & Tech. 3, 586.
Megis, C. and Zissis, J.P. (1991) Etude de Recherche et Development des Huiles
Essentiells d’YZang-Hang, C. odorata. Dept. Econ., Mayotte, Comoros.
Morin, P. et al. (1989) Supercritical fluid chromatography of sesquiterpene hydro-
carbons. J.Chromatog. 464(1), 125-137.
Stashenko, E.E. et al. (1993) HRGC and CG-MS analysis of essential oil from
Colombian ylang-ylang (C. odorata forma genuina). ?.High Resol. Chromatog. 16,
Stashenko, E.E. et al. (1995) A study in the compositional variation of the essential
oil of ylang-ylang (C. odorata forma genuina) during flower development. J. High
Resol. Chromatog. 18(2), 101-1 04.
Timmer, R. et al. (1 975) Analyses of the acid fraction of ylang-ylang oil. Int. Flav.
FoodAdd. 6(3), 139-140.
Valade, I. (1 994) Etude pour la Rationalisation de la Production d’Huile Essentielle
d’Ylang-Hang a Mayotte. O T H International, Dept. Environ. Bastille, Paris,
Watanabe, S. et al. (1985) Contact hypersensitivity to ylang-ylang components.
Takasago J . 9(2), 92-100. Takasago Co., Japan.
Wiyono, B. and Silitonga, T. (1988) Notes on the distribution and utilization of
C.odoratum in Java. J. Penel. Pang. Kehutanan. 4(2), 30-33.
Zhang, S. and Jin, S. (1991) Studies on constituents of essential oil of flowers of
ylang-ylang. Acta Sci. Natur. Univ. Pekin. 27(6), 645-652.
The Geraniales comprise several families including the Geraniaceae and
closely related Oxalidaceae. The Geraniaceae is divided into five genera,
Erodium (heron’s bill), Geranium (crane’s bill), Monsonia, Pelargonium
(stork’s bill) and Sarcocaulon. Pelargoniums and geraniums are widely
known as geraniums, a confusion due to similarity of the common names.
Both were originally classified in the same genus, but separated for the first
time in 1789 (Hortus Kewensis). The genus Geranium L. currently contains
about 400 species widely distributed in temperate zones but only G. macor-
rhizum L. is harvested to obtain an essential oil.
Since the term geranium is widely used to describe pelargoniums and their
derivatives and well understood in the perfumery trade, the author has used
geranium in all general remarks but pelargonium where botanical accuracy
is required, and zdravetz to describe Geranium spp. and derivatives.

The first pelargonium, P. cucullatum (L.) L’Herit. was collected from Table
Mountain in 1672 by Paul Herman, and South Africa is the centre of origin
of the genus. Van der Walt considers the reason so many species, about 70,
are found in the southwestern Cape region is the availability of a variety of
microhabitats favouring speciation. When Paul Herman published Horti
academici Lugduno-batavi catalogus in 1687 listing plants growing in the
Leyden Botanic Gardens, the Netherlands, ten Pelargonium species were
included. William A.van der Stel is believed to have imported P. peltatum L.
and P. zonale (L.) L’Herit. into the Netherlands in 1700, introduced to
England in 1701 and 17 10 respectively, and P. gruveolens L‘Herit. in 1794.
British control of the Cape of Good Hope greatly increased interest in
pelargoniums, with numerous papers in the Botanical Magazine, and pub-
lication of beautifully illustrated books including the five-volume Ger-
aniaceae by Sweet (1 820-26), Flore de Serres et des Jardins de 1’Europe (1 847)
and Les Geraniums (1 897).

Geraniaceae 25

Pelargoniums became so popular and easy to grow they were re-exported

to almost every country to which Europe sent colonists or administrators.
Plants arrived in Australia in the cabin of Arthur Bowes Smyth, surgeon on
the Lady Penrhyn, part of the First Fleet. Some years later, a Captain Kent
wrote ‘Geranium flourish in such abundance in Sydney they are made into
hedges, and became so thick as to be impenetrable’. Plants went with
pioneer women to the outback growing in kerosene tins outside the back
door of every slab hut, surviving droughts by having the teapot emptied over
them, according to the Australian Geranium and Pelargonium Society.
Commercial cultivation for oil began in the early nineteenth century
around Grasse, France, and the region long remained the premier produc-
tion area. Cultivation was concentrated in the Siagne Valley as an annual
crop owing to severe winter frosts, which greatly increased the cost of
production. The Second World War, ever-increasing wages and finally
growth of the tourist industry virtually eliminated geranium as a commercial
crop. Production is now limited to a small amount of very high-quality oil,
although the town of Grasse remains active in the essential oil industry.
Plants were sent from Grasse to Algeria in 1847 and to Reunion in the 1880s
to establish local geranium oil plantations. Geranium cultivation in Spain
and Italy, although successful initially, became unprofitable and was aban-
doned. Commercial cultivation in the USSR began in the mid 1930s, mainly
in the Abkhaz region near the Black Sea from Sachi to Batumi and in
Tadjikistan, with oil production of about 50 t in 1940. The industry was
completely disrupted by the Second World War, and although subsequently
re-established in Georgia, Armenia and southern republics of the CIS, oil
production has remained below the 1940 level (Zukov, 1964; Stepanyan and
Ivanov, 1977).
Pelargonium graveolens cultivars were sent to Algeria from Grasse and the
most extensive commercial plantings were on the Mitidja Plain around
Blinda and Boufarik. Oil production is now on a very small scale and not
likely to expand again. The Moroccan oil industry was also established from
Grasse material, but not until the mid-1930s did plantings in Chaouia near
Casablanca prove the crop profitable, and this region continued to produce
oil until 1940. Geranium was subsequently re-established in the Khemisset-
Tiflet areas east of Rabat and a modern distillery built to handle geranium
and other oil-producing plants. These plantations were probably the most
efficient then existing and advanced Moroccan geranium oil production to
the world’s second largest after Reunion. By 1960 production reached 50 t
annually but steadily decreased to around 15 t, centred on Chaoui, Zem-
mour and Gharb.
Geranium was introduced into Palestine (Israel) in the late 19th century
by Baron Edmund de Rothschild to support establishment of an essential oil
industry, and research proved the region can produce high-quality oil. Egypt
produces a substantial amount of geranium oil mainly from small growers,
26 Chapter 3

but when the essential oil type was first introduced is unknown; recent
introductions are by private companies seeking superior strains. Two basic
oils are produced commercially named for the main producing regions of
Faiyum and the Delta (Benveniste and Azzo, 1992).
Following introduction to Reunion in 1870, geranium steadily became an
important local cash crop, and the planted area reached a record 15,000 ha
in 1952, but production has since fluctuated with the international oil price
(Sens, 1994). The first oil produced on Reunion was from a species of
unknown origin occurring on the island. It was quickly replaced by imported
Grasse material which became the distinct local cultivar Rose, later deter-
mined to be a P. capitatum X P. radens cross (Demarne and Van der Walt,
1989; Demarne, 1992). Chemotypes may also exist, as plants from Reunion
cultivated elsewhere produced an oil with a different composition to the
majority of those grown on the island (Mallavarapu et al., 1993). The main
plantations are in the west and south west on steep slopes virtually useless for
other crops, a major reason why oil production on Reunion continues. The
majority of geranium plantings are small individual plots whose owners
either combine to operate collective stills, hire a portable still or sell their
herbage to one of the larger operators with modern stills producing high-
quality oil (Demarne, 1992). Reunion lies in the Indian Ocean cyclone belt
and these terrible storms periodically play havoc with the industry.
Geranium oil has been produced in a number of East and Central African
countries, principally Kenya, but oil production has virtually ceased except
for a small quantity for domestic consumption in South Africa. It is believed
geranium was first introduced into Kenya either from South Africa by Cape
Dutch settlers, or from India by engineers engaged to build the Uganda
railway (Matheson and Bovill, 1950). These species are quite different to the
indigenous Pelargonium spp. which occur wild in East Africa, the most
common being the yellow-flowered P. fischeri. The first commercial planting
was at Njoro in 1925 using introduced species, which produced an oil
known as Mawah oil, the Ki-Swahili word for flowers generally. By 1937
there were 800 ha under geranium, but production virtually ceased during
the Second World War and, although subsequently resumed, it never
reached the original level. The author established in Western Kenya in 1964
a commercial plantation of 100 ha using plants selected from Algerian and
Reunion cultivars imported by the Department of Agriculture (see Fig. 3.1).
This operated profitably for several years, producing oil midway between
Mawah and Reunion types, but production ceased when the company was
taken over. This was the last attempt at large-scale geranium oil production
in eastern and central Africa. Geranium oil was also produced in northern
Tanganyika (Tanzania) from the late 1940s, but never expanded despite
official support. Subsequent trial plantings in several regions indicated a
substantial area was suitable for geranium as an oil crop (Weiss,
Geraniaceae 27

1955-1960). Trials in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) also showed great promise

yielding excellent quality oil (Sholto-Douglas, 1969).
Cuttings of ‘Bourbon-type’ geranium from Reunion planted in Tamil
Nadu State, India, in 1903 by the Frenchman Ernest Sens and later by
another Frenchman, Jacques Prioris, began domestic geranium oil produc-
tion. This was followed by plantings of Algerian material in the Nilgiri Hills
(Rajeswara Rao and Bhattacharya, 1992). Geranium received strong gov-
ernment support with the official aim of domestic self-sufficiency and, as this
will require 750-1000 ha of crop, India could thus become one of the
world’s major producers. The general expansion of Chinese essential oil
crops includes geranium, mainly in sub-tropical Yunnan but including
Binchuan, Shiping and Yuxi Provinces. The main cultivar (stated as P.
roseum) produces a Moroccan style oil, but the area under geranium is
decreasing rapidly in favour of other essential oil crops (Zhao, 1993: Yan et
al., 1994).
Other Pelargonium spp. grown in gardens for their fragrant leaves include
P. citriodorum Willd. (citron-scented), P. fragrans Willd. (nutmeg-scented)

Fig. 3.1. Author in geranium plantation, Kenya.

28 Chapter 3

and P.tomentosum Jacq. (peppermint-scented), which is considered a poten-

tial oil producer in South Africa (Demarne and Van der Walt, 1990). P.
crispum L‘Herit. the lemon-scented geranium, could become a more im-
portant oil producer via genetic transformation techniques, also applicable
to other species (Pellegrineschi et al., 1994). An interesting interspecific
hybrid is the patented Pelargonium X citrosum, the mosquito plant, which
emits a strong scent of citronella from its leaves in warm rooms and is
commercially promoted as an insect repellent. However, its efficacy has
been questioned (Cilek and Schreiber, 1994). Interspecific hybridization,
however, is considered to provide a relatively simple path to higher or novel,
oil yielding cultivars (Koutchouloria, 1964; Charlwood et al., 1988).

The genus Pelargonium L’Herit. contains about 250 species divided into 15
sections, with some 200 species occurring in South Africa, 18 in the rest of
Africa, eight in Australasia, two in Madagascar, two in the Middle East, and
one each on the islands of St. Helena and Tristan da Cunha (Van der Walt
and Ward-Hilhorst, 1977; Webb, 1984; Van der Walt, 1985). The genus
name is derived from the Greek pelargos, a stork, and the first legitimate
publication of the name pelargonium is considered to be in Aiton’s Hortus
Kewensis, 1789, which contained much material from L’Heritier’s un-
published work Compendium Generlogium. Within the genus fifteen sub-
genera are recognized, including Ciconium, Dibrachya and Pelargonium con-
sidered as having great influence on modern pelargoniums. The subgenus
(section) Pelargonium contains about 25 species (Van der Walt, 1985),
mainly shrubs or sub-shrubs with woody, branched or very branched stems,
many with variegated or fragrant leaves, and often drought-resistant. The
basic chromosome number of Pelargonium is x = 11, with the somatic num-
ber of 2n = 88 for P. graveolens and its close relative P. radens, while P.
capitatum is 2n = 66 (Albers and Van der Walt, 1984), but the important
Reunion cultivar Rose is a heptaploid, 2n = 77 and male sterile.
The four species basically concerned in the development of essential oil
cultivars but which have not been cultivated commercially to produce an oil
are Pelargonium graveolens, P. odoratissimum,P. capitatum and P. radens, while
P. roseum is considered a P.graveolens hybrid. A most important commercial
essential oil producer is the cultivar Rose, a hybrid of P. capitatum X P.
radens but often referred to as P. graveolens in the literature without qualifica-
tion, and to a lesser extent cultivars of P.capitatum X P.graveolens. Many
other Pelargonium spp. contain an essential oil described in the literature, but
none are commercially cultivated.
Pelargoniums cultivated for their essential oil were often identified in the
literature as P.graveolens cultivars regardless of botanical accuracy. Most
were selections originating in Europe which became locally acclimatized
Geraniaceae 29

when planted elsewhere, but some are deliberate hybrids. Most hybrids are
crosses between two of the four species described below.
Pelargonium graveolens L‘Heritier ex Aiton (syn. Geranium radula Roth.; P.
intermedium Knuth), commonly geranium in English and French is a small,
much-branched, perennial shrub to 1.3 m but generally less, naturally
forming a dense spreading bush. The leaves are fragrant, mint-scented, on
stems and branches, opposite, 6.5-13.5 cm by 6-12 cm, villous, highly
divided, with five to seven palmate lobes; the margins are toothed and
somewhat revolute; the petioles are long, sturdy, and subtended by stipules
(Fig. 3.2). Species colour is a dull green although grey-green, yellow-green,
dark or light green leaves occur on cultivars. An essential oil can be obtained
from leaves and fresh green shoots, but is of no commercial importance.
Herbage also contains tannins whose recovery in India is considered desir-
able (Balakrishnan et al., 1982). The inflorescence is axillary with small
umbels of 3-7 pink, rosy or pale purple flowers. The hairy calyx tube divides
in mid-length into five lobes and five entire petals, the upper two slightly
larger and longer, and pelargoniums are thus the only members of the
Geraniaceae with zygomorphic flowers. The ovary is superior, five-lobed,
each lobe containing a single pendulous ovule; the style is short and hairy.
The fruit is long and pointed, and although pelargoniums do not normally
produce seed, some cultivars seed readily. The seed is small, oblong-ovoid
and brownish, the testa is hard with attached long hairs. Viability is usually
very poor and germination erratic.
Pelargonium odoratissimum (L.) L’Herit. (syn. Geranium odoratissimum L.)
is a perennial, prostrate spreading shrub with caudex stems, normally short
but up to 30 cm, usually with many slender, weak, soft-pubescent, fre-
quently trailing branches. The leaves are fragrant, apple-scented, light
green, soft, round-cordate, very obtuse, blade 2.5-3.0 cm, similar in
breadth, obscurely three or more lobed, and the margins dentate-crenate.
The petioles are up to 10 cm long, stipule is triquetrous or broadly ovate,
usually connate; the peduncles are long and opposite leaves. The inflores-
cence bears 3-10 tiny flowers, which are white (occasionally pink), with
small red spots; the calyx is more or less pubescent, the spur 8 mm or less;
the sepals or lobes lanceolate, acute, with transparent margins; the petals, to
16 mm long, are linear-spatulate, with a rounded apex.
Pelargonium radens H.E. Moore (syn. P. radula (Cav.) L’Herit.) is an erect,
perennial densely branched shrub with a stout stem to 1.5 m. The leaves are
fragrant, mint-scented, deeply palmately-parted; the lobes are narrow linear,
pinnatified; rough-hispid above but soft-pubescent below, with the margins
prominently revolute. The peduncles are short and hispid, bearing 3-8 pale
purple flowers with darker purple streaks and margins. The flowers are
pedicillate, the calyx tube is short, and the lobes on the sepals are setose and
30 Chapter 3

Pelargonium capitatum (L.) L’Herit. (syn. Geranium capitatum L.) is a

decumbent perennial shrub but very variable, with stems to 1 m with long
white hairs, strongly scented when bruised. The leaves are fragrant, rose-
scented, pilose, on long petioles, cordate, with three to five rounded and
toothed lobes and flat margins; the stipules are broad-cordate and pointed.
The peduncles are longer than the leaves, with dense heads of tiny, sessile
flowers (7-20), which are rose-purple with darker stripes; the calyx tube is
much shorter than the hairy calyx lobes and mucronate. Oil yield is generally
low, around 0.01%, and the great variability of oil composition in South
Africa indicated the existence of regional chemotypes (Demarne et al.,
A most important essential oil cultivar which originated on Reunion is a
hybrid between P.capitatum X P,radens, the cv. Rose (Demarne, 1989;
Demarne and Van der Walt, 1989). This cultivar was introduced into other
countries often as ‘Bourbon type’, but as other cultivars were also grown on
Reunion a t various times and may have been included in the introductions,

Shoot Inflorescence

Flower Petals


Fig. 3.2.Typical pelargonium flower, leaves and shoot.

Geraniaceae 31

this could partially account for the reported differences in general growth, oil
composition and characteristics from such local ‘Bourbon’ plants.
Cultivar Rose is an erect, perennial shrub to 1.3 m, forming compact
clumps to 1 m diameter, with an extensive, spreading root system seldom
penetrating below 30 cm. The multiple stems are soft, green to grey-green,
becoming darker and woody with age, and are more or less hairy. Junctions
of main or large secondary stems with the root at ground level often become
highly lignified and brittle with age. The number and length of stems and
degree of branching varies; an unnamed Algerian cultivar stated to have
originated on Reunion and grown by the author in East Africa, tended to be
more upright than the well-branched type directly imported from Reunion.
Stem height and branching may be modified or stimulated by growth
regulators (Bhattacharjee and Thimmappa, 199l), while selection for a
more upright plant would assist mechanical harvesting.
The leaves on stems and branches are opposite, fragrant, rose-scented,
soft, hirsute, with 5-7 palmate lobes, highly divided; the base is cordate, the
apex obtuse, with somewhat revolute margins. Size is variable but averages
50 X 70 mm, petiole 30 mm; the stipules are asymmetrical, triangular, 6 X
4 mm (Fig. 3.3). An essential oil is obtained from leaves by distillation or
solvent extraction, whose main constituents are citronellol, geraniol, iso-
menthone, citronellyl formate and geranyl formate (Table 3.1). The main
characteristics of Reunion and other oils are shown in Table 3.2.
The inflorescence is terminal and the peduncle 15-60 mm long with small
compact pseudo-umbels of 3-1 0 small, rose-violet coloured flowers. The
flowers generally are as P. cupitutum, with the important exception that male
flowers are sterile. Main flowering in Reunion is in spring and again in
August-September. Oil content of flowers has been reported at 0.6%
(Fleisher and Fleisher, 1985), and although this may be higher than leaf oil
content, flowers contribute little to total oil yield. Flower oil is also very
similar to leaf oil, and nothing is gained by separate distillation, encouraging
flowering or increasing the number of flowers per plant. Where the last two
are desired, spraying with gibberellin (GA) may produce the required effect,
and usually prolongs flowering. There is usually one main flowering period,
but plants should not normally be allowed to reach full bloom before cutting,
since oil content and composition are adversely affected.
The oil is contained in small glands distributed over green parts of the
plant, and their number and size govern the amount of oil a plant can
produce. Since oil glands are most numerous in the leaves, leaf size and
number are important factors affecting profitable oil production. Personal
observation and discussions with growers confirmed there are differences
between individual plants in any large population and, as noted previously,
this may be due to the original introductions. Considerable variation was
also noted in the rate of regrowth and development of leaves after cutting in
plants from cultivars grown by the author in western Kenya. Growth
32 Chapter 3

regulators can increase leaf size, but in Egypt GA affected the ratio between
oil components (Eid and Rofeel, 1980).
The biosynthesis and metabolism of oil in leaves has still to be fully
determined, although some pathways have been described (Chubinidze et
al., 1993). The rate of oil accumulation and its composition however, vary
with leaf age, and oil content and geraniol content of oil are highest in
youngest and lowest in oldest leaves. Oil and geraniol content of young and
old leaves in India was, in per cent, 1.56 and 34.6,0.05 and 13.9 respectively
(Rajeswara Rao et al., 1993). Oil content is usually stated as a proportion of
herbage harvested by weight (kg oil per tonne), and thus varies with the age
of plants at cutting, time of year and efficiency of still operation. The
following figures are from supervised commercial plantations with modern
stills designated C, or controlled field experiments E: India 0.04-0.13% E
(Balakrishnan et al., 1982; Kumar et al., 1985) and 0.10-0.15% C (Dor-
aswamy and Sundaram, 1982); Kenya 0.07-0.1 1% C (Weiss, 1966), and
Mawah type 0.10-0.20% C (Beckley, 1931); Reunion 1.5-3.0% C (De-
marne, 1992); Tanzania 0.05-0. l l % E (Weiss, 1955-60); Algerian 0.17%

Fig. 3.3. Flowering shoot of cuitivar Rose, Reunion,

Geraniaceae 33

C, Zaire 0.10-0.15% C and the USA 0.03-0.10% C (all average figures

from official annual reports).
The main characteristics of oil from selected countries are shown in Table
3.2. The major constituents are citronellol, geraniol, linalool and iso-
menthone, and their relative proportions basically determine the odour of
the oil and thus its value to perfumers. There is very wide variation in the
amount of individual compounds and the ratio between them in oil from a
local cultivar or region (Lawrence, 1994). Time of harvesting can also affect
ratio of the main alcohols.

Table 3.1, Main oil constituents from cultivar Rose from Reunion.

ov 101 PEG 2-20M

(non-polar) (polar)
Constituents 1 2 3
Alpha-pinene 1.oo 1.oo ng
Myrcene 0.30 0.30 ng
cis-Beta-ocimene 0.30 0.30 ng
Linalool 4.60 4.80 10.64
cis-Rose oxide 0.20 0.30 0.94
trans-Rose oxide ng ng 0.33
Menthone 0.40 0.40 ng
lsomenthone 7.80 8.40 9.64
Alpha-terpineol 0.30 0.80 ng
Citronellol 19.00 18.00 21.73
Geraniol 21.50 21 .80 16.28
Geranial ng ng 1.33
trans-citral 1.10 0.30 ng
Citronellyl formate 8.50 8.50 9.1 2
Geranyl formate 9.50 12.00* 7.17
Geranyl acetate 0.50 0.60 ng
Beta-bourbonene 0.70 0.80 ng
Beta-caryophyllene 0.80 0.70 ng
Citronellyl propionate 0.20 1.30 "g
Guaiadiene 6,9 7.20 6.10 5.34
Geranyl propionate 1.60 1.30 1.40
Germacrene D 2.30 ng ng
Citronellyl butyrate 1.oo 0.30 0.34
Geranyl butyrate 1.20 1.oo 1.55
Nerol ng ng 1.29
Phenylethyl tiglate 0.70 0.60 0.52
Citronellyl tiglate 0.10 0.10 ng
Geranyl tiglate 1.30 1.20 1.06
Furopol argone B ng ng 0.55
* Germacrene D plus geranyl formate; ng, not given.
Source: 1 and 2, adapted from Demarne (1989); 3, adapted from Guerere et al. (1985).
34 Chapter 3

Table 3.2.Main characteristics of geranium oil from selected origins

India Reunion Algeria Egypt Reuniona

Specific 0.844(30) 0.879(30) 0.894(20) 0.885(15) 0.888(15)
gravity ("C) 0.896 0.891 0.903 0.905 0.897
Optical rotation -7" to -1 1' -1l'tO -13' -go to -13" -6" to - 1 4 O -7'tO -13"
Refractive 1.4644(30) 1.458(20) 1.468(20) 1.463(20) 1.4617(20)
index ("C) 1.4739 1.464 1.472 1.473 1.4660
Acid value < 10 <5 <6 <7 <7
Ester value 50-76 65-75 55-75 45-65 50-78
Solubility viv 1 :3 1 :2 1 :2 1 :2 1 :1.7-2.0
(70% alcohol)
Source: Abstracted from published sources; Reunion. a Official specification

Basically a warm-temperate plant, geranium will produce a profitable oil
yield in sub-tropical regions under suitable management, within the con-
straints of a frost-free growing period, sufficient rain and a mainly cold dry
season. The effect of location on oil yield and characteristics is well docu-
mented, but little data are available on how individual climatic factors other
than rainfall influence the oil or its major components. Thus it is almost
impossible to predict the type of oil which will be produced when plants are
introduced to a new area. While the oil will be basically that of the original
cultivar, its individual fingerprint will only be established by analysing oil
produce from plants in their new environment.
French oil from Grasse is considered to have the finest and most rose-like
odour. Reunion oil, rich in citronellol, may have a minty odour but is now
considered to be the standard by which other oils are judged. Moroccan oil
approaches that of France, while Russian oil is often less strongly scented.
East African oils were of good quality but in a category of their own. Spanish
oils generally contained around 45% geraniol and 25% citronellol; from
Japan not more than 22% geraniol; Israeli oils contain little geraniol but 45%
citronellol. Oil produced from P. radens in Zimbabwe was dark with a
pronounced minty note (Sholto-Douglas, 1969).
Geranium is grown commercially between 300-1200 m in the south of
France, Algeria, and Reunion where a limit of 1400 m is observed; in the
Kenya highlands between 2000-2500 m; between 1500-2000 m in the hill
country of India; from 0-500 m in the Black and Caspian Sea regions of
Russia; and at low altitudes in Australia and the USA. Plants grown at higher
elevations in sub-tropical climates frequently produce a lighter oil than oil
from the same cultivar grown at lower altitudes. In Tanzania, a Reunion
cultivar grown at 1200 m produced oil with a much softer more rosy note
than oil from plants growing at 250 m (Weiss, 195551960), while in
Zimbabwe oil from plants grown at 330 m resembled true Reunion type,
Geraniaceae 35

while oil from plants at a higher altitude resembled a lighter Algerian oil
(Sholto-Douglas, 1969). Plants of the same cultivar grown at three altitudes
in India, 542 m, 900 m and 2200 m gave highest yield at 542 m and lowest
at 2200 m, but oil from the latter plants had more menthone, citronellol and
nerol; geraniol rose progressively from 22.4% at 542 m to 30.2% at 2200 m
(Rajeswara Rao et al., 1990a).
Geranium produces maximum leaf growth with high oil content under
warm sunny conditions, and cloudy days or low temperatures adversely
affect both. A daytime temperature of 20-25°C is the optimum, but 5°C
above and below is acceptable; below 6°C normally inhibits growth, below
3°C is frequently fatal if prolonged, and frost at any stage of growth usually
kills. In the Caspian region of Russia where it is grown as an annual,
200-220 frost-free days are required and the necessity to replant each year is
very costly. It is very doubtful if geranium to produce oil can be grown on a
large scale as an annual and be commercially viable.
Annual rainfall of 1000-1500 mm evenly distributed over the main
growing period is required but regions with sharply defined wet and dry
seasons can produce good crops provided there are no extended periods of
waterlogging. Very heavy rains following onset of the monsoon, or cyclones,
can be most damaging; on Reunion for example a majority of plants may be
killed when soils remain saturated. Prolonged mist or high humidity reduces
leaf growth by encouraging fungal disease. Although geranium is drought
tolerant, long dry spells severely retard growth, reduce oil content, and
change oil characteristics. The effect in Kenya on oil and herbage yield of a
mainly dry 3 month period, compared to a mainly wet 3 month period is
shown in Table 3.3.
Thus the climatic factors producing a higher yield of herbage have the
opposite effect on oil, and vice versa; this is important to growers insofar as
a reduction in one was compensated by a rise in the other, the yield of oil per
hectare being similar. Oil produced after 3 wet months however, had a
slightly milder note than oil produced after 3 dry months (Weiss, 1967).
Plants cut in India in the spring (semi-dry period) also had a greater oil
content than those cut after monsoon rains (Mani et al., 1982; Prakasa Rao
et al., 1995), while oil from plants grown in semi-arid conditions showed
similar variation (Bhattacharya et al., 1993). Where there are no pronounced

Table 3.3. The effect of dry and wet periods on oil and herbage yield of
geranium in Kenya.

tiha kgit kgiha
After 3 wet months 28.2 0.73 20.6
After 3 dry months 21.8 1.07 23.3
36 Chapter 3

seasons, maximum herbage yield frequently corresponds with main flower-

ing (spring in the Northern Hemisphere). In Israel it was May although
highest oil content was in August (Putievsky et al., 1984; Fleisher and
Fleisher, 1985). Wind generally has little effect on established plants, but
newly planted cuttings can be broken or uprooted. Hail is very damaging to
young plants and severe storms can strip leaves at all ages.

Soil and fertilizers

Geranium produces the greatest amount of herbage on fertile, well drained,
slightly sandy soil, p H 5.5-7.0. Heavy clay, poorly drained, alkaline or very
acid soils below p H 5.0 are generally unsuitable, but some local cultivars are
tolerant of low to moderate levels of sodium chloride. In Australia, bore
water with a salt content too high for many crops can be used to supplement
rainfall, while in the Armenian region of Russia ameliorated saline sodic soils
produced high herbage yield under good management and fertilization.
Geranium is very adaptable and, in general, any local soil utilized for
vegetable production is suitable for commercial geranium crops. Geranium
produces a thick leafy canopy and is a suitable crop for hillsides, with ridge
or contour planting to reduce the danger of soil erosion. Soilless cultivation
is also possible; in Russia, a pilot hydroponic project produced plants
claimed to be virtually pest and disease free, gave five times the local herbage
yield, with an oil content of 3.0% (Mairapetyan and Alexsanyan, 1985).
Geranium can produce 25-40 tiha herbage annually and, as most is
removed from the plantation, the drain on plant nutrients is substantial and
must be replaced to maintain a higli yield. In India, the highest nitrogen
content of 0.98% was found in leaves and highest phosphate and potassium
content in petioles, 1.13% and 0.80% respectively (Dhakshinamoorthy et
al., 1979). Nutrient uptake per hectare was 18.2 kg N, 4 kg P, 6.6 kg K, 7.5
kg Ca, 4.8 kg Mg and, based on a herbage yield of 1135 kg, it was calculated
that a crop removed per hectare, 21 kg N, 4 kg P, 6.4 kg K, 7.7 kg Ca and 5
kg Mg. Oil production of 75 kgiha on Reunion required uptake per hectare
of 100 kg N, 14 kg P, 134 kg K, 179 kg Ca, 17 kg Mg, 15 kg Na and 10 kg
S, with a herbage yield of 7 tiha (Fritz, 1976), and this level of annual
removal without replacement was considered to cause dieback.
Nitrogen directly affects total herbage yield provided phosphate, potash
and soil moisture are available, but has little or no effect on oil content or oil
characteristics. Applying nitrogen to the seed-bed either alone or in a
compound fertilizer usually results in faster growth of cuttings, but the effect
seldom lasts beyond the first cut; thus its usefulness is limited and the
profitability of seed-bed application must be established locally. A nitrogen
top-dressing is usually applied after each cut and the most suitable type and
level of application must be accurately determined. In Kenya, there was no
significant increase from a total of 170 kgiha ammonium sulphate (36 kg N)
(Weiss, 1967) but in India urea or ammonium sulphate to 100 kgiha
Geraniaceae 37

generally increased herbage yield (Rajeswara Rao et al., 1990b, c). Very high
levels of ammonium sulphate were applied to an irrigated crop in Israel; 500
kgiha was soil incorporated prior to planting, 300 kgiha as a top dressing
before the first cut, and a similar amount after each cut. This produced the
extremely high yield of 70 tiha from three cuts in a year, and a calculated
total oil yield of 185 kgiha (Fleisher and Fleisher, 1985). There is usually
little or no difference in green material yield between the various nitrogenous
fertilizers, and the cheapest is normally applied. While high levels of nitrogen
generally promotes plant growth, related effects may modify a yield increase;
rust caused by Puccinia pelargonii-zonalis is often more severe.
Phosphate is usually necessary to ensure rapid rooting of cuttings and
subsequent herbage production, but has little effect on the oil content of
leaves or oil characteristics. Increasing seedbed superphosphate (17-18% P)
from 0 to 135 kgiha doubled herbage yield in the first and second year after
planting in Kenya, but yield rapidly declined in the third and subsequent
years, and a further application would probably have been profitable (Weiss,
1967,1969). In India, 25-40 kgiha superphosphate is common and a similar
amount is often applied in alternate years over the life of a plantation (Gulati
etal., 1982; Kumaretal., 1985). Acompoundfertilizerof50:130:lOONPK
at 600-800 kgiha increased yield on Reunion by 30% with phosphate the
most important (Gailleton, 1967), but the standard sugarcane fertilizer of
15:7:24 or 18:7:30 NPK is now more commonly applied at levels related to
the average oil yield per hectare; at 200 kg oil it is 200 kgiha, at 30-40 kg oil
it is 400-600 kgiha, and above 50 kg oil it is 700 kg of 9.5:14:30 NPK plus
600 kg ammonium nitrate or 300 kg ureaiha (Chablier, 1992).
Potassium levels, especially the ratio to nitrogen and phosphate, must be
accurately determined, since response to this nutrient is usually erratic. It is
frequently part of a compound NPK fertilizer, but may not be required or
required at a much lower level than available in the compound. Experi-
mental results in India showed potassium is frequently lacking in many
geranium-growing regions; potassium chloride is commonly recommended
at an annual rate of 35-70 kgiha (18-36 kg K).
Calcium in the seed-bed frequently increases herbage yield in the pres-
ence of adequate amounts of the major nutrients, and is often applied in
conjunction with magnesium; as dolomite limestone or ground magnesium
limestone when locally available. The amount applied is usually small, since
geranium prefers a slightly acid soil. From the small amount of data available
it appears no field planting of geranium has been adversely affected by a
minor or trace element deficiency. In pot trials magnesium frequently
increased herbage yield, and also in field trials when applied in the seed-bed.
No significant effect on herb oil content or oil composition has been
reported. Inclusion of molybdenum and copper increased herbage and oil
yield of well-fertilized plants in India.
38 Chapter 3

Table 3.4. Symptoms of nutrient deficiency in geranium.

Nutrient deficiency Symptoms

Nitrogen Older leaves mainly affected and show most symptoms; leaves are
lighter green initially, becoming more yellowish and finally turn light
brown and wither.
Phosphate Older leaves mainly affected: foliage is generally a darker green than
normal, with leaves developing red-purple areas. Lower leaves can
become yellowish, desiccate to a blue-green and fall.
Potassium Older leaves mainly affected; leaves become mottled, greyish-green,
with necrotic spots. In severe cases, leaf margins are scorched and
Magnesium Older leaves most affected; leaves become mottled, often with distinctive
inter-veinal yellowing while veins remain green. There is usually little or
no defoliation.
Iron Only younger leaves affected; symptoms are very similar to those of
magnesium deficiency but the age of affected leaves is a good
distinguishing feature.

The description of nutrient deficiency symptoms in Table 3.4 is intended

as a guide, and nutrient deficiencies and their amelioration can only be
accurately determined by soil and foliar analysis.
Spent leaves from distillation can be composted to provide a valuable
mulch, but it is doubtful if this operation would be profitable on large
commercial plantations. It is a low cost source of plant nutrients for
smallholders as it contains appreciable amounts of N, P, K, Ca and Mg, and
only labour is involved in its preparation.

It is essential that lands should be well ploughed and all roots and other plant
debris burnt, as geranium plants are very susceptible to root infections. This
major cultivation should take place as far in advance as possible of planting-
out cuttings, since it will provide an invaluable opportunity to produce a
level seedbed and destroy all persistent weeds and grasses. The latter are
extremely difficult to remove once geranium plants are well established
without causing damage to the relatively shallow roots or extensive bran-
ches. Where geranium is grown as a smallholder crop the minimum of
cultivation is normal; on Reunion for example, trash from a preceding cane
crop is piled and burnt, and the land hoed prior to planting cuttings. On
sloping lands where terracing is not possible, permanent lines of soil-binding
plants such as Pennisetum spp. or Vetiveria spp. should be established at
regular vertical intervals, to reduce the danger of soil erosion. Geranium is
normally planted in pure stands for commercial oil production, but when
grown by smallholders may be interplanted. In general, the total return from
Geraniaceae- 39

Table 3.5. Yield of intercropped geranium in India

Biomass yield of geranium (tiha)

Legumes (tiha)
Harvest number
Biomass Seed
Treatment 1 2 3 4 Total yield yield
Solid row (geranium) 6.0 10.2 10.7 13.0 39.9 ng ng
Paired row (geranium) 7.6 11.2 10.0 13.9 42.7 ng ng
Cow pea ng ng ng ng ng 29.4 2.93
Blackgram "g ng "g ng ng 4.3 0.93
Solid row (geranium/ 2.0 11.0 13.7 14.7 41.4 49.5 5.20
cow pea)
Paired row (geranium/ 3.4 11.7 13.4 14.8 43.3 43.4 4.47
cow pea)
Solid row (geranium/ 5.8 10.8 11.2 14.3 42.1 5.0 0.93
Paired row (geranium/ 4.3 8.6 12.7 15.1 40.7 6.8 1.00
~~~ ~

ng, not given.

Source: Prakasa Rao et al. (1984)

interplanted geranium is frequently less than can be obtained from increased

input to the crops it displaces (Table 3.5).
Geranium is usually propagated by stem cuttings, but root cuttings,
suckers or splits are equally effective although requiring more time to
produce. Micropropagation is possible and is an excellent method of pro-
ducing large numbers of plants from selected parents, although little used as
it is currently more expensive than existing methods of propagation (Brown
and Charlwood, 1986: Yue et al., 1993; Satyakala et al., 1995). Plants to
produce cuttings must either be available from an existing plantation, or a
large nursery established. A well-grown mature plant should provide 20-25
cuttings, and 30,000 to 50,000 cuttingsiha will normally be required.
Suitable cuttings are 15-20 cm with 4-6 nodes, a terminal bud and leaves,
should be from current season's growth, and taken only from healthy,
vigorous, bushy plants. Dipping cuttings in a rooting compound is effective
but usually unnecessary if cuttings have been properly prepared as the strike-
rate is high. When plants are required for experimental purposes, where age
and growth must be as uniform as possible, rooted cuttings are preferred.
Plastic tubing cut to length and stapled at the base is cheap and easy to use
(see Fig. 3.4). Large numbers of rooted cuttings can easily be obtained, thus
bulking-up of strains or experimental lines is simple and relatively inex-
pensive. When geranium is grown as an annual and seasonal conditions limit
the period available to mature a crop, rooted cuttings are essential and must
be produced as easily and cheaply as possible, and this requires a high level
40 Chapter 3

of mechanization. One system developed in Russia used specially designed

greenhouses, handling equipment and transplanters (Ivanovov, 1984).
For direct field planting, leaves should be clipped from the bottom two-
thirds of the cutting, the base cut at an angle, dipped in fungicide, then
planted as soon as possible. Cuttings must be planted into moist soil as it is
generally not feasible to water-in large-scale plantings. Cuttings can be
mechanically planted, but manual planting is common, and a three-person
team can quickly plant one hectare. Rows can be easily marked using a
tractor and any suitable tined implement set at the required width. Alterna-
tively, a wooden T-bar set with 3-5 teeth at the correct spacing is effective.
Infilling should commence as soon as dead or diseased cuttings are noticed,
and this operation should continue over the life of the plantation to maintain
a full stand. In areas when heavy rainstorms occur it may be advisable to
ridge fields to encourage drainage; conversely, in drier regions tied-ridges
will retain maximum rainfall. In both instances cuttings should be planted
into the ridges. When machinery is used to construct ridges, fertilizer can be
placed at the same time and ridges tied automatically.
It is essential to control weed growth until plants become well established
and after each cut, and weeding must be as shallow as possible to avoid
damage to plant roots. Manual weeding is common but herbicides have
been used successfully in geranium and these should always be applied as

Fig. 3.4. Bulking up selected geranium strains. Kenya.

Geraniaceae 41

directed sprays with drift-shields. An excellent method of applying herbi-

cides for small farmers, or where labour is available, is spot-spraying or wick-
application to kill persistent weeds. The following have been used in gera-
nium with no major damage to plants when correctly applied: atrazine,
dalapon, glyphosate, linuron, and simazine. Field trials should always pre-
cede general use as there are indications herbicides may affect leaf oil
content and composition.
Adequate soil moisture is essential for high herbage yield and 55565% soil
moisture capacity should be maintained in the root zone over the main
growing periods. Thus irrigation during a dry period or to induce new
growth is desirable, but is usually only possible where an irrigation system
and water are already available for other crops. It is most unlikely that
growing geranium on a commercial scale for oil production wholly under
irrigation would be profitable. Irrigation substantially increases herbage and
thus total oil yield per hectare but, in general, leaf oil content tends to be
reduced, especially with overhead systems. Thus harvesting, transport and
distilling cost per kilogram of oil obtained will increase, plus the cost of the
water and its application.

The first cut should not be taken until plants are well established and bushy,
normally 6-8 months after planting out. Cutting too early after establish-
ment often kills many plants, or regrowth is very slow. When to cut may be
determined by weather or other farming operations, but to obtain maximum
oil yield plants should be routinely sampled to determine oil content;
however, cutting is usually related to plant height or flowering. Oil content
normally increases from onset of flowering, is highest at full bloom, and very
rapidly decreases thereafter (Table 3.6). In southern India, oil content was
highest in July and lowest in February, while specific gravity was highest in
January and lowest in September (Mani and Sampath, 1982). Oil composi-
tion also changes over time, which tracer studies have shown to be sub-
stantial (Banthorpe et al., 1983). These changes also correspond to the main
growth periods, and thus cutting at the optimum time for oil content also
generally produces the highest quality oil.
Cutting can be manual or mechanical at 12-20 cm above the ground, with
field trials to establish the most profitable height in relation to distillation
time and oil yield per tonne of material. The importance of cutting height
was demonstrated in India and Israel; leaf blades, petioles and flowers
contain practically all the oil, the stem little, and from 15 cm below the tip
virtually none (Vadivel and Sampath, 1982; Kumar et al., 1985; Fleisher and
Fleisher, 1985). The whole stem contains so little oil it is a waste of effort to
distil, but there is currently no practical method of harvesting leaves alone.
Smallholder plots are invariably cut by hand, with only green leafy shoots
selected to reduce volume throughput of stills, and a major pruning is
42 Chapter 3

Table 3.6. Changes in essential oil content during blooming -Israel.

Oil %wet Dry material

Date of harvest Plant stage Part analysed material (%) Oil % dry wi
25 March Beginning of Whole plant 0.17 14.3 1.21
1 April First half of Whole plant 0.13 15.4 1.23
8 April Full bloom Flowers 0.60 18.4 3.27
Leaves 0.31 17.3 1.78
Stems Trace 13.5 Trace
Whole plant 0.21 16.0 1.32
15 April Advanced Whole plant 0.22 18.3 1.19
30 April End of blooming Whole plant 0.1 1 17.8 0.56
Source: Fleisher and Fleisher (1985).

recommended in India after 5 years of such selective cutting, with prunings

removed and burnt (Kumar and Sampath, 1982).
Cut herbage should be loaded directly into a cart or trailer and not placed
on the ground, as adhering soil can affect oil quality, especially in areas
where there is a high content of iron or aluminium, common in many
tropical red earths. Mechanical harvesting is essential on large commercial
plantations and described later in the distillation section. Although it is
desirable to continue cutting once harvesting has begun, some flexibility is
essential to maintain a high oil yield. Slightly overcast but dry conditions are
most suitable, although it may be necessary to cut only in the early morning
on very hot, sunny days. A heavy rainstorm or several misty days can halve
oil content, and cutting should be suspended until oil content recovers.
Since volume of herbage is substantial, the rate of cutting must be closely
integrated with still capacity, as cut material stored in heaps quickly ferments
with consequent deterioration in oil quality.
Herbage yield varies widely: in Kenya up to 30-40, average 15-25 tiha;
India up to 20, average 6-10 tiha; Reunion 15-30, average 18 tiha. Selection
or breeding can rapidly increase herbage or oil yield as in Russia, where the
Georgian cultivar ‘Yubileinaya’ gave twice the oil yield at 46 kg/ha of the best
commercial cultivar from 12% less herbage (Oboladze and Kuchuloriya,
1986), while in Tajikstan a selected cultivar gave treble the average oil yield
per hectare of those currently cultivated (Nurnazarov and Bordyeva,
Quoted oil yield varies from 5-20 kg/ha annually depending directly on
the cultivar and number of cuts possible. The potential for increased yield
has been demonstrated at many local experimental stations where selected
strains gave 0.30-0.45% oil content combined with substantially increased
Geraniaceae 43

herbage yield. Thus oil yield dramatically increased in India to 45 kg/ha

compared with an average of 8-15 kgiha (Balakrishnan et al., 1982), while
70-80 kg oiliha was obtained by crossing selected high-yielding strains at the
Sukhumi Experimental Station, Georgia (CIS). The annual average oil yield
should be not less than 0.20-0.25% of total herbage by volume from large
commercial plantations if the operation is to be viable (in 1995). Thus
agronomic and management methods must aim at obtaining this oil yield as
economically as possible. Research should aim at breeding or selection and
bulking-up of high oil-yielding plants preferably using micropropagation
The useful life of a geranium plantation depends mainly on the standard
of management and can be 10 years, but should not be less than 6-8 years for
a commercia! plantation as the cost of re-establishment is considerable.
Once the life cycle has been determined, it should be possible to regulate
operations to ensure part of the area is replanted annually for continuity. A
minimum area of 200-250 ha under crop will allow the necessary mecha-
nization, sustain a modern distillery, and profitably produce oil. Alterna-
tively, the nucleus plantation system could be used in many regions to obtain
the necessary minimum area. Methods of allowing permanent cultivation of
geranium by efficient cultural techniques and adequate pest and disease
control should also be given priority in any research programme. Geranium
can also be an annual crop in a rotation, although this is currently possible
only under smallholder cultivation (Husain et al., 1988). Where a rotation is
essential to reduce the incidence of pests or diseases a number of crops have
proved suitable; on Reunion, 7 years under sugar then 5-7 years geranium,
or Acacia decurrens (Wendl) Willd. up to 10 years then 5-7 years geranium;
in India, 1-3 years pulses and small grains between geranium crops; in
Kenya, a grazed grass fallow of not less than 2 years is recommended since
there are few alternative cash crops.

Once cutting has commenced on a commercial geranium plantation, stills
should be operated continuously to keep pace with the volume of material,
since it is generally unprofitable to have sufficient stills working only part of
the day to meet demand over the relatively short period of optimum herbage
oil content. Wherever possible, commercial plantations should install a
combination trailer-still system as described in the section on harvesting
eucalyptus. Harvesting can be extended provided it is accepted that oil
characteristics will probably differ during the period, and it will be necessary
separately to store the oil obtained until it can be reprocessed or blended to
the required type. The author obtained two quite different oils in the dry and
wet seasons in Kenya as noted, and cutting when plants were in full bloom
44 Chapter 3

tended to produce an oil with lower geraniol and citronellol content than
cutting prior to blooming. Figure 3.5 shows a still which was built under the
author's supervision in Kenya.
Allowing herbage to wilt before distilling depends on the facilities avail-
able; where it can be thinly spread on a clean shaded surface wilting can be
an advantage, but the duration must be accurately established (Chan-
dravadana and Kumar, 1989; Rajeswara Rao et al., 1992)). Field wilting has
a number of disadvantages; most importantly oil content falls rapidly in
strong sunlight, with the added risk of soil contamination.
Geranium herbage can be hydro- or steam-distilled, the oil obtained being
basically the same under a similar level of management. A substantial
amount of geranium oil is produced by small owner-operated unsophisti-
cated stills, whose efficiency in terms of cost per kilogram of oil is low. Such
producers should co-operate to establish a modern distillery to produce high
quality oil, while governments in some countries actively support the devel-
opment and introduction of more modern stills, Reunion for example (Vera
et al., 1995). Solar heating can substantially reduce the cost of pre-heating
water to produce steam and replace all or part of the huge amounts of wood
required; 200-400 kg wood per tonne of herbage processed is common. T h e
material used to construct still bodies may have an important effect on oil
composition, and must be considered when new distilleries are planned
(Guerere et al., 1985).

Fig. 3.5.Still built under author's supervision, Kenya

Geraniaceae 45

Herbage can be directly loaded or chopped and blown into the still body,
but whatever method is used, it is essential the charge should not be too
densely packed, as this will cause channelling or hot spots. Modern stills use
cohobation, since some oil remains in the distillation water. This oil, the
secondary oil, may reach 25% of potential oil yield and can be solvent
extracted. In Israel, secondary oil was higher in free alcohols but had a lower
ester content. Analysis of the two oils gave the following (secondary oil in
brackets): specific gravity (20"C), 0.899 (0.899), refractive index 1.468
(1.468), optical rotation -10.9" (-5.9"), acidvalue 2.6 ( 4 . 9 , estervalue 75
(36), ester value after acetylation 232 (250) (Fleisher and Fleisher, 1985).
When herbage is hydro-distilled the liquid remaining in the still body is
not equivalent to this secondary oil. It may have been overheated or
remained in the still for several distillations and contain compounds which
adversely effect oil quality. It should be discarded. Spent herbage should
preferably be composted for return to the plantation as mulch, or used on
other crops. On large plantations the volume is substantial and an efficient
method of removing it from the distillery for treatment or dumping is
Crude oil should be dried, filtered and stored in opaque airtight contain-
ers. Storage temperature should be below 10°C for extended periods and
not higher than 15°C for shorter periods. In general, acid number and
specific gravity increase and optical rotation and ester number decrease in
oils stored in ambient conditions. Opaque containers of glass, aluminium or
steel are preferred, as many plastic containers are unsuitable. An indication
of the physical and chemical changes which can occur in an Egyptian oil has
been published (Oda, 1982). Leaves may be solvent extracted with hexane,
but the concentrate must be again extracted with ethanol to remove the

Pests and diseases

The most important pests of geranium are those attacking leaves and shoots,
soil-living larvae of various beetles, nematodes and termites. Many reports
in the literature refer to ornamental pelargoniums, and although these pests
may also be found on crops grown for essential oil, their economic im-
portance is usually small. For example the large variegated-leaf ornamental
types with little oil content growing in the author's garden in Kenya were
sometimes almost defoliated by caterpillars not found on nearby essential oil
cwltivars. Geranium plants are generally free from major infestations and
spot spraying to contain an outbreak is normally sufficient. A major reason
for the author's reluctance to use overall insecticide sprays was (and re-
mains) a lack of data on the effect of residues on oil quality. Some chemicals
have an extremely offensive and persistent odour, which does not always
disappear during distillation, and could be a reason why oils sometimes have
46 Chapter 3

Caterpillars of various moths cause some degree of damage. Specifically;

Lobesia vanillana damaged plants in Reunion, and L. botrana from West Asia
to the southern CIS republics (although usually a major pest of grapevine);
Cyrtophlebia leucotreta in the Middle East and Africa; Oebia ( = Hellula)
undalis the cabbage webworm, a widespread pest of cruciferous crops, also
damages geranium. The polyphagous Heliothis armigera, Heliothis peltigera,
Achaea spp. and several other Noctuidae including Plusia ( = Chrysodeixis)
chalcites have been recorded from a number of countries as causing regular
but minor damage. Mirids, especially Helopeltis spp., and whiteflies, partic-
ularly Trialeurodes spp., often T. vaporariorum the greenhouse whitefly, can
frequently be found on geranium, sometimes in large numbers, but seldom
cause significant damage. Galls caused by Dasineura spp. and Jaapiella spp.,
midges, have recently been recorded from Kazakhstan (Fedotova, 1993).
Aphids are normally present, especially Acyrtosiphon malvae the pelagonium
aphid, or the ubiquitous Myzus persicae, but again seldom cause major
damage. Mites can cause severe damage on individual plants or a small area
in a crop, Tetranychus spp. being most frequently mentioned. Scale insects
may occur on geranium from Japan to Europe, but the degree of damage is
usually not extensive; Pseudaulacaspispentagona, the white peach scale, may
be seasonally severe as on Reunion and, since this scale generally has a wide
local host range, cross-infestation is common and difficult to control; the
widespread Aspidiotus destructor, transparent or coconut scale, has been
noted but is usually a pest of tree crops. Earwigs, Foq5cula spp. may become
very numerous in dry periods, attacking terminal and flower buds and
causing distorted growth. Weevils may be a more serious pest than is
currently accepted, and have been recorded from several important gera-
nium growing regions; on Reunion Cratopus spp., which has numerous
alternative hosts, requires control when numbers build up; Pantomorus
godmani, Fuller’s rose beetle, has been recorded in Egypt and other west
Asian countries as a minor pest but could become more important on large
plantations. Coreid bugs are frequently present and cause wilting of shoots
and foliage; most often reported is Liorhyssus hyalinus which has a wide
geographical and host range. Roots are damaged by larvae of the vine weevil
Otiorhynchus sulcatus and the common local cutworm, often Agrotis ipsilon
and Scotia segetum. A scarab, Hoplochelus marginalis, is considered a serious
pest on Reunion, Madagascar and neighbouring islands, while larvae of
Schizonchya spp. may cause some root damage in a number ofnorth and east
African countries. The importance of nematodes has not been determined,
although Meloidogyne spp. are frequently recorded. In contrast, geranium oil
apparently has nematicidal activity (Leela et al., 1992).
Diseases are generally more important than insects in the degree of
damage caused. The major leaf diseases are anthracnose, primarily due to
Glomerella spp., especially G. vanillae and G. cingulata, Gloeosporium spp.
Geraniaceae 47

and Colletotrichum gloeosporioides; leaf spots caused by Alternaria spp., Fusa-

rium spp. (especially F. oxysporum), Cercospora spp.(often C. brunkiz) and
Pseudomonas spp. often P. solanacearum; rust due to Puccinia pelargonii-
zonalis. All can be controlled by fungicides. Symptoms and major causal
organisms vary regionally and positive identification is necessary to ensure
the correct remedial treatment. Pelargonium vitifolium has a high degree of
resistance to anthracnose and has been used to introduce this important
factor into other cultivars, especially on Reunion. Serious bacterial leaf and
stem rots are caused by types of Xanthomonas pelargonii or Pseudomonas
solanacearum. A damaging leaf and stem wilt due to Verticillium spp. spreads
rapidly in a crop. The most efficient control method when the disease has
been positively identified is to uproot and burn infected plants, and treat soil
in the area with a formalin solution.
Root rots cause many fatalities in new plantings and nurseries, controlled
by dipping cuttings in a fungicidal solution prior to planting. Mature plants
can also be infected, especially when soil moisture is high or following a
period of high humidity. Most frequently recorded are X . pelargonii, black
stem rot; foot rots due to Pythium spp. especially P. splendens and Glomerella
spp.; stem or root decay caused by Sclerotinia spp., Rhizoctonia spp. and
Thielaviopsis spp. T o contain an outbreak, or where these diseases are
common, a fungicide spray along plant rows after each cut will materially
reduce damage. Resistance to some of these diseases is reported in Indian
selections and ornamental cultivars, and worth further investigation.
Several viruses have been isolated from geranium, and there is no cure for
infected plants; thus only virus-free plants should be used to provide
cuttings. The most obvious symptoms are yellowing of leaves which later
curl or crumble, or small green instead of normal flowers. Crinkle or leaf curl
virus is transmitted by the aphid Macrosiphum pelargonii, and the thrips
Frankliniella occidentalis is considered a vector of flower break virus. Oedema
is caused by a combination of high humidity, cool air and warm soil;
symptoms are tiny pimple-like blisters on undersides of leaves, petioles and
tender stems. The condition is physiological; cells become saturated with
water, swell and burst. Should atmospheric conditions persist, blisters
increase, become brown and corky and affected leaves turn yellow and

Products and specifications

Geranium oil is obtained by steam or hydro-distilling fresh herbage, and an
absolute by solvent extracting the distillate or herbage. A number of gera-
nium oils are available commercially, usually distinguished by a country-of-
origin prefix: Reunion, Egyptian, Moroccan, etc. (Table 3 . 7 ) . Over 100
compounds have been detected in geranium oil (Nofal, 198 1; Nigam et al.,
1987; Ma and Li, 1991; Ntezurubanza et al., 1992; Demarne, 1992;
48 Chapter 3

Lawrence, 1994; Southwell and Stiff, 1995). Many Pelargonium spp. pro-
duce an essential oil and composition of the most important have been
reviewed (Lawrence, 1992). Oil from all origins is frequently adulterated,
the finer the original quality the more common the occurrence. Some
countries, including Reunion and Egypt, have a high standard of purity and
oils purchased directly from reliable suppliers are usually unadulterated.

Table 3.7.Comparison of geranium oils from selected origina,

Algeria China Egypt Morocco Reunion

Alpha-pinene 0.62 0.28 0.38 0.46 0.86
Beta-pinene 0.08 0.04 0.07 0.05 0.16
Alpha-terpinene 0.04 0.02 0.03 0.02 0.03
Myrcene 0.14 0.09 0.08 0.06 0.19
Alpha-phellandrene 0.07 0.04 0.01 0.02 0.02
Beta-phellandrenetlimonene 0.17 0.1 2 0.13 0.13 0.21
cis-Ocimene 0.16 0.08 0.05 0.07 0.16
trans-Ocimene 0.20 0.06 0.07 0.07 0.14
pGymene 0.08 0.06 0.06 0.07 0.1 1
Terpinolene 0.04 0.01 0.03 0.02 0.03
cis-Rose oxide 1.08 145 1.01 0.97 0.64
trans-Rose oxide 0.37 0.64 0.34 0.38 0.21
cis-Linalool oxide 0.14 0.12 0.28 0.16 0.39
Menthone 0.88 1.41 1.31 0.78 1.50
trans-Linalool oxide 0.47 0.34 0.51 0.49 0.24
lsomenthone 5.38 5.70 5.39 5.20 7.20
Linalool 5.26 3.96 9.47 6.80 12.90
Caryophyllene 0.93 1.04 1.05 0.77 0.74
Guaiadiene 6,9 0.18 4.40 0.27 0.15 3.90
Citronellyl formate 7.57 11.35 6.74 6.02 8.37
Citronellyl acetate 0.28 0.80 0.25 1.23 0.17
Alpha-terpineol 1.14 0.76 0.93 0.94 0.70
Geranyl formate 5.90 1.92 4.75 6.55 7.55
Geranyl acetate 1.08 0.10 0.61 1.06 0.39
Citronellol 22.90 40.23 27.40 19.28 21.28
Nerol 0.80 0.67 0.88 1.19 1.24
Citronellyl butyrate 1.14 0.52 0.75 1.07 1.26
Geraniol 17.07 6.45 18.00 18.40 17.45
Phenylethyl butyrate 0.30 0.37 1.06 0.55 0.16
Geranyl butyrate 2.55 0.98 1.48 2.24 1.34
Furopel argone 0.23 0.59 trace 0.24 0.37
10-Epi-gamma-eudesmol 4.20 - 4.00 5.10 -
Geranyl tiglate 1.65 1.32 1.06 2.44 1.04
Phenylethyl tiglate 0.76 0.60 0.65 1.04 0.43
aFigures in table are percentages.
Source : Fraisse et a/. (1983); Vernin et al. (1983).
Geraniaceae 49

Individual shippers in producing areas have also established their own

specifications, which are quoted and maintained. Geranium oil is normally
used in toiletries and cosmetics, but it also has insecticidal, nematicidal and
antifungal properties, and these minor uses are described in the literature.
The most highly regarded oil is from Reunion, sometimes known as
Bourbon geranium oil from the original name, Ile de Bourbon. Fresh
Reunion oil is olive-green often with a brownish tinge, becoming yellowish-
green with age, with a high gaidiene content; odour is powerful, tenacious,
rosy, sweet and fruity; taste bitter and unpleasant. Main use is in perfumery
and cosmetics. Moroccan oil is usually a dark to medium yellow; odour
sweet, rosy, herbaceous, somewhat similar to Reunion oil. Although oil
quality is normally high, it is not a direct substitute for Reunion oil, but has
replaced Algerian oil. Egyptian oil is regularly available in commercial
quantities, and assuming increasing importance. The oil is yellow to
yellowish-green; odour rich, rosy-herbaceous; taste bitter. It is not a sub-
stitute for Reunion oil but is similar to Algerian or Moroccan oils. Chinese
oil is a dark olive green, often with a brownish or brownish-yellow tinge;
odour very variable probably due to the different distilling methods used,
and the various cultivars grown. Odour harsher than Reunion oil, tenacious,
often more lemony and rosy, with a sweetish-herbaceous note. It is not a
substitute for any other geranium oil. Demand would rapidly increase
supply, as it is much cheaper than other oils. Russian oil is not generally
available, but is closer to the best Algerian or Moroccan oil rather than
Reunion. Regions of the CIS produce a distinct type of oil for use in different
end products.
Indian geranium oil is not commercially available for export. Local oils
vary considerably in composition and odour especially lowland and highland
oils; the latter are considered of higher quality. Colour is a dark to brownish-
green becoming more yellow with age; odour somewhat harsher than
Reunion oil with less rosy and more lemony-minty notes, and much of this
variation is due to the strain of geranium grown and method of distillation.
An Indian standard has been published and is now generally followed. A
comparison of two Indian oils is shown in Table 3.8. The original Kenya
geranium oil, known as Mawah oil, was quite different to other geranium oils
(Matheson and Bovill, 1950; Guenther, 1957; Arctander, 1960; Kustova,
1978). However, oil produced from an imported Bourbon strain was of
superior quality, nearer to Moroccan oil than Mawah oil (Weiss, 1967).
Terpeneless geranium oil is prepared by vacuum distilling geranium oil,
and its composition will vary to suit processor’s requirements. Another
product of this process is rhodinol ex geranium (Arctander, 1960). Both oils
are colourless to very pale yellow. The odour of terpeneless geranium oil
varies as the constituents vary. Rhodinol has a sweet, fresh, rosy very
tenacious odour. Both products are extensively used in very high-quality
perfumery and cosmetic products.
50 Chapter 3

Table 3.8. Comparison of Indian geranium oilsa

Maldwani oil' Nilgiri oilc

Alpha-pinene 0.66 0.32
Camphene 0.49 0.67
Beta-pinene 1.49 0.25
Bornyl acetate 0.10 4.04
Citronellal 0.29 2.87
Beta-selinene 0.41 0.89
Linalool 8.74 II.a4
lsomenthone 2.94 2.87
Neoisomenthol 7.80 12.02
Citronellyl acetate 1.14 0.96
Alpha-terpineol 3.64 9.49
Citronellol 36.01 31.70
Geranyl acetate 0.49 1.35
Phenylethyl alcohol 1.04 2.17
10-Epi-gamma-eudesmol 14.49 4.57
Juniper camphor 2.48 ng
Junenol 1.86 ng
aFigures in table are percentages; low altitude; high altitude; ng, not given.
Source: Gulati et al. (1982).

Geranium concentrate is prepared by solvent extracting green herbage,

and is a dark green or brownish-green waxy mass, although some solvents
produce a dark green liquid not truly a concentrate. The solvent used affects
the concentrate, and petroleum ether produces a light coloured concentrate.
Odour is described as intense, of great tenacity, sharp-rosy, foliar-earthy and
herbaceous. Geranium absolute is prepared by solvent extracting distillation
water, commonly with petroleum ether. The absolute is usually a green to
dark green mobile liquid, contains a high proportion of rhodinol, but is low
in terpenes, esters, and ketones. Odour soft but very powerful, rich rosy and
minty, tending to leafy-earthy, with a less sharp note than the oil but much
more tenacious. Yield of absolute is slightly higher than oil yield from the
same weight of herbage. Both concentrate and absolute are used extensively
in perfumery and cosmetics including soaps.


The first reference to geranium is in Dioscorides' Materia Medica, as

geranion from the Greek geranos, a crane, because of the shape of the long-
beaked fruit. The plant and its fragrant leaves were also well known to the
Geraniaceae 51

Romans. In Europe G. robertianum L. and in North America G. maculatum

L. are well established components of herbal medicine for treatment of
stomach disorders. A score of species known to Linnaeus were grouped into
Geranium in his Species Plantarum. Two of the earliest recorded were G.
macrorrhizum L. in 1576 and G. stm'atum L. in 1629, both from southern
Europe. There is reference in the 1633 Johnson edition of Gerrards Herbal
(p. 948) to Mr John Tradescant having a plant named Geranium indicum var.
odoratum in his garden, believed to be Pelargonium triite (L.) L'Herit., the so-
called sad geranium. The genus is closely related to the Erodium L'Herit.
with which some geranium species are often confused. The genus Geranium
L. is widely distributed but only G. macrorrhizum is harvested to produce an
essential oil; G. sanguineum L. has been tested as a dye producer in Uzbeki-
stan (CIS), and together with three other Geranium spp. was investigated as
a suitable dry region crop (Kim and Oprasidi, 1989). The first recorded use
of G. macrorrhizum was in Europe where foliage was steeped in hot water to
produce a tonic, and it was also erroneously believed to be an aphrodisiac.
The oil was first distilled in Bulgaria in 1926, and has since continued to be
produced there in varying amounts (Ognyanov and Ivanov, 1958). Only
brief details of the plant and its oil are given, as it is not cultivated and
indications are the oil is unlikely to be produced in any greater amounts (Fig.
Geranium macrorrhizum L. (syn. Robertium macrorrhizum Pic.) is com-
monly known as zdravetz in the literature and will be hereafter referred to as
zdravetz, which is derived from the Bulgarian name for the plant, also called
big-root geranium. Cytology of the geraniums is somewhat confused, with
the basic chromosome number recorded as x = 23,25, with G. macrorrhizum
stated as 2n = 46. There are a number of cultivated varieties with white, pink
or purple flowers and variegated foliage. Zdravetz is a herbaceous perennial
with large brown rhizomes from which arise stout stems to 25 cm in the wild,
to 35 cm under cultivation. Leaves are mid-green and may become tinged
with red in autumn; deeply divided into five or seven-toothed, pinnately-cut
lobes. Peduncle densely-hairy, glandular, bearing magenta-pink to carmine-
red flowers with large petals in dense clusters. Fruit is long, sharply pointed
and contains many hard, brown, ellipsoid seeds which are usually viable;
plants can be raised from seed or root division. The foliage is highly aromatic
and an essential oil is obtained by steam distilling herbage or rhizomes. In
Yugoslavia, herbage and rhizomes had an oil content of 0.27-1.44'70 and
0.23-0.34% respectively. The fresh and dried herbage and rhizomes, leaf
extracts and root oil are used in traditional medicine virtually everywhere the
plant occurs (Ivanovska et al., 1993).
All oil currently available comes from wild plants and there is apparently
no intention in Bulgaria, Yugoslavia or Russia to cultivate zdravetz, since
52 Chapter 3

pilot projects have been unsuccessful. Wild plants in Bulgaria are re-
cumbent, with short stout stems arising from underground rhizomes. Leaves
tend to bunched towards the stem apex. Zdravetz is found in quantity
between 800-1700 m on rather infertile soils in Bulgaria; in Yugoslavia, soils
rich in calcium were reported to induce azulene concentration, while plants
growing in soils with a high selenium content had no azulene in the oil
(Mihajlov and Tucakov, 1975). Few pests or diseases have been accurately
recorded from wild zdravetz; recently Gnomopnia geranii-macrowhizi is de-
scribed as damaging roots in Bulgaria (Fakirova, 1995).
Harvesting normally begins in September and continues until snow falls
or the first frost. Herbage can be distilled fresh or wilted, with a yield of

Fig. 3.6. Geranium macrorrhizum

Geraniaceae 53

Table 3.9. Main characteristics of zdravetz oil - Bulgaria.

Commercial State
sample' specification Guenther'
Density (40°C) 0.930-0.952 0.938-0.968 0.9515 (25°C)
Refractive index 1.5024-1.5135 1.500-1.519 1.5076 (25°C)
Optical rotation (40°C) - 4 8 to -8.6" - I 0 to -9" -4'35' (25%)
Acid number 1.2-1.87 Max 3.0 1.9
Ester number 4.97-7.91 3.5-8.0 6.5
(after acetylation) (20.75-49.78) ng (35.5)
Acetyl number ng 20.7-50.0 ng
Melting-point ("C) ng 34-50 ng
Free alcohols (%)a 5.80-1 1.88 4-1 2 ng
Total alcoholsa 7.70-14.50 5-1 6 ng
(combined alcohols) ng 1-4 ng
Gerrnacrone (%) 47.75-50.13 42-53 ng
~~~ ~~ ~

aas geraniol; ng, not given.

Source: ' Ognyanov and lvanov (1958); Guenther (1957) vol. 4, p. 734

0.08-0.125%, and plants exposed to direct sunlight had a higher herbage oil
content than those growing mainly in shade. Plants growing in various
districts also had different herbage oil levels, indicating the potential for
increasing oil content by selection. Herbage is loaded into stills without
undue compaction, distilled for approximately 4 hours, and about 1 kg of oil
is obtained from 800-1 200 kg herbage. Hydro-distillation with cohobation
is normal, as this extracts almost all the oil and produces an oil closest to the
plant's natural scent.
Crude oil at ambient temperature is a bluish-green semi-viscous liquid
containing large colourless, odourless prismatic crystals. On exposure to air
the oil becomes gradually less green, finally a brownish green, the acid
number increases and the characteristic odour becomes modified by a
pronounced resinous note. This note is also very strong in cohobation water.
Since the crystals in crude oil are odourless, only the liquid (eleoptene) is of
interest to perfumers and contains 2% monoterpenes and 25% sesqui-
Zdravetz oil is a pale olive-green or pale yellowish-green somewhat
viscous liquid, which at room temperature is normally 30% liquid, 70%
crystals by volume; crystals begin to dissolve at 32°C and completely
dissolve between 45OC and 52OC. The main characteristics of zdravetz oil
are shown in Table 3.9, with alcohols calculated as geraniol although this is
absent from the oil; similarly germacrone has been traditionally quoted as
stearoptene. The main components of zdravetz oil are sesquiterpenes (to
90%), of which about half is germacrone (Ognyanov, 1985). Oil odour is
warm-fresh, sweetly herbaceous, rosy-woody, tenacious and used almost
54 Chapter 3

exclusively in perfumery and cosmetics. Zdravetz concentrate is not com-

mercially produced, but the solidified oil is sometimes misnamed concen-
trate. Concentrate is obtained by solvent extracting distilled oil.


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The Gramineae (syn. Poaceae), order Graminales, is the fourth largest
family of flowering plants with some 700 genera containing approximately
8000 species. Many are highly specialized but all produce a characteristic
fruit, an achene with a transparent pericarp, the caryopsis. A number are
cultivated on a huge scale including wheat, rice and maize, others produce a
commercially important essential oil. The Gramineae are divided into two
major sub-families, Pooideae and Panicoideae; the latter consisting of three
tribes, Paniceae, Maydeae and Andropogoneae, the last containing the
genera Cymbopogon and Vetiveria (Bor, 1960; Jagadischandra, 1975; Lazar-
ides, 1980). Classification of genera in the Panicoideae remains undefined
and also the number of species included in any specific genus, especially
Cymbopogon, as species intercross readily and may also exist in a number of
The inflorescence of Cymbopogon differs from other members of the tribe,
as the paired spikelets are carried on short racemes occurring in groups of
two, each group subtended by a moderately large semi-sheathing spathe.
The spathes with their paired racemes are borne in large branched panicles,
in some species somewhat open and spreading, in others more compact
(Fig. 4.1). The basic chromosome number is x = 10, and the somatic
number for most is 2n = 20 or 40.
The genus Cymbopogon Spreng. includes 50-60 species of tropical, per-
ennial, coarse-growing tufted grasses, many having highly aromatic foliage.
The five species described are C. nardus (Ceylon citronella) and C. winter-
ianus (Java citronella); C. citratus (West Indian lemongrass) and C. Pexuosus
(East Indian lemongrass); and C. martinii (palmarosa and gingergrass). The
genus Vetiveria Bory. currently contains ten species, including V. zizanioides
(vetiver) whose rhizome and roots are highly aromatic. Many other Cymbo-
pogon species contain a volatile oil (Singh, et al., 1982; Rizk et al., 1983;
Manzur-I-Khuda et al., 1984; Nigam, 1987; Mathela and Pant, 1988;
Mathela, 1990; Boelens, 1994).

60 Chapter 4

Sessile spikelet with awn

arising from lemma

Fig. 4.1. Cymbopogon spp. paired racemes of spikelets. (Cobley, 1965.)

The very wide range of oil types identified also indicates the range of
material available to plant breeders, not only in respect of novel oils, but also
within existing commercially exploited Cymbopogon species. In particular,
there exists considerable potential for selection and breeding strains high in
a specific oil component. A strain of C. pendulus produces oil with a 90%
citral content; of c. wintem'anus a citronellal content of 70%; of c.jwuruncusa
piperitone to 83% (Singh and Pathak, 1994), while a strain of C.martiniivar.
sofia produces oil with 40% carvone (Sobti, 1982).
Most operations necessary to grow these grasses and obtain oil, and the
pests and diseases, are common to all and are discussed in this section.
Vetiver is discussed separately since oil is contained in rhizome and roots,
not in herbage. Smallholders contribute a substantial proportion of oils
entering international trade, but output per grower is small. Since most oil
production will probably remain in this sector, there has been considerable
official research into improving management and agronomic techniques,
especially in Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Primary cultivation initially included clearing forest or bush, but this is
now discouraged by most governments. The greatest effort currently re-
quired is clearing land of exhausted crops and preparation for replanting.
Grass clumps are dug, piled, burnt and ash scattered. Some clumps are left
on field margins to provide splits for replanting. Experienced growers note
clumps which have outgrown or outyielded the majority, and use these for
planting material, but in general little attention is paid to selection of a
superior type. Following burning, the land is weeded and may be left fallow
until onset of the rains, then again weeded. When soil moisture is adequate,
Gramineae 61

the remaining clumps are divided and planted by opening a hole with a hoe,
the division dropped in and earth firmed with the foot. A man opening the
holes, his wife planting and children bringing further supplies of splits is
extremely effective, fast, and the proportion of rooted cuttings high if
subsequent rainfall is adequate. Little attention is paid to regular planting
intervals and, as grass clumps tend to expand to fill space available, there is
no appreciable loss of oil.
New plantings are weeded when time is available and, once established,
the grasses are well able to compete with all but the most pernicious local
weeds. The area is usually weeded after each cut and any fertilizer, ashes or
spent grass spread between clumps. Herbage is harvested by sickle and
transported to the still, or left to wilt for 1-3 days depending on local custom.
Time of cutting is important in relation to oil content of leaves but, as most
smallholders are always short of money, cutting is determined more often by
a cash need. Plants are harvested a t any convenient time, and this affects
both rate of regrowth and total yield of oil, usually to grower’s loss.
Few smallholders own stills and either sell their grass by weight to still
operators or cooperate in owning and operating a still. The latter system is
now common and actively encouraged by governments, who make low-cost
loans available to groups formed for the purpose. In India, wild plants are the
source of most palmarosa and gingergrass oil, and are cut by contract gangs
who harvest and distil1 the grass in situ in the area of their grant.
With the possible exception of vetiver, the grasses can be interplanted or
underplanted in suitable crops, which must be chosen with care, since too
much shade adversely affects leaf production and thus oil yield. Neither
method is recommended for commercial plantations unless the project is of
sufficient size to ensure the required level of management is applied to all
crops: tea and citronella for example (q.v). In smallholder plantings, the
degree of intercropping will depend almost entirely on the relative profitabil-
ity of the crops involved, and thus the respective proportion of land or time
allocated to each.
Mechanized production is basically similar to that required for small-
holder crops but land clearing will not be described. For a detailed descrip-
tion of some land-clearing methods used by the author and their cost see
Weiss (197 1). Ploughing is necessary at establishment or replanting, and the
main requirement is to leave the area clear of all major vegetation. A second
ploughing or heavy disc-harrowing at right-angles may be desirable to level
lands. Phosphatic or potassic fertilizers can be broadcast prior to this
operation, which ensures wide distribution in the root zone, particularly
important with vetiver since oil is contained in the rhizome and roots.
Leaf oil content can be affected by soil fertility, since soils which produce
luxuriant or very rapid leaf growth generally do so at the expense of oil
content. Thus, in terms of material processed by stills per kilogram of oil
obtained, soils of moderate to low fertility in which the level of plant
62 Chapter 4

nutrients can be controlled to assist regulation of herbage production and

leaf oil content, are more suitable for commercial estates. The same reason-
ing may also apply to small producers operating their own stills, where the
amount of leaf which can be transported is a limiting factor. Higher yield of
oil from less herbage can be more profitable in terms of required inputs, i.e.
time and food available for those engaged in grass collection.
Fertilizer applications generally affect oil yield by increasing the total
amount of herbage and have little effect on leaf-oil content or oil character-
istics at the levels normally applied; climatic factors are far more important.
A cultivarifertilizer interaction can occur, with selected strains varying
greatly in their response to increasing amounts. For all practical purposes
that cultivar producing the greatest yield of oil at lowest unit cost using the
fertilizer available should be selected; or fertilizer applications modified to
suit the cultivar chosen. This may appear obvious, but is frequently ignored
or perhaps not appreciated. An interaction between cultivar and amount of
nitrogen applied has been noted, and this is very important when selecting
local cultivars to be grown under more intensive management. Available
data (much unpublished) indicated the greatest herbage increases were
frequently from strains with a relatively low leaf-oil content.
It is also essential to ascertain soil nutrient availability to determine minor
nutrient status, as the small amounts normally required should be included
in a compound mixture applied to the seedbed or drilled alongside plant
rows after a cut. If a deficiency is suspected during the life of a plantation,
soil and plant tissue analyses will usually indicate the nutrient required.
Lime should be applied with care as it has caused minor element imbalances
affecting oil composition (Choudhury and Bordoloi, 1992).
Oil is restricted almost wholly to leaves, and although as noted a mass of
leaves may be impressive it can produce a low total oil yield, since there is a
correlation between excessive growth and low oil content; plants growing in
very fertile soils or oversupplied with nutrients tend to yield less oil per tonne
cut than more sparsely leaved plants in less fertile soils. Very fast leaf growth
is frequently at the expense of oil content; however fast regrowth if asso-
ciated with an acceptable oil content is an advantage, and there appear to be
significant differences in the rate of growth of individual plants and their
reaction to applied fertilizers. This can be well appreciated by walking
through a plantation a month after cutting, when the variation in rate and
amount of regrowth is obvious. It is thus essential to determine the optimum
application rate of fertilizers, water, and frequency of cutting, as there is little
profit in processing a large volume of low-oil-content herbage. Most estab-
lished plantings of both Cymbopogon nardus and C. winterianus contain an
assortment of plants with very different leaf oil content, and even a relatively
small proportion of low-yielding plants can reduce average oil yield. Every
effort should be made to select as parents plants with higher oil content,
faster re-growth, or resistance to disease, whichever is locally most desirable.
Gramineae 63

T o increase average plant oil content by as little as 0.1%, as has been

achieved in India by simple selection methods, will greatly improve profita-
bility as oil content is little affected by management. In contrast, it is
relatively easy to increase herbage yield. Thus a high average herbage yield
plus high leaf oil content must be the objective on a commercial plantation.
Selection within local cultivars at many experimental stations indicates a
much higher average oil content with double the average yield of herbage is
possible, and these selections should be bulked up in nurseries on existing
plantations to be used when areas are replanted. Selection of persistent
strains also extends plantation life and significantly reduces long-term
Plant population affects yield of the required product, and the optimum
number of plants per hectare (pph) should be accurately determined in
formal trials. There may be specific limits on a particular factor; row width
may be controlled by equipment available and this should be a constant in
trials. A row width of 90 cm has been widely adopted and unless there is a
specific reason for choosing another, this is generally the most acceptable
since it suits the working width of many agricultural tractors and animal
drawn implements. Row widths between 60-90 cm appear to have little
effect on total oil yield, which is more directly related to pph. Where wide
spacing is necessary, planting several splits per hill or double rows can
increase total oil yield.
Planting is generally manual, but many modern vegetable planters can be
easily adapted to plant splits, consisting of 15-20 cm of lower stem, leaves
and a section of root, and also combined with fertilizer placement. The
author successfully used a two-man cabbage-planter for lemongrass splits.
For fully automatic planters splits must be trimmed and cut to a uniform size
required by the machine selected. It is imperative the operation is carried out
as quickly as possible once soil conditions are suitable. Whatever system is
used, rows should always follow the contour on sloping lands or hillsides to
reduce soil erosion.
Many types of mechanical weeders are available and that chosen should
be selected for its ability economically to control the majority of local weeds.
Selective hand-weeding or shielded spot-spraying with a herbicide is usually
necessary to remove persistent perennial weeds, including Imperata cylin-
drica, Pennisetum purpureum and Cynodon spp. Provided the land is clean at
planting, two weedings are usually sufficient to the first cut, then one after
each subsequent cut and the operation combined with a fertilizer applica-
tion. In areas where there are definite wet and dry seasons, it may be
necessary to weed more frequently during the former since weed growth can
be very rapid. When plantings are mechanically weeded, the merits of wide
rows and close in-row spacing must be evaluated against on-the-square
planting. The first will allow efficient weeding between rows but not
between plants; the second will allow cultivation in two directions after
64 Chapter 4

cutting, and is a simple operation when using animal-drawn implements.

The author visited very clean plantations of Ceylon citronella which used the
latter method. Weeding also most importantly reduces or eliminates oil
contamination caused by including herbage of other local oil-bearing spe-
cies; common and widely occurring are Tagetes spp. and Bidens spp. whose
volatile oil has a tenacious and penetrating odour. Use of spent grass as a
mulch between rows can substantially suppress growth of all but the most
persistent weeds and supply nutrients as it decomposes (Singh et al. , 1991).
Herbicides are little used and those recommended will be noted. It is
essential to carry out trials to determine the effect of herbicides on the grass
itself, and also to establish any adverse effect on plant-oil content, oil
composition, oil characteristics, or residues which may affect the oil’s use in
foods or beverages.
Little data is available on the water requirement of these grasses and that
available is mainly from unpublished material or laboratory trials (Sangawan
et al., 1993b). Crops are mainly raingrown and it is doubtful if any of the
grasses discussed could profitably be grown solely under irrigation. When
water is freely available, it can significantly increase oil yield where there is a
pronounced dry season, particularly vetiver whose roots should always be
moist or oil content will be adversely affected. The large estates in Central
and South America which practised a regular irrigation schedule were an
exception, but the wartime situation which made this management system
profitable will hopefully not be repeated. Supplementary irrigation of small-
holder crops is possible especially in areas where other crops do not compete
for what is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. Of greater value are
methods of conserving rainfall; planting on ridges which follow the contour,
tie-ridging, water-spreading, and similar well-known techniques can fre-
quently allow profitable crop production in areas with marginal or erratic
Harvesting is commonly manual, but rising wages or a shortage of labour
has forced producers to mechanize, including forage harvesters which are
fast, efficient, can be set to cut at variable heights and partially chop the cut
material. Harvesting thus presents few problems in terms of machinery
available; what must be accurately determined is its efficiency and profitabil-
ity when incorporated in a specific production system. Cutting can continue
throughout the day where conditions are suitable, since there is generally
little change in leaf-oil content. It is more important to synchronize cutting
and distilling operations than to vary cutting to benefit from a small increase
in oil yield per hectare. Similarly there can be changes in oil composition
over any 24-hour period, but again these are of little practical importance.
Data on these changes in C. winterianus have been published (Singh et al.,
Mechanical cutting is fast and easy, but cut grass should be treated with
care, and suffer as little bruising as possible since leaves are thin and their oil-
Gramineae 65

containing cells easily ruptured; elevators and discharge chutes should allow
ease of movement without clogging. Forward and knife speeds on mower-
type harvesters must be so adjusted that grass is cut cleanly, without pulling
or snatching. When using forage harvesters, forward speed must be regu-
lated for similar reasons and, as the action of these harvesters varies between
models and makes, a trial run in a plantation is essential before any decision
to purchase. Harvesting on large-scale plantations should aim at cutting,
chopping and transporting grass in one continuous operation with the
minimum delay in delivery to stills. Machinery now available allows con-
siderable choice and a system suitable to local conditions easily selected (cf.
eucalyptus harvesting). At the Kimberley Experimental Station, Western
Australia, the system is based on a forage harvester which cuts, chops and
blows the grass into a trailer with high mesh sides U. Bonnardeaux, Cunnu-
nurra, personal communication).
Small farmers normally wilt herbage before distilling, and the method is
important. If herbage is left in the field, soil contamination can occur which
may taint oil or alter its composition. When left in heaps on field margins for
only a few hours, herbage ferments giving the oil a grassy note. When spread
in shade on a clean dry surface, most grasses can lose up to 50% moisture
with little loss of oil, whose value is recouped in the shorter distilling time
(Singh et al., 1994).
Hydro- and steam-distillation are most common; herbage is supported on
a grid above water which is heated to produce steam; or steam produced in
a boiler is introduced into the bottom of the still and normally produces
higher yields. Water remaining in the still following distillation should
preferably be discarded as the small amount of contained oil is seldom worth
recovering. Sri Lankan stills are traditionally made of galvanized iron,
135 cm in diameter and about 250 cm in height, tapering to a cone at the
top, with a capacity of 500 kg, and insulated to prevent heat loss by being
embedded in a stone hearth or surrounded by a layer of clay or finely
chopped grass. Openings a t the top and side facilitate charging and discharg-
ing. Such stills are called goddakans in Indonesia, and tilting types in-
troduced to facilitate discharging. Improved stills holding 500-2000 kg are
operating in most oil-producing countries.
Sri Lankan stills are located where there is sufficient water; two stills being
connected to the same condenser and operated alternately. In villages the
unit of measurement of citronella grass is the wadia, about 500 kg, approx-
imately the charge of a standard still. Older stills in India are made from mild
steel; two stills 1.8 m high X 0.9 m in diameter and one boiler which
produces about 100 kg steam per hour are recommended for 8 ha of grass
plantations (see Fig. 4.2). The key factor in operating these stills is manage-
ment; the better it is the more efficient the still and the higher the quality of
oil produced. More modern stills made of stainless steel are now operating in
most countries, and there is little difficulty in producing high-quality oil. T o
66 Chapter 4

reduce the fuel required, especially wood which is becoming increasingly

scarce and more expensive, solar energy is now a practical alternative and is
particularly useful in pre-heating water.
Most insect and other pests of these grasses are polyphagous, or attack
many of the Gramineae, and it is usually simple to establish which are, or are
likely to become, important in a particular region. Since the grasses dis-
cussed are also mainly smallholder crops, the level and extent of pest control
is usually minimal. This may well be a perfectly acceptable situation, as the
author found insect pests in general are seldom a limiting factor and their
adverse effects most easily offset by higher standards of crop management.
Exceptions are those insects which occur in plague proportions, locusts or

Fig. 4.2. Wood fired water-still, India.

Gramineae 67

armyworms, when the efforts of an individual are ineffective. Nematodes are

usually present in most plantations, especially root-knot nematodes, but
seldom cause major damage; the most practical control is a rotation with
non-susceptible crops.
It is of little value listing all the insect and other pests likely to occur on
these grasses, as this information is easily obtainable from the local Depart-
ment of Agriculture. However, a grass may become attractive to an insect
not previously recorded as a pest and periodic inspection of unhealthy plants
often proves valuable. In India, for example, larvae of the scarab Lachnos-
tema serrata, normally a pest of sugarcane, was found damaging vetiver
Diseases, unlike pests, can be a limiting factor in commercial plantations,
but fortunately some of the most damaging can be controlled by simple
procedures, i.e. fungicide treatment of seedbeds and splits before transplant-
ing. Many fungicides are relatively inexpensive when purchased in bulk, and
are thus within the resources of groups of smallholders or cooperatives.
Treatment is also simple involving mainly time of individuals, or can be
easily and cheaply mechanized. The most damaging pathogens are those
attacking seedlings or splits after transplanting, as this operation takes place
at the beginning of the rains or after irrigation, when conditions for soil-
borne fungal attack are most favourable. Many pathogens are polyphagous
or attack Gramineae generally; thus diseases likely to be locally important
can usually be identified, together with the appropriate treatment. Reports
from experimental stations indicate resistance exists to a locally important
disease in wild populations of these grasses or near relatives. Selection and
inclusion of such strains in breeding programmes must be encouraged, since
it is often easier to reduce the damage caused by a pathogen when there is
inherent resistance.

The citronella oil of international trade is obtained almost exclusively from
Cymbopogon nardus (L.) and Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt. Commercial
cultivation of C. nardus is limited to Sri Lanka, but C. winterianus is
commercially cultivated in Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, China,
and more recently, India and Vietnam.
Commerce generally defines the oils as Ceylon and Java types respectively
as there are characteristic differences, the most important being geraniol
content. Ceylon citronella oil generally contains 55560% geraniol and
7-15% aldehydes, Java citronella oil a minimum 35% of both geraniol and
aldehydes. Other Cymbopogon species which produce oils described as
citronella are of no commercial importance. An interspecific hybrid C.
confertiJEorus X C. jwarancusa, jamrosa, yields an oil containing geraniol
68 Chapter 4

75-80% and geranyl acetate 20-25% with a quite different odour to its
parents, described as being more terpenic and grassy (Krishnamoorthy,
Citronella oil has long been known to peoples of southern India, Sri Lanka
and Java who distilled it from the local Cymbopogon species, but its early
history is unrecorded. Poultices of leaves were also widely used in India and
Sri Lanka to treat minor cuts, abrasions and swellings, while extracts of the
leaves were used to alleviate internal disorders and as a vermifuge. Oil was
first sent from Sri Lanka to the UK by Surgeon-Major Grimm in the late
1600s, who identified the grass from which it was distilled as Arundo
odorutus. It was almost a century later that small amounts of oil as Oleum sirce
were sent to Europe, but by the end of the nineteenth century demand
exceeded Sri Lanka’s capacity to supply, and Java became an increasingly
important producer.
The first European to see Java citronella oil being distilled is believed to be
a Myn. A.J. Kaffer, at Cirebon on the north coast. He later began commer-
cial oil production on his own estate and by 1900, together with other Dutch
growers, erected modern stills. Java oil was considered to be superior to Sri
Lankan by merchants in Europe and by 19 19 Java was producing more oil
than Sri Lanka. However this rapid expansion resulted in Sri Lankan
cuttings being imported for use on lands unsuitable for Java type, and the
inferior oil produced used to adulterate Java oil. Of greater consequence was
mixing of the two grasses in plantations, which then also produced an
inferior oil. These two developments, plus the many smaller producers who
paid little attention to quality of herbage or distilling procedures, quickly
downgraded Java citronella oil on world markets. Only by introducing strict
official controls on production and marketing between the two world wars
did Java oil regain its reputation for quality and dependability. Exports of
citronella oil from Indonesia in the years 1989-1 995 ranged from 560 to 650
tonnes, roughly half total production.
Citronella was introduced to Taiwan (then Formosa) from Java by a Mr
Kiyoshi Iwamoto in 1912, who successfully developed commercial oil
production. By 1940 some 360 t was produced, almost all exported to Japan.
Production in the immediate post-war years was erratic with many citronella
plantations being replaced by officially encouraged food crops. However,
growing demand rapidly increased production to a record 3000 t in 1965,
but it subsequently declined and by 1984 the industry had virtually ceased to
exist except for a small amount of oil used domestically. Although citronella
leaves were incorporated in traditional Chinese medicines and plants grown
for this purpose, domestic demand for citronella oil was satisfied by imports.
Commercial oil production began in the early 1950% and Hainan Island
became a major producer with oil production in 1957 of almost 1000 t.
Citronella was later partially replaced by more profitable essential oil crops,
especially patchouli, and oil production declined (Chiang, 1958; Zhao,
Gramineae 69

1993). Recent reports indicate the area under citronella is increasing,

together with other essential oil crops, supported by the Hainan Fragrances
and Essential Oils Joint Corporation.
Citronella reached Guatemala at the end of the last century and the first
plantings together with lemongrass are credited to Senor Julio Samayao. It
reached Honduras in the 1930s. In neither country did oil production
become profitable until the outbreak of the Second World War. The area
under citronella in Guatemala rapidly increased to 2000 ha in 1945 and by
1950 annual production had reached 350 t, and in Honduras 18 t. Both
suffered a setback when Java re-entered the market, and only Guatemala
maintained commercial oil production. Brazil has recently produced cit-
ronella oil on a small scale, but could quickly expand production should
demand increase. Numerous attempts have been made commercially to
grow citronella in Africa; Zaire’s production was erratic, varying between
0.5 and 4.0 t to the mid-l950s, with most sold to Belgium, but production
ceased at independence. The Portuguese governments of Angola and Mo-
zambique also had no success, although trials showed the grass grew well at
experimental stations. More recently, it was introduced to Ghana by a major
international company and commercial plantations were established.

Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendle (syn. Andropogon nardus Ceylon, de Jong)
lenabatu or lenabatu pengiri in Sri Lanka, and C. winterianus Jowitt (syn.
Andropogon nardus Java, de Jong) rnaha pengiri in Java, serai generally in
Indonesia, miyah serai for the oil. C. winterianus is said to be named for Mr
Winter, a pioneer of the Sri Lankan essential oil industry, and known locally
as Winter’s grass. Cymbopogonnardus var. confertiflorus (Steud.) Stapf is now
considered a separate species, C. confertiflorus, and produces an inferior
Cymbopogon nardus and C. winterianus are tufted, perennial grasses (Fig.
4.3), with long narrow leaves, and numerous stems arising from short,
rhizomatous roots (Fig. 4.4). Although C. nardus is more vigorous than C.
winterianus, the latter produces larger clumps when cultivated, to 0.5 m in
diameter. Cyrnbopogon nardus exists in a variety of forms, some wild, others
known only under cultivation, together with local cultivars in countries to
which it was introduced. By contrast, C. winterianus has a much narrower
range of variation.
Cymbopogonnardus has a more extensive and penetrating root system than
C. winterianus, which enables it to withstand periods of drought seriously
affecting growth of the latter. This root system also allows the species to
grow well on a wider range of soil types than C. winterianus, and it can be
grown profitably on soils of lower fertility. The ability of C. nardus to persist
for 10-15 years under cultivation probably owes a great deal to these wide-
spreading roots; C.winterianus seldom exceeds 6 years. The multiple stems
70 Chapter 4

Fig. 4.3. Citronella grass, Sri Lanka

arise from underground rhizomes, to 2.5 m in C. nardus, generally less in C.

winterianus (Fig. 4.5). Stem colour in both is normally light to medium
green, generally darker on fertile or fertilized soils. Nitrogen significantly
increases the number of stems or tillers. Leaves of both species are long,
narrow, a uniform medium to dark often yellowish green; those of C.
winterianus are generally darker, shorter and broader. Mature leaf length
from uncut plants is 70-110 cm; leaf width of C. nardus 1-2 cm; C.
winterianus to 5 cm. The number of leaves per plant is related to age and
cutting regime, can also be influenced by IAA or similar growth regulators,
and increased by selection for this characteristic. Leaf shape, size and colour
are no reliable guide to identification. A more accurate method is by leaf-
sheath colour, which is conspicuously different to stem and leaf lamina, with
a pronounced red to purplish tinge. T h e degree of colour and its intensity
when measured photometrically could be related to oil content of leaves
(Iruthayathas et al. , 1977). Micro-hairs are present on leaves of both species,
and a relationship apparently exists between their occurrence, type, density
and leaf oil content, which could aid selection of higher oil content strains
(Iruthayathas and Herath, 1982). Cross-section of a C. winterianus leaf is
shown in Fig. 4.6; the leaf anatomy of C. nardus has been described in detail
(Metcalf, 1960).
T h e oil content of leaves is important as there is little oil in stems and
roots; in India average oil content was, in per cent: leaf blade 1.O, inflores-
cence 0.38, leafsheath 0.33, condensed stem 0.32 and root 0.02 (Bordoloi,
1982). The oil content of a number of Sri Lankan cultivars averaged, in per
cent: blades 1.26, leaf sheaths 0.28, leaf 0.8-1.8 (Irthayathas and Herath,
72 Chapter 4

Fig. 4.5, Rhizome and shoots of C. winterianus

Fig. 4.6. Cross-section of Java citronella leaf. A, Cross-section of leaf; B. upper epidermis; C, bundle
sheath; D, oil gland; E, cuticle; F, vascular bundle; G, lower epidermis. (Adapted from Bommegowda et
al., 1979.)
Gramineae 73

1975). The oil content of leaves differs significantly and young leaves
synthesize and accumulate most essential oil. During leaf expansion, cit-
ronellal, geraniol and citronellol content increase, but decrease with matu-
rity. Analyses of leaves from C. winterianus in India showed significant
changes in the ratio of some major oil components over leaf life (Luthra et
al., 1991).
The oil content of C. nardus in Sri Lanka averages 0.5%, of C. winterianus
grown in Indonesia and Central America 0.25-1.2%. Leaf-oil content varies
with age, time of cutting and soil fertility, but 1.33% from C. winten'unus in
Honduras is well above that obtained from commercial plantings elsewhere.
Higher figures have been reported from specially selected plants or experi-
mental plantings (Bordoloi, 1982), which indicates leaf oil content can
probably be raised fairly easily. This is also true for C. nardus, as there exists
in Sri Lanka a multiplicity of strains (some natural hybrids) with wide
variation in leaf oil content and characteristics (Iruthayathas et al., 1977,
Panicles also have a small volatile oil content, generally very similar in
geraniol and citronellal content. Comparative analyses of flower and leaf oil
in Sri Lanka showed, in per cent (with range in brackets): flower oil, geraniol
22 (12-36) and citronellal 4.75 (1-10); leaf oil, geraniol 24 (2-45) and
citronellal 4 (0.5-8.0) (Iruthayathas et al., 1977). Flower oil is of little
importance, is small in proportion to total oil yield, and would not com-
pensate for the loss of leaf oil content should citronella plants be allowed to
flower before cutting.
The major difference between citronella oil from the two species, as
noted, is in the citronellal and geraniol content; C. nardus (Ceylon type)
usually contains 55565% total geraniol and 7-1 5% citronellal; C. winter-
ianus (Java type) contains at least 35% total geraniol and a minimum of 35%
citronellal. Standard characteristics are shown in Table 4.1. Wide variation
is noticeable in published data of regional oils, and Java citronella has been
reviewed in detail (Virmani and Datta, 197 1). The main characteristics of
commercial samples from selected origins are shown in Table 4.2.

Cymbopogon nardus and C. winterianus are tropical grasses and commercially
important between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, but they occupy
substantially different ecological zones when wild. Although the range of C.
nardus has been considerably extended under cultivation, C. winterianus has
a wider geographical distribution within a more restricted ecological zone.
Cymbopogon nardus can be grown successfully from sea-level in Sri Lanka to
1500 m in East Africa; C. winterianus is generally grown below 500 m and on
Taiwan oil yield fell by nearly 50% above 700 m.; high-altitude strains (to
1200 m) of C. winterianus have been selected in India. At all altitudes a well
distributed rainfall and high humidity is most important to ensure high
74 Chapter 4

Table 4.1, Standard characteristics of citronella oils.

Java type Ceylon type

Relative 0.880 0.890
density at 20/20°C 0.895 - 0.898 -
Apparent 0.880 0.893
density at 20°C - 0.892 - - 0.91 0
Specific 0.883
gravity at 15115°C - - 0.900 - -
Refractive 1.4660 1.4660 1.4660 1.4790 1.4790
index at 20°C 1.4730 1.4730 1.4750 1.4850 1.4850
Optical -5" -5" -6" -18" -18O
rotation at 20°C 0" 0" -0'30' -gc -go
Solubility (viv) 1 :2 1 :2 1:l-2 1 :2 1:l-2
(80% ethanol at 20°C)
Total alcohols as geraniol 85% min. 85% min. 85-97% 59-65% 55-65%
Total aldehydes as citronellal 35% min. 35% min. 3045% 7-15% 7-1 5%
All figures in columns are range.
ISO, International Standards Organisation; BSS, British Standard Specification: EOA, Essential Oil
Association, USA.

herbage yield. Average yields from a series of trials are shown in Table
Both species require a rainfall of 2000-2500 m m to produce high oil yield;
where there is a pronounced wet and dry season C. winterianus will require
irrigation if it is to persist; C. nardus is less susceptible to dry periods, but oil
production in both is reduced under water stress. Warm mists or high

Table 4.2. Characteristics of Java citronella oil from selected origins a

Indonesian Indian Formosan

Specific gravity (1 5%) 0.880 0.875 0.881
0.897 0.900 0.902 (20°C)
Refractive index (15°C) 1.469 1.460 1.465 (20°C)
1.472 1.480
Optical rotation -0.5" -1.OO O0
-4.0' -3.5" -4s
Solubility (v/v in 80% alcohol) 1:l L1.5 1 :I
Total alcohols (%) (as geraniol) 85-95 75-90 85-95
Total aldehydes (%) (as 35-55 30-45 35-45
a Average commercial samples. Figures in columns are range.
Grarnineae 75
~~~~ ~~ ~ ~~

Table 4.3. Effect of altitude on herbage and oil contentain India

Major constituents (%)

Yield of herbiyear Average oil
Altitude (m) (tiha) content (%) Citronellal Geraniol

35 5-8 0.9-1,I 40-42 23-24

90 9-23 0.9-1.4 30-44 19-29
800 10-23 0.8-1.2 43-50 19-21
1000 8-10 1 .o-1.2 36-44 20-23
1150 4-5 0.8-1.O 34-45 16-21
1200 31-40 0.9-1.4 46-59 15-21
aJava citronella. Figures in columns are range
Source: Bordoloi (1982).

relative humidity can compensate to a considerable extent for insufficient

rain. Conversely, cool wet conditions usually retard growth, and may also
reduce leaf-oil content; when dew remained on plants in the cool season near
Bombay, oil content and total aldehydes in the oil were significantly reduced
(Malwatkar et al., 1984).
A sunny climate with no temperature extremes generally produces highest
oil yield. A daytime temperature of 22-30°C is most suitable, with higher
and lower temperatures affecting either leaf oil content or oil constituents.
Cymbopogon nardus selections grown for 90 days at 27121°C or 32127OC day/
night temperatures in Sri Lanka, showed lower temperatures gave higher
levels of citronellal while higher temperatures increased the undesirable
borneol component (Herath et al., 1979); a temperature of 15/1O"C severely
reduced photosynthetic rates, highest at 27/21 "C (Herath and Ormrod,
1979). Seasonal changes occur in total aldehydes and, in India, oil obtained
in drier months contained more aldehydes than oil from wet months
(Malwatkar et al., 1984).
The reaction of C. nardus to temperatures above 30°C and to high night-
time temperature is of considerable significance to growers, especially in Sri
Lanka. Oil produced at high temperature has increased levels of some very
undesirable components, the monoterpene hydrocarbons and camphene-
bornene compounds, which greatly reduce the oil's commercial value. Since
the majority of C. nardus is grown in the drier south where daytime
temperatures are 27-32"C, oil produced is considered of inferior quality.
Since it is impossible to move the industry elsewhere on the island, strains
whose oil is low in these constituents or are able to produce the type of oil
desired at higher temperatures should be introduced, and research indicates
both are possible. The relationship between temperature and three major oil
components of Indian C. winterianus is shown in Fig.4.7. Generally similar
results have been obtained in other countries, although there is no constant
76 Chapter 4

relationship between ratios of constituents. The oil content of leaves also

varies seasonally, but is not directly related to changes in oil constituents.
Frost causes severe damage and a heavy frost is usually fatal. Hail can
seriously damage newly established plants, and a heavy storm can shred
leaves on those more mature and greatly reduce oil content. High wind is of
little importance unless it persists, or is hot and dry and coincides with a

/- Essential
E 3.9

, I ,




0 I I I I I


- A Max. temp
Min. temp.
0' I I I I I
1 2 3 4 5
Harvest number

Fig. 4.7. Seasonal changes in oil content and main constituents of citronella in India. (Adapted from
Prakasa Rao eta/., 1985.)
Gramineae 77

period of water stress in plants. Severe wilting will then occur, with sub-
stantial loss of oil from desiccation.

Soils and fertilizers

The two Cymbopogon species flourish under different climatic conditions as
noted and are also adapted to somewhat different soils. Cymbopogon nardus
prefers a well-drained, light-textured soil, but will grow well on sandy or
stony hillsides provided there is adequate soil moisture. The extensive root
system allows the plant to explore a greater soil volume for both moisture
and nutrients. A neutral to slightly acid soil is preferred, although plants will
tolerate slightly alkaline soils, but not waterlogging except for very short
Cymbopogon winterianus is adapted to loamy soils of greater fertility, where
it flourishes and has a longer useful life where there is a plentiful supply of
nutrients and soil moisture. When planted on newly cleared forest land it
tends to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of oil content; soils with
a high clay content are also unsuitable. Soil reaction should preferably be
neutral to slightly acid. Plants will withstand short periods of waterlogging,
but soil must be basically free-draining. Where soil and suitable climatic
conditions exist it can be grown at higher altitudes than has previously been
accepted, and is a suitable crop for areas which will grow high quality tea,
Assam for example.
Citronella has been classified as an exhausting crop similar to lemongrass
(cf.), and the same general statements apply. The large amounts of green
material removed, 20-60 t/ha annually, make it essential that the nutrient
status of soils is maintained to ensure continued high production. Under
peasant farming conditions, and much of Kerala’s area of C. nardus is thus
grown, chemical fertilizers are seldom applied and the crop receives what-
ever plant or animal residues are available. Most agricultural departments
recommend the type and amount to be applied, but few smallholders
followed any regular programme. In practice, growers of C. nardus in
particular continued cutting until herbage or oil yield became unprofitable,
the plot abandoned and a new site selected; a shortage of undeveloped land
has stopped this very wasteful technique. In Mysore, well-decomposed
farmyard manure (FYM) at 15 t/ha ploughed in prior to planting is recom-
mended, plus additional amounts annually where available.
Cymbopogon winterianus has a shorter economic life than C. nardus, is
seldom fertilized after the third year and generally ploughed-in after the
fourth. Smallholders grow cash or food crops for two or more years before
replanting, but this rotation does little to replenish soil nutrients. The larger
oil producers on Java had a 4 X 2 X 4 year rotation, with the 2 years under
a green manure crop such as Tephrosia spp. or Mimosa spp. Spent grass was
not always available as a shortage of cheap fuel required the grass to be dried
for use in boilers. In Guatemala, spent grass is spread between plant rows
78 Chapter 4

and not only provides a fertilizer, but acts as a mulch and suppresses weed
When grown commercially, C. nardus and C. winterianus generally re-
spond similarly to chemical fertilizers a t rates normally applied. Variation in
a specific response is often due to local soils or climate rather than the
fertilizer, and large-scale growers should accurately determine the most
profitable type and rate of application. Since C. winterianus is the most
important, there is more data available than on C. nardus, and this is
reflected in the text.
Nitrogen is essential for high leaf yield, but there is often considerable
variation in the response to both amounts and types; in India C. winterianus
cultivars differed by 42% herbage and 6.6% oil yields per hectare at the same
N levels (Singh et al., 1980a), while different types of urea on the same
cultivar affected both herbage yield and N recovery (Singh and Singh,
1992). Nitrogen at planting, often in an NPK compound or as diammonium
phosphate, usually promotes increased and quicker growth and thus reduces
time to the first cut. The NPK fertilizer used at planting should have a low
ratio of nitrogen to phosphate and potassium, sufficient only for initial
growth. Where there is little choice and nitrogen content high, it is probably
cheaper to choose a phosphate-potassium mixture and apply the nitrogen as
top-dressing. The main effect of top-dressing nitrogen is to increase the
number of tillers and number and size of leaves, but the response in terms of
increased herbage or oil yield may fall in succeeding years, especially to high
levels of nitrogen (Rao and Munnu Singh, 199 1).
Data are lacking on comparisons between nitrogenous fertilizers and,
although urea is considered superior, sulphate of ammonia is commonly
applied because it is easily obtainable. Methods of top-dressing are unim-
portant, provided coverage is even and timing accurate. Nitrogen normally
has little effect on oil content of leaves of either species, occasionally slightly
decreasing leaf oil content but unimportant compared to the large increase
in total herbage. In India, yield of fresh herbage rose from 12 to 18.5 tiha as
nitrogen increased from 75 to 150 kg/ha. Herbage N content rose slightly
but was not significantly different (Bommegowda et al., 1981, 1983). In
general, 75-125 kg Niha applied annually in split applications after each cut
should be profitable. In fertilizer trials, N slightly increased geraniol and
citronellal content of leaf oil, but had no significant effect on oil character-
istics or constituents at levels normally used on commercial crops.
The larger root system of C. nardus enables it to obtain greater amounts of
available soil phosphate, a major reason why the plant can continue to
produce oil for many years with little or no fertilizer. Neither species can
continue to do so indefinitely, and to maintain production both nitrogen and
phosphate are necessary; one without the other is usually unprofitable.
Where rock phosphate is available it can be broadcast and ploughed-in prior
to planting splits. A small amount of superphosphate added to planting holes
Gramineae 79

or in bands alongside and below the lines of splits will assist establishment
and promote initial growth. In most areas of Sri Lanka and India the crop
will probably benefit from a further application every 3-4 years, placed as
deeply as possible between plant rows following a cut. Reports from several
countries on both species indicated that 15-30 kg Piha is normally sufficient
for 12-1 8 months, with a further application of 15 kg Piha in the second year
following the last cut.
Phosphate appears to have little effect on leaf oil content and no sig-
nificant effect on oil characteristics or constituents at levels normally ap-
plied. Comparisons between types of phosphatic fertilizers are few but, as
with many other crops grown in the tropics, single superphosphate with its
slightly higher sulphur content often gives higher herbage yield per unit of P
than other types. Although initial P availability in rock phosphates may be
low, residual availability can be similar to other phosphatic fertilizers. Since
this residual effect is very important in terms of subsequent applications and
total cost of P per cycle, any residual effect should be accurately determined.
Both types of citronella appear to have a relatively high potassium require-
ment and official recommendations are 40-60 kg Wha placed at planting.
Major increases in herbage yield have been obtained on soils lacking po-
tassium; in Sarawak herbage yield rose from 22 to 28 tiha and oil yield from
136 to 162 kglha when 75 kg Wha was applied to a yellow podzolic soil (Ng,
1972). T o obtain these increases adequate supplies of N and P must be
available, and an N-K interaction may occur on some mineral soils.
Potassium is best applied as part of a compound fertilizer at planting, and the
recommended range is usually sufficient. Potassium applied after 2 or 3
years to both species in those areas where a substantial initial application was
profitable would probably be economic. It may also be advantageous to
apply K in several equal amounts instead of a single seedbed application
(Singh et al., 1990). There are few data comparing different potassic
fertilizers, and it is normally most profitable to use the type easily available.
Potassium has little influence on leaf-oil content but, at high levels, can have
a depressing effect. Oil composition or characteristics are generally unaf-
fected, but some experimental data indicate potassium may depress geraniol
and citronellal content, especially where nitrogen and phosphate availability
is low.
The small amounts of minor elements normally required to alleviate a
local deficiency should be included in a compound mixture applied to the
seedbed or drilled alongside plant rows after a cut. Field reports of various
chlorotic conditions or foliar discolorations following application of com-
pound NPK fertilizers may have been due to induced minor element
imbalance. An apparent magnesium deficiency on irrigated soil near Bom-
bay which caused yellowing and crinkling of leaves was eliminated by a foliar
spray of urea plus magnesium sulphate (Malwatkar et al., 1984), and
80 Chapter 4

manganese was the most effective single micronutrient enhancing oil pro-
duction at Darjeeling (Nandi and Chatterjee, 1991). Iron chlorosis of C.
winterianus had little effect on leaf oil content, but did reduce herbage yield
in India (Chattopadhyay and Subrahmanyam, 1993).

Land preparation being completed as described in the introduction, the next
operation is planting. Plants can be raised from seed which is normally
viable, but this is lengthy and tedious. The availability of planting stocks of
known parentage eliminates the danger of using an admixture of C. nardus
and C. winterianus seed, collected where both occur in close proximity.
Propagation is usually by dividing clumps to produce splits, a year-old
clump will provide 50-60 splits, and 1 ha of clumps is normally sufficient for
7-8 ha. A spacing of 90 X 60 cm requires about 18,500 pph, and 60 X 60 cm
27,000 pph. Treating splits with a rooting preparation or a fungicide is
usually unnecessary since replacing those which die is simple and cheap.
Infilling normally begins 3 weeks after planting when the majority of splits
will have rooted and by 4 weeks plants should begin to tiller. It is essential to
maintain the optimum pph, as this directly affects herbage and oil yield; a t
Bangalore, India, increasing the population of C. winterianus from 20,000 to
50,000 pph raised oil yield by 167 kg/ha; for every additional 5000 plants
above 20,000, herbage yield increased by 1048 kg/ha and oil 6.7 kgiha, but
after 40,000 pph the increase was not significant. Such information will
select the local optimum pph relative to the cost of producing 1 kg of oil to
achieve most efficient production. High rather than low pph also tends to
suppress weed growth. On-the-square planting at the optimum population
would probably require less labour when citronella is grown by small
producers. A spacing of 60 X 60 cm is widely used in India, Sri Lanka, Java
and South America for C. winterianus, but C. nardus is more often spaced at
90 X 90 cm. In Guatemala, three or four splits up to 60 cm in length were
planted per hole, but this is most wasteful of planting material and labour,
and probably unnecessary.
Weed control in citronella is usually manual or mechanical, hand weeding
is generally the most effective, but any cultivation must be shallow, espe-
cially in young plants as they are easily uprooted. Herbicides have been used
in trials but none officially recommended for citronella; 2,4-D applied 2
weeks before planting, and atrazine, diuron, oxyfluorfen, glyphosate and
simazine as directed sprays between cuts.
Cymbopogon nardus is not usually intercropped since the plant grows to a
substantial size and suppresses adjacent crops, but can be underplanted in
rubber, coconut, arecanut and similar tall-tree plantations; C. winterianus is
less aggressive and has been successfully intercropped with young rubber
and cocoa, pepper or vanilla vines, and can also be underplanted in similar
situations as C. nardus. Both species may have reduced herbage yield when
Gramineae 81

underplanted depending mainly on degree of canopy shade. An interesting

method of integrating C. winterianus and tea growing is used in Assam; tea
planters grow citronella on land being rested from tea, on terraces to prevent
soil erosion, or land unsuitable for tea. Distilled grass is used extensively as
a mulch.
Little information is available on the water requirements of citronella,
water use during plant growth, or total consumption; thus most recom-
mendations are based on personal observations or opinions which, once
published, are often repeated without confirmation. Watering splits at
planting is necessary and again if no rain falls in the following week. In
practice those crops which can be irrigated are planted in the wet season,
irrigated after each cut in the dry season to promote regrowth, and at other
times only when water is available. An exception was on some large estates in
Guatemala where water was freely available and topography made surface
irrigation simple and inexpensive. An interesting reaction occurred in India
where C. winterianus developed interveinal chlorosis due to an iron defi-
ciency induced by bicarbonates in the irrigation water, alleviated by a ferrous
sulphate spray (Puttanna et al., 1993). In pot trials, yield of dry herbage and
oil content decreased as the level of residual sodium carbonate increased in
applied water (Singh et al., 1994)

The first harvest of citronella is usually 6-8 months after planting, ideally
just prior to flowering, then 3-4 times in each following 12-months depend-
ing on rate of regrowth. The profitable life of a commercial plantation is very
variable: for C. winterianus 5-8 years in India, somewhat longer in Sri Lanka,
5-1 0 years on Java and Taiwan, 4-6 years in Guatemala and Honduras; for
C. nardus 6-10 but up to 20 years. The most productive period in terms of oil
yield per hectare is the first 3-4 years of C. winterianus, 4-6 years for C.
nardus, but better management, adequate fertilization and efficient harvest-
ing could easily prolong the useful life of most plantations and raise the
average annual oil yield. Since replanting is expensive and in practice means
the loss of a year’s oil yield, every effort should be made to keep an existing
plantation in profitable production.
The number of cuts per year and the interval between is not constant; in
Indonesia, maximum oil yield from C. nardus was by cutting four times
annually although six cuts were sometimes possible. If a nitrogen top-
dressing was delayed beyond 45 days after cutting, leaf-oil content in the
next cut was lowered (Soenardi et al. , 1980). With C. winterianus the interval
was 3.5-6.5 months in northern India and directly related to commence-
ment and duration of monsoon rains. Crops planted in April-May in Assam
are cut after 3-4 months, then every 2 months until October, but normally
only twice in the period November-February (Datta, 1982). Most growers
prefer to use height of plants as a guide to cutting and, in Puerto &CO,
82 Chapter 4

highest oil yield per hectare was obtained from plants cut eleven times at 130
cm; in Guatemala, whenever plants reached 140 cm.
Herbage yield per hectare varies very widely indeed, depending directly on
size of plantation and standard of management; C. nardus from
10,00040,000 kgha annually and from C. winten'anus 10,000-30,000 kg/ha.
The oil yield per tonne of herbage varies with the season, normally highest in
the driest and lowest in the wettest period. Oil content of C. nardus in Sri
Lanka was 1.2-1.5 and 0.25-0.50% respectively; from C. wintem'anus in
India 0.5-0.6 and 0.3-0.35%; Java averages 1.2 and 0.5%, Honduras and
Guatemala 1.8 and 0.75% respectively. This seasonal variation is well
illustrated by the extensive data obtained in Taiwan (Ping-Hsien, 1956)
which is somewhat dated but little comparable has been published.

Cut herbage is normally wilted before distilling; in Indonesia, 3-4 hours sun-
drying is usual, longer if grass is very wet following rain; in Sri Lanka and
India it may be 1-2 days. Periods up to one month have been successful in a
number of countries, although in the Philippines lowest moisture and
highest oil yield occurred after approximately 7 days (Coronel et al., 1984).
While withering to reduce water content is normally advantageous, changes
can occur in oil composition depending on method used and period.
Withering for short periods slightly increases total oxygenated monoter-
penes, but the effect disappears as the period lengthens. Rapid withering in
hot sun also slightly increased final monoterpene hydrocarbon content over
slow withering in shade (E. Iruthayathas, Colombo, personal communica-
Distilling citronella herbage presents few technical problems (Jansz et al.,
1981; Senanayake, 198 1). Steam pressure and duration influences the yield
of oil and quality; a pressure of 100-200 kPa is recommended in Sri Lanka,
although double this gives a higher oil yield lower in geraniol and citronellal.
An initial pressure of about 650 kPa is maintained in Honduras, reduced to
250 kPa when condensation begins and raised to about 1000 kPa when
condensate flows evenly.
The usual charge in Sri Lankan stills is 500-600 kg chopped grass, firmly
pressed into the still body. Normal distillation is 2 hours, double this with a
1000-1 500 kg charge. Oil recovery in the first hour is 55-65%, in the second
to fifth hours 25, 10-11, 6-8 and 4% respectively. Distillation is seldom
continued beyond 2.5 hours, and distilling to exhaustion produces an
inferior oil. First over are the low boiling-point terpenes, followed by
citronellol, citronellal, alcohols and esters, geraniol+sesquiterpenes, then
the sesquiterpene alcohols. The distillate is separated, and the oil treated to
remove water and impurities, filtered and packed. Prolonged bulk storage
increases the oil's viscosity, it becomes dark brown, specific gravity may
increase and solubility decrease, but the refractive index is less affected. A
Gramineae 83

Sri Lankan oil had a specific gravity (20°C) 0.913, refractive index (20°C)
1.4829, acid value 0.3, ester value 18.1, after acetylation 88.2, carbonyls
38.2%. Main constituents were, in per cent, 1-carvotanacetone (1 l), ger-
aniol (20), geranyl acetate (6), perillaldehyde (12) and phellandrial (8.5).
Analyses of spent dried citronella grass gave 84% organic matter contain-
ing 2.25% N, and the ash contained, in per cent, silicon dioxide (12.4),
oxides of iron and aluminium (l.O), P (0.12), K (0.01), others (1.4);
considerable variation occurs as other analyses show silicon dioxide to 4%
and K to 7 % . Cymbopogon winterianus spents may contain 95% organic and
volatile matter, the ash containing 2% N, 1.5% K and 0.05% P. Although
fresh grass is not readily eaten by cattle, dried spent grass is an acceptable
stockfeed; it can also be used for h a f t paper pulp.

Products and specifications

The two types of citronella oil, traded as Oil of Citronella Java and Oil of
Citronella Ceylon, differ in their composition, characteristics and odour,
and are neither substitutes nor alternatives to the other. A comparison of
major constituents is shown in Table 4.4. but there is wide variation in
published analyses and comparisons, due not only to geographical origin or
strain, but to analytical method (Bruns et al., 1981; Anon., 1984; Carlin et
al., 1988; Zhixi and Hua, 1988; Lemos et al., 1992; Ravid et al., 1992;
Boelens, 1994). While the following remarks are generally applicable to
most Ceylon oil available commercially, there is a very wide range of C.
nardus and C. winterianus cultivars and probably hybrids growing in Sri
Lanka. Selection has produced plants whose oils show an equally wide range
of characteristics and major constituents. It should thus be possible for Sri
Lanka to produce authentic oils of both citronella types, plus others poten-
tially desirable.
Citronella Oil Ceylon varies in colour from yellow to brownish yellow,
sometimes dark greenish yellow, and may be clear or slightly turbid due to
contained water. The odour is quite distinctive and described as floral, with
woody, grassy, leafy notes due to the camphene borneol-methyleugenol
complex. The main constituents are the monoterpene hydrocarbons, and
major components, in per cent, geraniol to 60, citronellal to 15, citronellol to
10, not necessarily in the same sample. The oil is considered an industrial oil
and used extensively in detergents, waxes, household soaps and cleansers,
for masking unpleasant odours of insecticides and similar preparations, and
to a minor extent in cheaper perfumes and toiletries.
The oil is frequently used as a domestic insect repellent, being placed in
jars with a wick which allows slow evaporation, or ignited and slowly burns.
Interestingly, orang-utans produce a citronella-smelling exudate which ap-
parently repels insects. The oil is raw material for geraniol, citronellol,
citronellal and menthol production. Ceylon oils were often adulterated, but
the imposition of official export standards has greatly reduced this problem
84 Chapter 4

at source; however, the practice continues elsewhere in the marketing chain.

Many adulterants used are easily identified by experienced perfumers, as the
natural odour is modified.
Citronella Oil Java is colourless to very pale yellow; the odour sweet, fresh,
and lemony. The main constituents are, in per cent, citronellal to 50,
citronellol to 20 and geraniol to 45, not necessarily in the same sample.
Commercial samples are often described in terms of total geraniol and
citronellal, i.e. will contain that proportion of geraniol and related alcohols
and at least the stated proportion of aldehydes calculated as citronellal, with
85135 the generally accepted standard; the remainder mainly terpenes of
little value. The main constituents of commercial samples are shown in
Table 4.5. The oil is used extensively in perfumes and toiletries, and
household or semi-industrial products. It is raw material for a range of
important isolates, including citronellal, menthol, geraniol and geraniol

Table 4.4. Major constituents of citronella oils (%).

Compound Java Ceylon

Tricyclene ng 1.6
Alpha-pinene ng 2.6
Camphene ng 8.0
Alpha-phellandrene ng 0.8
Limonene 1.3 9.7
cis-Ocimene ng 1.4
trans-Ocimene ng 1.8
Citronellal 32.7 5.2
Camphor ng 0.5
Bourbonene Trace 1.o
Linalool 1.5 1.2
Linalyl acetate 2.0 0.8
Beta-caryophyllene 2.1 3.2
4-Terpinenol Trace 0.7
Citronellyl acetate 3.0 1.9
I-Borneo1 Trace 6.6
Geranyl formate 2.5 4.2
Citronello! 15.9 8.4
Nerol 7.7 0.9
Geraniol 23.9 18.0
Geranyl butyrate Trace 1.5
Methyl eugenol Trace 1.7
Elemol 6.0 1.7
Methyl iso-eugenol 2.3 7.2
Farnesol 0.6 Trace
ng, not given.
Source: Wijesekera et al. (1973).
Table 4.5. Comparison of main constituents (%) of commercial samples of Java citronella oil

Argentina Brazil Burma Ceylon" China Guatemala India Indonesia Java Nepal Paraquav Taiwan Vietnam
Limonene 3.3 2.8 8.4 9.0 2.6 3.8 4.0 3.7 3.9 3.6 3.6 3.3 3.1
cis-Ocimene ng ng < 0.1 2.2 ng ng ng 0.5 1.3 ng ng 0.3 0.2
Citronellal 34.8 46.8 12.2 5.2 34.4 34.8 30.8 35.7 36.8 35.5 37.8 35.0 32.9
Linalool 0.9 0.6 1.5 0.8 1.o 0.5 1.o 0.9 0.8 0.7 0.5 0.7 1.o
lsopulegol (4 1.9 0.7 0.9 0.6 1.4 0.5 0.8 1.3 2.1 0.7 1.4 1.4 1.5
Alpha- ng 0.7 2.3 1.3 < 0.1 0.5 ng 0.2 0.1 ng ng 0.5 < 0.1
Caryophyllene 0.1 < 0.1 0.2 1.4 0.1 < 0.1 < 0.1 0.3 0.4 0.1 < 0.1 0.1 0.3
Citronellyl-acetate 2.5 1.7 5.1 0.9 2.3 1.9 7.3 2.8 2.5 3.4 0.9 2.1 2.5
Citral b (neral) 0.5 < 0.1 0.4 0.4 0.4 0.8 0.4 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.5 0.8 1.o
Citral a (geranial) 0.7 0.5 1.9 0.7 0.6 0.7 0.5 0.8 0.8 0.5 0.4 0.7 0.8
Citronellol 14.9 13.4 20.1 6.4 13.6 17.8 23.9 15.8 15.7 14.9 14.5 14.9 15.3
Nerol 0.3 0.2 <0.1 1.o 0.2 0.4 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3
Geraniol 22.6 21.2 22.4 20.3 24.3 29.1 19.3 23.3 21.4 24.5 24.2 21.2 23.9
Elemol 3.9 1.4 3.9 1.6 5.0 1.2 2.0 1.8 2.1 3.4 3.3 3.5 3.3
Eugenol 0.7 0.9 0.5 < 0.1 0.8 0.8 0.9 0.9 0.6 0.5 1.o 0.8 0.7
aCymbopogonnardus; ng, not given.
Source: Abstracted from published sources.
86 Chapter 4

esters, citronellol and its esters. A major reason why citronella oil is still so
used is that many perfumers favour products of natural origin over syn-
thetics; especially hydroxycitronellal with its lily of the valley fragrance
strongly preferred in high-class perfumes. Geraniol and its derivative cit-
ronellol both have a rosy odour, are often called rose alcohols and are used
extensively in perfumery. Terpeneless citronella oil is produced to order, but
as the whole oil is normally used there is no point in removing terpenes
which are of little value. Wide regional variation occurs in Java oil character-
istics, and these have been summarized (Virmani and Datta, 1971); a
variation is also found in oils produced in different districts in a particular
country, and indicates the very wide range o f material available to plant
breeders. Characteristics from selected origins are shown in Table 4.1.
Variation is not restricted to composition, to perfumers there are substantial
differences in odour, thus Guatemalan oil is classed separately.


Grasses under the general name lemongrass were described early, but the
first accurate genus classification was by Dr 0. Stapf (Kew Bull. 1906,
302-364), with subsequent research to establish species relationships. The
high citral content of the oil, which emits a strong lemon scent when leaves
are crushed, gives the species their common name. Lemongrass oil is
currently obtained mainly from Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf and C.
flexuosus (Steud.) Wats. which produce West Indian and East Indian lemon-
grass oil respectively, although other species produce oil with a high citral
Cymbopogon citratus is known only under cultivation, and although occur-
ring in many tropical countries it is always an introduction, i.e. the wild
lemongrass of Zaire. Cymbopogon citratus is cultivated in Argentina, Brazil,
Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti and other Caribbean islands, Java, Vietnam,
Malaysia, Sri Lanka (where it is known as sereh), Madagascar, Comoros; to
a lesser extent in the Philippines, China, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thai-
land (called takhraz) and Africa. Grown also on a small scale in many other
tropical countries, including north-western Australia which has a climate
similar to Guatemala, and southern Russia (Bagaturiya et al., 1990).
Cymbopogonflexuosus is cultivated in southern India, mainly Kerala State,
which Indian botanists claim as the plant’s original home. It is also known
locally as Cochin or Malabar grass, and the oil similarly. Two varieties of C.
flexuosus are recognized, the white-stemmed known as wella poolu now
designated C. flexuosus var. albescens, and the red-stemmed choomanna poolu.
The latter produces genuine East Indian oil and is the type commercially
cultivated (Husain et al., 1988; Fig. 4.8). Where C. flexuosus has been
Gramineae 87

introduced it was the red-stemmed type, with Indonesia and Madagascar

the largest non-Indian producers. Cymbopogon pendulus (Nees ex Steud.)
Wats. (Jammu lemongrass) is grown in northern India to produce a lemon-
grass oil and selected strains have a very high geraniol content (Hussain et
al., 1988; Vimilan et al., 1989; Pal et al., 1990). These oils are wholly
consumed locally.
The original use of lemongrass was probably as a food flavouring in Asia;
leaves are cooked with foods especially curries, and peeled stems are freely
available in local markets. Fresh leaves crushed in water are used as a hair-
wash and toilet water in India. Where or when oil was first distilled is
unknown, but there are references to primitive stills producing lemon-
scented water for Indian potentates several centuries ago. Systematic culti-
vation and distillation began in Kerala in the 1880s and remains a major
local industry. The greatest expansion of lemongrass oil production oc-
curred between the two world wars, with the establishment of C. citrutus
plantations in British, Dutch and French colonies in Central and South

Fig. 4.8. Lemongrass, India.

88 Chapter 4

Lemongrass became commercially important in Madagascar, Comoros

and Reunion following its introduction by the French, but oil production
gradually declined after independence. Good descriptions of developments
up to 1941 are contained in Guenther (1 950). One aspect however is worth
noting, for it indicates how essential oil production can be successfully
integrated with other agricultural activities. Spent lemongrass fortified by
the addition of molasses from cane processing was used as a supplementary
feed for cattle on Reunion.
Probably the most successful introductions were to Guatemala, Hon-
duras, Brazil and Argentina. Similarly to citronella, these countries greatly
benefited from the shortage of essential oils in North America during the
Second World War, and the area under lemongrass substantially expanded.
Since then production has fallen, but all remain significant producers. Many
attempts to encourage commercial production among African farmers south
of the Sahara had little success although it has recently been grown on a
small scale in Rwanda (Ntezurubanza et al., 1992). Where oil was produced
it was by Europeans, who for many years grew the crop commercially in
Zaire and Tanzania. Oil was produced commercially in Thailand, Vietnam,
Taiwan and China, but the local industries fluctuated with the ebb and flow
of wars; Vietnam and China are currently expanding their production.

Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf. (syn. Andropogon nardus var. ceriferus
Hack.; A. citratus DC.) and Cymbopogon flexuosus (Steud.) Wats. (syn.
Andropogon nardus var. flexuosus Hack.; A.flexuosus Nees), are tufted per-
ennial grasses, with numerous stiff stems arising from a short, rhizomatous
Roots of C. citratus, although extensive, are not deeply penetrating and
cultivated plants seldom survive more than 4-5 years; C. flexuosus usually
survives for at least 6 years although it has a very similar root system. A C.
citratus root oil obtained in Sri Lanka had these characteristics (temperature
unspecified): specific gravity 0.94, optical rotation +3"40' to -1"40', alde-
hyde content to 82% (Nethsinga and Paskaranathan, 1976a). The stems are
stiff to 3 m but under cultivation are normally cut before maturity. Stem
colour in C. citratus is a light to medium green; C. flexuosus has two types,
one with an apple-green stem which may be almost white, the other a red
stem and both can be found growing wild in close proximity. The number of
stems (tillers) significantly affects the amount of leaves produced, and any
increase in total herbage produced by C. citratus is related to extent of
Leaves in both species are long, narrow, 1 m X 3 cm, upright when young
but trailing at maturity. Colour is usually a light to medium green, is affected
by environment, and is an unreliable guide to identification. A detailed
description of leaf structure has been published (Metcalf, 1960). Leaves can
Gramineae 89

also be used as a source of cellulose and paper production (Ciaramello,

1973). Cultivated C. citratus seldom flowers and is propagated by root
division; C. jlexuosus seeds readily and is normally propagated from seed.
For this reason, commercial producers allow only selected plants to flower,
since profuse flowering prior to cutting substantially reduces oil yield. Main
flowering of C. jlexuosus in India is in the dry season, March-April.
Since oil is primarily in the leaves, factors which affect their growth,
number, oil content, etc. are important and comments in the section on
citronella are applicable. Only young and rapidly expanding leaves synthe-
size and accumulate essential oil, and the various biosynthetic pathways
have been partially determined (Singh et al., 1990; Sangwan et al., 1993a).
Leaf blades have a higher oil content than leaf sheaths, young leaves more
than older, and oil content increases from leaf base to tip. In China
harvesting 'upper grass' gave an oil yield of 0.60% but only 0.125% from
'lower grass'; in India, oil content of stems, immature flower spikes and
leaves of C. pendulus was 0.24%, solely from green leaves 0.35% (Singh etal.,
1982). Oil content of a normal cut, which includes stems and leaves, should
average 0.25-0.35%; however, up to 0.66% has been obtained on experi-
mental stations and from selected strains, indicating that higher commercial
yields are possible (Kulkarni and Ramesh, 1992). Simple selection proce-
dures produced a one-third increase in oil content of C. jlexuosus with little
effect on herbage, oil yield, or citral content of the oil (Kulkarni, 1994).
Growth stimulants, including IAA, IBA and GA, affect leaf growth
although results from various countries are conflicting, and may also slightly
affect leaf oil content and composition, as in Egypt (El-Saeid et al., 1994).
Nitrogen top-dressings also generally increase leaf number, leaf size and rate
of regrowth after cutting as will be noted later. The effect of harvesting
techniques on oil content and oil characteristics will be discussed in the
relevant section. The main characteristics of the two oils obtained in Sri
Lanka are (C. jlexuosus in brackets), specific gravity (15°C) 0.870-0.897
(0.888-0.903), optical rotation (2OOC) -3' to + l 0 (-3" to +1"), refractive
index (15°C) 1.483-1.489 (1.478-1.419), aldehyde content, 75% (75%);
C. citratus oil is normally less soluble than C. fiexuosus, but solubility of both
tends to decrease with storage. Main characteristics of oils from selected
origins are shown in Table 4.6. Oil from the white-stemmed species, which
is low in citral, is not produced commercially, and plants should not be
allowed to grow intermixed with the red-stemmed type, as distilling the two
together produces a lower-quality oil.

Both species are tropical grasses and flourish in sunny, warm, humid
conditions, basically between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Many
local cultivars, however, are adapted to areas outside these limits and both
species are capable of widening their range under cultivation. Cymbopogon
90 Chapter 4

Table 4.6. Main characteristics of lemongrass oilsafrom selected countries.

Thailando Sarawakb Guatemala' Tanganyika' India'

Apparent density ("C) 0.886(20) 0.879(20)
Specific gravity r C ) - 0.877(15) 0.884(15) 0.888(30)
- - 0.889 0.888 0.898
Optical rotation -0.24O -0.09" -0.40° -0.32' -3"
-0.29O - - 1 .8OC -0.35O +I"
Refractive index ("C) 1.4824(26) 1.484(20) 1.483(20) 1,4860120) 1.4786(30)
1.4854 - 1.488 1.4866 1.4866
Carbonyl value 275-285 -

Citral (% wiw) 74-77 79 75-81 74-79 76

Solubility (% alcohol viv) Insol. 1 :2,2(70) lnsol Insol 1 :2-3(70)
aOils are from Cymbopogon citratus, except India which is C. flexuosus oil, (Cochin Special Grade);
Laboratory samples; Commercial samples (average values),
All figures in columns are range.

citratus is a wholly cultivated plant, and its range is that of countries to which
it has been introduced; on the Ord Irrigation Area in Western Australia for
example it has produced very high herbage and oil yields. Cymbopogon
jlexuosus requires a more sunny climate, with a well-distributed rainfall. In
South East Asia it grows naturally on roadsides, in mixed deciduous and
dipterocarp forests, often on the margin of secondary vegetation, on coastal
rocky areas and on grassy, often limestone, slopes and ridges. It occurs
naturally in India from sea-level to 1200 m, in Thailand and neighbouring
countries to 2200 m but commercial cultivation is most profitable between
500-1000 m; in Kerala, India, it grows well between 900-1250 m on hill
slopes. The effect of seasonal change on growth and herbage yield in north-
eastern India was relatively easy to correlate with specific elements of
climate, but it was not possible to do so with oil content or characteristics
(Handique et al., 1984). Cymbopogon citratus has similar climatic require-
ments to C. jlexuosus, but flourishes naturally below 500 m. In Guatemala
and Brazil, it is grown commercially between 120-600 m; in Indonesia, from
sea-level to 500 m; in Madagascar and Comoros, 200-750 m; in Haiti and
neighbouring islands, below 450 m; in Africa, generally below 500 m.
Interestingly, the citral content of oil from lemongrass grown in the Ethio-
pian highlands was a low 13% (Abegaz et al., 1983), compared to around
75% in oil from lemongrass grown at lower altitudes in East Africa (Ekun-
dayo, 1986).
It is not the effect of altitude on general plant growth, however, that can be
most important, although intensity of sunlight and rainfall at higher altitudes
adversely affect leaf-oil content. In both species oil content decreases during
Gramineae 91

long, dry, sunny periods, which occur more often at higher than lower levels
in many tropical countries. This depressing effect can be partially overcome
by selecting hillsides which receive less sun or a prevailing wet or misty wind,
and thus are suitable for lemongrass where other cash crops are scarce.
Conversely, drainage combined with judicious site selection can reduce the
effect of excessive rainfall.
The major effect of long periods of sunshine is to desiccate plants and
cause loss of leaf oil, but other factors are involved. In Sri Lanka, the
photosynthetic rate of leaves varies with light duration and intensity, and
there is a similar variation in carbon dioxide compensation values (Herath
and Ormrod, 1979). Data indicated this variation also applied to different
lemongrass strains and could be used for selecting those suited to a partic-
ular environment. Where lack of sunlight is the local limiting factor, rows of
plants should be orientated to obtain the maximum sunshine; generally
Both species produce highest oil yield per tonne of herbage where the
rainfall averages 2500-3000 mm annually, preferably well distributed espe-
cially during the hot season; 5000 mm will be tolerated provided soils do not
become saturated. Cyrnbopogon citrutus is considered more drought tolerant,
but this refers to vegetative persistence; oil content suffers equally in both
species in long dry spells. C. flexuosus is considered more tolerant of short
periods of waterlogging, but this should not be a consideration when
selecting lands for planting. Areas which receive only heavy monsoon-type
rains or tropical storms of great intensity but short duration are generally
unsuitable for large-scale commercial plantings without special drainage.
Assessing available data (much of it unpublished) on both species it appears
the yield of oil per tonne of herbage from cuts during. a wet season (rainy or
monsoon), when growth is rapid and lush, is 45-65% of that obtained from
the same plants cut in the dry season or period (cf. geranium). A comparison
of yield and citral content of oil from uncultivated C. citrutus in the Phil-
ippines is shown in Table 4.7, which indicates the general effect of climate
on both, and it is interesting to note the effect of altitude in ‘hilly sections’.
It was also noted that, in the Cavite region, cultivated lemongrass gave a
herbage oil yield of 0.37 and 0.64% in the cool and hot seasons respectively,
much higher than that of uncultivated lemongrass.
A daytime temperature of 25530°C is considered the optimum for max-
imum oil production, with no extremely low night temperatures. Short
periods above 30°C have little general effect on plants, but severely reduce
oil content. Frost at any stage is normally fatal. Hail will shred leaves and if
a storm should coincide with a planned cut, oil yield will be low. Winds do
little damage unless they are hot and dry, or cyclonic; one evaporates the oil,
the other can destroy a plantation!
92 Chapter 4

Table 4.7. Yield of oil citral content from Cymbopogon citratus - Philippines

Cool season Dry hot season Rainy seasona

Regions % Oil % Citralb % Oil % Citralb % Oil
Albay 0.13 29.21 0.31 44.55 0.23
Batangas' 0.23 37.27 0.35 45.21 0.36
Bulacan 0.15 39.14 0.30 44.54 0.23
Carnarines S. 0.14 25.47 0.35 42.74 0.24
Cavitec 0.22 30.63 0.41 41.33 0.17
Mindoro 0.10 32.09 0.30 37.62 0.24
Dilirnanc 0.23 34.47 0.48 37.43 0.36
Quezon' 0.24 28.75 0.35 31.05 0.26
Rizal' 0.28 36.11 0.48 38.12 0.10
a Citral not determined; Citral = area of citral peakitotal peak areas x 100: From hilly districts; Cool

season, December to February: Hot season, March to June; Rainy season, July to November.
Source: Oliveros-Belardo and Aureus (1977).

Soils and fertilizers

Both species can be grown on a range of soils and it appears good drainage
is the most important factor. A moderate to high sand content is character-
istic of many areas where oil is produced commercially, and it is widely
reported that lemongrass plants growing on sandy soils have a higher leaf oil
content, or with increased citral. This may be so, but it is not the sandy soil
which is responsible, but the general lack of soil nutrients and soil moisture
which affects plant growth, and thus oil content and its characteristics.
These soils, however, may have been selected for reasons other than their
suitability, i.e availability and ease of manual cultivation. In India, C.
jlexuosus flourishes on well-drained sandy loams but is grown on almost any
land available, from very light sands to upland laterites, due primarily to
utilization of more fertile or more easily cultivated lands for other crops, and
this variety of soil types is reflected in the very wide range of oil yields per
hectare. Figure 4.9 shows lemongrass growing on canal banks in Bangla-
desh. Cymbopogon citratus is generally considered more adaptable, but this
probably reflects the much greater range of conditions under which it is
grown in the many countries to which was introduced. A moderate to high
sand content characterizes soils growing C. citratus in Guatemala, Brazil,
Argentina, Kenya and Tanzania, but more loamy soils proved acceptable on
Madagascar, the Comoros, Vietnam and China; trials were carried out on
peat soils in Sarawak, Malaysia (Ng, 1972).
How soil reaction affects growth, oil content and composition is un-
reported, although soils of p H 5 . 5 to 7.5 are utilized; C. citratus is more
commonly grown on soils with higher acidity than C. jlexuosus, but in
Australia good yields were obtained from C. citratus on a Kimberley clay p H
9.6. Some interesting results were obtained in India with a C. JClexuosus
Gramineae 93

cultivar; soil of p H 7.5 gave the highest herb and oil yields per hectare but
neither was significantly greater than p H 5 . 5 ; oil content of herbage, how-
ever, fell significantly between p H 5 . 5 and 7.5 although total citral content of
oilrosefrom83.5% a t p H 4 . 8 t o 8 7 . 1 % a t p H 7 . 5 (Singhetal., 1983). Saline
soils are usually considered unsuitable for lemongrass although this may be
due more to the cultural and agronomic problems associated with growing
crops on these soils, as laboratory and greenhouse trials indicate lemongrass
will grow and produce average herbage and oil yields on highly saline soils.
In pot trials, C. JEexuosusgrown in soils with an electrical conductivity (EC)
of 11.5, 10.0 and 5.5 mmhos/cm, showed no significant reduction in herb
and oil yield (Singh and Anwar, 1985); the citral content was unaffected by
increasing salinity to 15 mmhosicm.
Any crop from which 100 t of herbage per hectare is harvested annually
also removes quantities of plant nutrients, but there are few detailed reports
of the amounts removed either per hectare or per tonne of green material. In
Western Australia, the maximum amounts removed annually per hectare
were 186 kg N, 26 kg P and 384 kg K; with an average yield of 92 tlha

Fig. 4.9, Lernongrass planted (illegally) on canal banks, Bangladesh.

94 Chapter 4

herbage removed per tonne cut, 2.02 kg N, 0.28 kg P and 4.17 kg K. By

comparison, a soybean crop in the USA yielding 3.5 tiha seed removed 340
kg N, 30 kg P and 170 kg K per hectare; equal to 97 kg N, 8.6 kg P and 48.6
kg K per tonne of seed. When grown under smallholder or peasant farming
conditions the most commonly applied fertilizer is spent grass from distilla-
tion, used directly as a mulch or dried, burnt and the ash broadcast over the
crop. A combination of spent grass compost at 2.5-5.0 t plus 1.8 t wood ash
per hectare gave good yields in southern India, as did a mixture of cotton-
seed meal and potassium (Virmani et al., 1979).
Lemongrass is generally considered to have a modest nitrogen require-
ment, since data from trials in various countries indicate a relatively low
optimum level based on profitability. The rate of nitrogen recovery by plants
is an important indication of their ability to use added nutrients, and in
Australia the nitrogen recovery rate of C. citratus was low; a total of 1094 kg
Niha applied to experimental plots gave a minimum recovery of 137 and a
maximum 186 kg N/ha, equal to 12.5-17.0% (Beech, 1977). The major
effect of nitrogen is to increase above-ground plant growth, i.e. more tillers,
number of leaves or size and length of leaf. The greatest response often
occurs on more sandy soils in the presence of adequate soil moisture,
although there was a general increase in yield on most soil types. On a heavy-
textured mineral soil in Sarawak, herbage yield rose from 24.5 to 3 1.4 tiha at
90 and 135 kg Niha but a neighbouring peat soil gave no significant response
(Ng, 1972). On a gravelly loam in India, 300 kg/ha of ammonium sulphate
or urea applied to three local cultivars increased mean herbage yield by 40
and 57% respectively; with an average increase of 17% from urea over
ammonium sulphate at the same levels of N (Kokate and Varma, 1971).
Top-dressing is generally necessary after each cut and the method of
application is of little importance provided distribution is even. Nitrogen
usually has no significant effect on leaf oil content, oil characteristics or
composition at the levels normally applied but, in a number of trials, the
citral content of oil from a specific cultivar could be influenced (Samiullah et
al., 1988). Determining the citral content of oil from plants in fertilizer trials
is thus important, since citral is a valuable constituent. The most profitable
level of nitrogen must be determined locally, together with the frequency
and timing of applications. Such data is scarce; in India (using C. pendulus)
320 kg Niha gave maximum profit, but the lower level of 280 kg Niha gave
the greatest return per rupee invested, a very important distinction, partic-
ularly where money is severely limited.
On most commercial crops, phosphate at planting gives a higher stand
and more healthy plants, which are then able to make maximum use of
nitrogenous top-dressings. The amount necessary is apparently below that
of nitrogen or potassium and also less critical in terms of oil yield but,
because of the very wide range of levels applied, local trials are essential to
Gramineae 95

establish the optimum. In general, superphosphate gives the highest yield

per unit of phosphate in the presence of adequate nitrogen and potassium.
Trials indicate that lemongrass has a very high potassium requirement in
comparison to phosphate, in some areas exceeding the total nitrogen neces-
sary to produce optimum oil yield, and why this should be so has not been
accurately determined. Plants well supplied with potassium generally have
more tillers than those undersupplied. Recommendations vary from 50 to
120 kg Wha in India and Sri Lanka. Potassium is usually applied as part of
a compound fertilizer at planting, but there are no data comparing the
various potassic fertilizers. One application only is normal, but because of
the very high potassium removal recorded in many countries, a further
application in the second or third year could be profitable. For example 384
kg Wha was removed in 92 t of herbage in 1 year in Australia with no record
of potassium being applied. Few soils can stand this rate of nutrient
depletion without affecting crop growth.
There is little data on minor element deficiencies or responses to these
elements by lemongrass. On a peat soil of p H 4.6 in Sarawak, plants
exhibited chlorosis apparently induced by an iron deficiency, since it was
alleviated by a ferrous sulphate spray (Ng, 1972). Remarks under this
heading in the citronella section also apply.

The basic operations to establish a lemongrass plantation are described in
the introduction to this chapter. In India, Sri Lanka and countries where
there are a large number of smallholders, it may be necessary to protect
newly sown plantations against domestic stock. Although mature grass is
generally unpalatable, young growth is grazed especially when other forage is
not available.
Propagation differs between C. citratus and C. flexuosus; the former is
vegetatively propagated, the latter grown from seed. T o obtain the required
amount of seed of C. flexuosus some plants in a plantation are left uncut to
flower, or a special area for seed production established. After flowering,
November-December in southern India, plants are regularly inspected to
determine when seed is mature but not overripe, or shattering will occur.
The whole inflorescence is cut, left to dry in the shade for 1-3 days, then
threshed by any method which does not damage seeds. Seed can be sown
directly where plants are to grow and, provided soil is moist and rainfall
expected, is usually successful. Approximately 35 kgiha is required. The
great disadvantage of direct sowing is the difficulty of effectively controlling
weeds in young seedlings, since most tropical grasses are fast and expansive
growers. Chemical control of such weeds is almost impossible, and manual
weeding equally difficult.
96 Chapter 4

Seed production is prolific and viability high so there is usually little need
to conserve it; thus nursery beds should be over- rather than under-sown. A
mature plant supplies about 100-200 g seed and 10-1 2 kg of clean seed is
sufficient to produce seedlings for 1 ha. Beds should be sown in advance of
the rains, so planting-out can commence as early as possible to ensure fast
growth after establishment. Seedlings are ready to transplant in 60-80 days,
topped to 15-20 cm, and dipped in fungicide. Planting of cuttings is usually
manual, but the small mechanical planters available can be used. Mechan-
ical planting may be more expensive initially, but is offset by faster seedling
growth and lower weeding cost. Single ridges or rows are usually 30-50 but
up to 100 cm apart, or ridges can be large enough to accommodate up to
three rows of plants, becoming raised beds. In-row spacing of 12-20 cm is
common, and up to three cuttings planted together since this is cheaper than
infilling. Multiple planting usually has little effect on herbage yield but, in Sri
Lanka, two cuttings per hill at 15 X 10 cm spacing gave the highest average
yield of oil per hectare. In Kerala, 2-3 cuttings per hill at 13 X 15 cm is
Cymbopogon citrutus is generally propagated by root division (splits), and
the usual method is to divide clumps from an existing or exhausted planta-
tion following cutting. One fully mature healthy plant will yield 50-200
splits. Size of splits is a local preference but larger splits root quicker and
grow faster. Splits should be cut to leave 10-15 cm of shoot, trimmed of
excess and old roots and preferably be dipped in fungicide. Where large
numbers are involved, this can be carried out mechanically with a rotating
drum (the author once hired a concrete mixer), and splits should be dried
before planting. Use of growth stimulants or rooting compounds is usually
unnecessary, and exposing slips to gamma radiation prior to planting had a
generally adverse effect on plant growth and oil content (Banerji and Gupta,
Cymbopogon citratus is normally sown on the flat, about 10-15 cm deep,
but ridges can be raised after emergence to provide drainage or water
retention, whichever is locally most important. On clay loams or similar
rather heavy soils, too deep planting or raising a substantial ridge when
plants are still small is inadvisable, as C. citrutus is very susceptible to root
rots at this stage; depth of planting and ridge size are less important on more
sandy soils. A spacing of 50-75 cm rows and 50 cm between plants has
consistently produced the highest oil yield per hectare irrespective of coun-
try. Row width is usually determined by the mechanical equipment used and
between-plant spacing adjusted to provide the optimum population, which
it is essential to maintain by infilling since there is convincing evidence a high
population is far more profitable. The remarks on weed control in C.
flexuosus are applicable. In general, a weeding should follow cutting and
spot-spraying with a herbicide is then possible. Diseased or dead plants can
Gramineae 97

also be easily seen, removed and burnt. Smallholders irrigate when possible,
usually after each cut. Large estates in Central America were regularly
irrigated during the dry season to maintain growth as water was freely
available, while plantations in Azerbaijan, CIS, were irrigated 15 times
between April and October (Ragimov et al., 1985). The data available
indicates a water stress prior to cutting generally reduces herbage yield but
increases oil content, an effect similar to harvesting following a dry period,
and clearly demonstrated in Western Australia on the Ord Irrigation Area
(Fig. 4.10). Soil moisture status may also affect oil components, and
requires further investigation. Interestingly a 1917 report from Florida,
USA, stated: ‘a dry sandy soil yielded oil with a 75% citral content, a moist
sandy loam 68% and a wet loam 66%’.
Cymbopogon citrutus is seldom intercropped or underplanted when grown
to produce oil since it is basically unsuitable; C. jlexuosus may be inter-
planted, but is generally the major component when grown for oil. An
interesting method of integrating C. jlexuosus into plantations of other crops
was proposed for Bangladesh, but not widely implemented (Khan, 1979);
C. citratus has been underplanted in young rubber in Malaysia and elsewhere
to help defray cost of plantation establishment.

The first harvest of both species is usually 6-8 months after planting, then
cut three to six times annually over life of the plantation, although in Brazil
and other South American countries plants are cut at approximately 3-4
months, as this is locally believed to induce more extensive tillering and thus
bigger, more leafy plants. The cutting interval is governed by level of
management, climate and cultivar grown, thus the more skilled the local
grower, the greater the returns possible. Sampling to determine oil content
and composition is desirable, but seldom practised. Most small growers cut
a t a locally favoured height and, in general, this results in obtaining the local
average oil yield. Too frequent cutting of C. citrutus usually increases costs
with no great addition to total oil obtained over life of the plantation. By
contrast, frequent cutting of C. jlexuosus can profitably increase the total oil
yield. It is thus essential to determine the optimum height of cut and number
of cuts by field trials; however, adequate transport, distilling and storage
facilities must also be available to benefit from the results.
T o reduce the amount of green material distilled, smallholders tend to cut
high to include mainly leafy material. After several cuts it is then necessary to
prune the plants, which is time-consuming and unpleasant work so, in Sri
Lanka and southern India, plantations are often burnt at the end of the dry
season. This is effective in reducing unnecessary herbage and kills some
plants, but also substantially reduces carry-over of insect pests, especially
98 Chapter 4

Cutting can begin as soon as plants are dry after the night’s dew, as wet
grass left for later collection quickly ferments. Sunny days are preferable,
since cloudy and misty conditions tend to depress leaf-oil content.
Small farmers usually harvest manually, cutting plants 7.5-10 cm above
the ground and, in Sri Lanka, one worker can harvest about 2 t of fresh grass
daily. Mechanical cutting is usual on commercial plantations with a com-
bined cutter-chopper-loader. Cutting height varies with equipment used
and must be determined by field trials; in Western Australia 20 cm was the
optimum. Cutting at 20, 30, 40 and 50 cm gave annual herbage yields of
116,97,82 and 72 tiha, and the highest yield of 134 tiha was from 20 cm and
a cutting interval of 120 days (Beech, 1977). Manual cutting at different

+Fresh weight +Oil ‘Ontent

e--Dry matter (%) A- - Oil vield

12 - 60

-m h

f e
10- 50

$ a-

6- 30

4 I I I I 20



40 .=



Days from last irrigation

Fig. 4.10. Effect of withholding irrigation water from lemongrass (Cymbopogoncitratus ex Taiwan) in
Australia. (Beech, 1977.)
Gramineae 99

heights from 5 cm to 40 cm in Assam showed cutting at 20 cm and at

4-monthly intervals gave the highest yields of dry herbage and oil, and there
was little to be gained by lowering cutting height to obtain more herbage, as
both oil content and citral content were low in the first 10 cm above ground
level (Choudry, 1994).
Annual herbage yield from C. flexuosus in the 2 years following establish-
ment should be 15,000-20,000 kgiha, but then declines steadily over the
4-8 year life of the plantation; the rate of decline and plantation life are
directly related to the standard of management. Oil yield from fresh herbage
is 0.2-0.5% and is less affected over time, The average annual herbage yield
in the 2 years following establishment of C. citratus should be 30,000-50,000
kg/ha (100,000 kg/ha has been achieved) and under good management
should continue around this level over the 4-6 years of plantation life. Oil
yield from fresh herbage is usually 0.25-0.50% but 0.4-0.6% with efficient
Wilting herbage prior to distilling reduces moisture content and can
reduce oil content if dried in the sun, but normally has little effect on oil
composition. Up to 3 days drying prior to distilling is common in many
countries for both species. In Indonesia, 1-2 days was the optimum for field
wilting C. citratus, when moisture content decreased from 72 to 66.5% with
the least loss of oil and citral content (Rusli et al., 1979). There was,
however, an interaction between wilting period and distillation time, noted
later. A substantial difference in oil content was obtained by hydro-
distillation of fresh, controlled air-dried, or wilted C. citratus leaves in the
Philippines. Oil yield was 0.3-0.4, 1.2-1.9 and 0.2-0.8% respectively
(Brandares et al., 1987). Some estates in Brazil and Guatemala allow leaves
to age on plants to reduce moisture content, and cut when leaf tips wither.
This sometimes darkens oil colour but has no significant effect on citral
content. Oil distilled from fresh herbage is considered by many end-users to
have a finer odour than oil from wilted or dried herbage.

In general, C. citratus is steam distilled and methods vary considerably,
reflected in the type and quality of oil produced, while an interaction
between duration of wilting and distillation time can occur. Wilting in
Indonesia for 2 days with 1.5 hours steam distillation gave highest oil yield of
0.43% (citral 80.3%); no wilting and 45 minutes yielded 0.3% oil (86.7%
citral) (Rusli et al., 1979). Increasing distilling time from 45 to 90 to 135
minutes increased oil yield from 0.311 to 0.351 to 0.406%, but citral
content fell steadily from 86.7 to 80.3%. In Puerto Rico, a 28% solution of
sodium chloride in still water increased C. citratus oil yield by almost one-
third; the use of sea or salt water in stills has been explored elsewhere but is
nowhere common (cf. Pimenta racemosa). Local stills processing C. flexuosus
in India generally use hydro-distillation and have changed little in the last
100 Chapter 4

100 years; a unit in Kerala, India, charged with 100 kg grass and 140 1 water
required 2-2.5 hours to distil including filling and emptying the still, and
used 40 kg wood to produce 0.35 kg oil. Since distillation is probably the
most important factor influencing oil quality, there has been considerable
official research on methods of improving local stills. The CISIR, Sri Lanka,
has developed the Manakoka Still, and provides plans and advice on its
construction. The Department of Technology, Bogor, Indonesia, has devel-
oped a superior still for use by small companies or cooperatives (Rusli,
Oils correctly stored (i.e. protected from air, heat and sunlight) remain
stable for long periods, with little or no loss of citral. T o reduce the adverse
effect of local storage on citral content of C. flexuosus oil in India, several
indigenous antioxidants were tested; an extract of betel leaves (Piper betle)
proved most successful, maintaining citral content at 83% compared to 72%
in oil not treated (Kurain et al., 1984). Temperature, light and length of
storage produced some interesting results in the Philippines; rate of evapora-
tion and changes in citral content of oils from fresh, air-dried or wilted leaves
stored at different temperatures showed oil extracted from fresh leaves to be
the most stable (Brandares et al., 1987).
Spent grass can be dried and used as fuel, composted or returned directly
to the plantation (or other crops) as mulch, and also fodder for domestic
stock, either dried or as silage. Analysis of fresh and spent grass and silage
made from C. citratus in Guatemala is shown in Tables 4.8 and 4.9. When
fed to sheep, the total digestible nutrients (dry material) were 44.6%
equivalent to 1963 kcalikg digestible energy, and it is a valuable stock feed in
areas lacking fresh forage. Analysed in India for use as paper pulp, the main
constituents of C. citratus dried spent grass were (per cent), ash 6.2,
pentosans 16.6, lignin 21.3, cellulose 47 (Guha et al., 1973); in Guatemala
dry material consisted of (per cent), cell walls 67, lignocellulose 42, hemi-
cellulose 25, lignin 7.5, cellulose 30, ash 4 (Ramirez et al., 1976).

Products and specijkations

Commercial samples of lemongrass oils are generally similar in appearance,
but differ in odour. The oil is usually a rather viscous liquid, yellow to dark
yellow or dark amber becoming more red with age, often turbid, sometimes
containing significant amounts of water. The two oils are differentiated in
the trade as West Indian lemongrass oil (C. citratus) and East Indian
lemongrass oil (C.flexuosus), although this is virtually meaningless since oils
from both species are produced in the main oil-exporting areas. The main
difference is West Indian oil tends to have less citral and more myrcene than
East Indian oil; however designation is no accurate guide to composition,
this can only be determined by analysis. A C. citratus oil obtained in the
Philippines, for example, was high in citral with a particularly strong lemony
odour (Torres et al., 1994).
Gramineae 101

Table 4.8. Amino acid composition of fresh lemongrass and lemongrass bagassea

Fresh lemongrass (giro0 g) Lemongrass bagasse (giro0 g)

Aspartic acid 0.505 0.523
Threonine 0.162 0.176
Serine 0.068 0.053
Glutamic acid 0.676 0.795
Glycine 0.359 0.349
Alanine 0.442 0.441
Cysti ne 0.068 0.092
Valine 0.379 0.397
Methionine 0.029 0.039
lsoleucine 0.328 0.354
Leucine 0.449 0.560
Tyrosine 0.149 0.161
Phenylalanine 0.278 0.352
Ammonia 0.093 0.078
Lysine 0.265 0.344
Histidine 0.129 0.118
Arginine 0.252 0.278
a Values expressed on a 100% dry matter basis.

Over 100 compounds have been detected in the oil (Boelens, 1994), and
average levels of some major constituents are, in per cent, (C. flexuosus
outside, C. citratus within brackets); citral to 85 (80), geraniol 5 ( 3 ) , methyl
heptenone 6 (0.3), myrcene 0.8 (20), dipentene 0 (4) nerol 0 ( 2 ) , not

Table 4.9. Chemical composition and organoleptic characteristics of experimental silages containing
lemongrass bagassea.

Bagasse Bagasse Bagasse Bagasse

inoculum inoculum t AIV inoculum inoculum
t AIV t molasses t water t molasses
PH 4.00 4.04 4.62 4.42
Odour Acid Acidisweet Acidisweet Acidisweet
Colour Dark green Dark green Dark green Dark green
Dry matter (%) 38.00 41 .OO 36.00 40.00
Crude protein (%) 5.10 5.00 5.00 6.00
Crude fibre (%) 34.00 34.60 34.00 33.30
Ether extract (??) 3.50 3.50 4.10 4.80
Ash (%) 15.00 15.00 10.60 11.40
Nitrogen-free extract (%) 42.40 41.90 46.30 44.50
a Chemical analyses expressed on a 100% dry matter basis; AIV, Acid additive (unspecified). Note:
lnoculum obtained from maize silage.
Source: Ramirez eta/, (1976).
102 Chapter 4

necessarily in the same sample. Major components are shown in Table 4.10
and official specifications in Table 4.1 1. Both oils have a pronounced fresh
lemony odour; that of West Indian is less strong because of its lower citral
content while East Indian is considered more fresh, lighter, and sweeter.
Whole oils are mainly used as a source of citral, with synthetics the major
competitors, and the price of a particular batch of oil is directly related to its
citral content, minimum 75%. Citral has numerous uses, and can be further
processed to isolate the ionone group which possess a violet-like fragrance
important in Ferfumery, and vitamins, especially vitamin A.
Demand for whole oils has expanded with their use as a masking fragrance
in deodorants, waxes, polishes, detergents and insecticides, where the oil’s
generally low cost is attractive. Small amounts are also used by stockfeed
manufacturers. Little is used to flavour human foods, since fresh grass or
stalks are preferred. T h e whole oil has fungicidal properties to plant and
human pathogens (Handique and Singh, 1990) and is potentially anti-
carcinogenic (Zheng et al., 1993). A diagram of lemongrass oil use and its
major competitors is shown in Fig.4.11. Terpeneless lemongrass oil is

Table 4.10. Major components of lemongrass oils

Cymbopogon cifratus Cymbopogon flexuosus

Constituent % Constituent YO

Alpha-thujene trace-0. 1 Alpha-pinene 0.24

Myrcene 8.2-19.2 Alpha-thujene 0.03
Limonene trace Myrcene 0.46
cis-Beta-ocimene 0.2 Limonene 2.42
frans-Beta-ocimene 0.1-0.2 cis-Beta-ocimene 0.06
1,8-Cineole 0.2 trans-Beta-ocimene 0.07
6-Methylhept-5-en-2-one 0.5-2.3 Terpinolene 0.05
Nonanal 0,2-0.7 Methyl heptenone 1.43
Alpha-thujone 0.1 2-Nonanone 0.07
Citronellal 0.1 Citronellal 0.37
Linalool 0.8-1 .I Linalool 1.34
Undecan-Pone 0,4-0,6 Caryophyllene 0.32
Alpha-terpineol 0.2-0 3
I Neral 30.06
Neral 25-28 Alpha-terpineol 0.38
Borneo1 0.1-0.4 Geranial 51.19
Geranial 45.2-55.9 Geranyl acetate 1.95
Geranyl acetate 1.o Citronellol 0.44
Citronellol 0.1 Nerol 0.39
Nerol 0.3-0.4 Geraniol 3.80
Geraniol 0.5-0.6
Figures in columns are range.
Source: Formacek and Kubeczka (1982); Sarer et al. (1983).
Gramineae 103

usually produced to order since it has little commercial use. A major

competitor of lemongrass oil is obtained from Litsea cubeba, Lauraceae, a
tree bearing small cubeb-shaped fruits which produce oil with a citral
content to 85% when steam-distilled (see Chapter 6).

Palmarosa and Gingergrass

Palmarosa oil, commonly East Indian geranium oil, and gingergrass oil are
obtained from two varieties of Cymbopogon martinii, known in India as rosha
or russa grass. Although morphologically almost identical, the two varieties
have different growth forms, favour differing environments and yield distinct
oils. In India, which produces most commercial supplies, palmarosa oil is
obtained from C. martinii var. martinii (motia) and the less valuable ginger-
grass oil from C. martiniivar. sojia (sojia). Since the names motia and sojia are
in common use and well understood, they will be used in the text.

Table 4.1 1, Official specifications for lemongrass oils

Cymbopogon citratus
Specific gravity 0.872-0.897 0.869-0.894
(20°C) (25°C)
Refractive index (at 20°C) 1.4830-1.4890 1.4830-1.4890
Optical rotation -3"tO t l o -3'tO tl"
Carbonyl compounds (as citral) Min 75% Min 75%
Residue 7% maximum
Solubility (70% alcohol) Fresh oil soluble Cloudy solutions
at 20°C. Insoluble in 70,80,90 and
in 90% 95% alcohols
at 25°C.
Cymbopogon flexuosus
~~ ~~~~~ ~~ ~

Specific gravity 0.888-0.898 0.894-0.904

(30°C) (25%)
Refractive index 1.4786-1.4846 1.4830-1.4890
(30°C) (25%)
Optical rotation -3'tO + I o -3"to tin
Citral content Min 75% Min 75%
Solubility (viv 70% alcohol) 1:3 2:3
with slight turbidity at 25'CC.
IS, Indian Standard Specification; EOA, Essential Oil Association, USA.
104 Chapter 4

Lemongrass oil

and perfumery

( p - ionone,

Fig. 4.1 1. Pattern of use of lemongrass oil. (Tropical Products Institute, London.)

Indian palmarosa and gingergrass oils are obtained almost wholly from
wild plants growing in forested regions, palmarosa mainly in the states of
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Assam; gingergrass in
Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab. A number of regional strains
produce oils of varying characteristics but, as herbage is generally harvested
indiscriminately, the resultant bulk oil is a blend of all types in a particular
locality. Since palmarosa and gingergrass normally occupy different hab-
itats, many bulk oils are basically true to type; it is the quality which varies.
Commercial planting of palmarosa is now being officially encouraged in
India, but there are few large plantations. In the late 1930s palmarosa was
introduced by the Dutch to Java, large commercial plantations were estab-
lished, and Java oil with its generally higher ester content was considered
superior to Indian oil. Production of gingergrass oil is restricted to India, and
there are no commercial plantings. An oil almost identical to gingergrass oil
was obtained from an Angolan variety of C. densiJClorus Stapf. but was not
grown commercially (Naves, 1960).
It is not recorded when palmarosa or gingergrass oil was first distilled in
India, but bruised leaves were used to perfume bath water, and provide
poultices to relieve the pain of bruises, aching joints and swellings. The oils
were traded between India and the Persian Gulf when the Portuguese
entered the Indian Ocean in the late sixteenth century. This route remained
in use until early in the twentieth century, when oil was shipped from
Bombay to Red Sea ports then overland to Constantinople, and thus became
erroneously known to European traders as Turkish or Indian geranium oil.
It has remained popular in the Middle East as a base for cheap scents and
soaps, and is often a mixture of palmarosa and gingergrass oils or wholly the
latter. The separation of palmarosa and gingergrass into two separate
Gramineae 105

commodities was due mainly to pressure from manufacturers, who required

a superior oil. Thus Indian producers became more selective in their
harvesting, and more efficient at distillation and storage. An alternative to
palmarosa oil is ninde oil obtained from the shrub Aeolanthus gamwelliae
Tay. cultivated on a small scale in Malawi (Ames, 1968).

Cymbopogon martinii (Roxb.) Wats. var. martinii (syn C. maninii Stapf var.
motia), 2n = 40, produces palmarosa oil and C. martinii Stapf var. sofia(syn.
Andropogon martinii Roxb. var. sofia), 2n = 20, produces gingergrass oil.
However, terpenoid analyses of var. sofia strains from north India suggested
a closer relationship to C. densiJ7orus than to var. martinii (Mathela et al.,
1988). Although only two varieties of C. martinii are currently recognized,
the very wide natural occurrence of both on the Indian subcontinent has
given rise to a number of locally well-adapted strains, which became named
cultivars. The close relationship between the two varieties and their prox-
imity in the wild have almost certainly resulted in widespread hybridization.
Seed should be thus collected only from areas where there are pure stands or
from plants of known parentage. Little information is available on the life
span of the two varieties in the wild, but when cultivated in India motia is said
to last 10-15 years (Singh, 1977) although many plantations become
unprofitable after 6 years (Husain et al., 1988).
The root system of sofia is more extensive than motia; the latter normally
occurs in more dry, open locations at higher levels than sofia, and its smaller
but penetrating root system reflects this environment. Sofia generally occurs
in more fertile soils at lower elevations, where an extensive root system is
advantageous. Habitat zones are not strictly delineated, and both varieties
may grow side by side at the respective upper and lower limits of their range,
or interspaced where soil or climate favours one variety. In some state forests
of Madhya Pradesh and Mysore for example, the two varieties are so
intermingled that collection of one only is virtually impossible. Both varieties
occur naturally in rounded clumps or tussocks, but while motia clumps tend
to remain separated, sojia clumps grow much closer together and can
become almost pure stands covering several hectares. Both grasses are
vigorous growers and quickly colonize suitable land. Indian Forest Depart-
ment contracts specify that grass must be cut and physically moved from the
concession to assist in its control, since it rapidly expands from forests into
grasslands where it is an unwanted component which domestic stock nor-
mally refuse to eat.
Both sojia and motia are tufted perennial grasses with numerous stiff
stems, those of motia being generally more upright and fewer per plant than
sofia; motia is also taller with stems 2.5-3.0m, Sofia 1.O-1.25 m. Stem colour
in motia is generally yellow or greenish-yellow, in sofia usually purple to dark
greenish purple, but there are many gradations between the two basic stem
106 Chapter 4

colours, which is an unreliable indicator of the two types, Selection within

palmarosa in eastern India produced dwarf, spreading, late-flowering, and
tall, erect, early-flowering strains. Plant height averaged 148 and 195 cm and
number of tillers 15 and 48 respectively (Verma et al., 1981). Leaves are
long, narrow, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate; motia normally light to me-
dium green, sofia generally dark green with purplish margins. Sofia leaves are
usually slightly broader than motia in any specific region, especially cauline
leaves. A practical method of identification is to pluck a floral leaf and move
it gently between the fingers from base to tip. Sofia feels rough and sticky,
motia smooth and clean; crushed leaves of gingergrass also emit a more harsh
scent than palmarosa. A detailed description of leaf anatomy has been
published (Metcalf, 1960). Total lipid content of an east Indian strain was
53% of fresh weight, including the phospholipid lysolecithin; phosphatidyls
choline, serine and inositol; phosphatic acid, monoglycerides, diglycerides,
triglycerides, cholesterol and cholesterol esters and hydrocarbons (Sabale,
The proportion of leaf to total plant parts at cutting is motia 20-25%, sofia
25-30% and is usually higher in India in April than in September-October,
the main flowering season. Unlike lemongrass, palmarosa and gingergrass
oil content is highest at flowering. Older leaves generally have a higher oil
content than younger, and the upper half of mature leaves more than the
lower. Cutting is thus normally limited to twice yearly. Herbage collected
from wild palmarosa and locally distilled yielded 0.15-0.40% oil and from
experimental plantings under more controlled distillation 1.O-1.75%, on a
fresh weight basis. Gingergrass obtained from forest concessions averages
0.10-0.35%. The oil content in plant parts varies considerably between
strains and often between plants as noted, but the relative proportions are
fairly constant; from motia, in per cent, stalks 0.10-0.15, leaves 0.1-0.5,
flowering heads 0.75-1.20, whole plants before flowering 0.15-0.50, after
flowering 0.15-0.40 (Singh, 1977; Sangwan et al., 1982; Akhila et al.,
Quoted oil yields are not always directly comparable since the time
between cutting and distillation can vary considerably, and moisture content
of herbage is not always reported. On a green herbage basis, oil yield of
0.15-0.20% is common for palmarosa and 0.15-0.25% for gingergrass.
Palmarosa strains with higher average leaf oil content have been selected in
India, to 1.5% on dry material basis (Pareek and Maheshwari, 1990), and
selections also produced a much greater weight of herbage per hectare than
locally popular cultivars or wild plants. There may be a positive correlation
between high herbage yield and high oil content, and high oil content with
high geraniol content of oil (Sobti et al., 1982; Sahoo and Dutta, 1982;
Gupta and Trivedi, 1984).
The major oil components are, in per cent; geraniol to 95, citronellol to 2
and linalool to 4, but in some regional oils citronellol may be present only in
Gramineae 107

very small quantities or absent. The main components ofpalmarosa oil from
selected origins are shown in Table 4.12. T h e major constituent of ginger-
grass oil is geraniol to 65% and other tertiary alcohols, particularly perillic, in
varying proportions. Gingergrass oil differs from the other cymbopogon oils
discussed as it consists mainly of p-menthane derivatives rather than ali-
phatic monoterpene derivatives. It is frequently difficult to obtain a pure
sample of gingergrass oil as it is often mixed with poor-quality palmarosa oil.
Variation can be induced artificially: for example exposing seeds to low-
dosage gamma irradiation caused changes in oil content and oil character-
istics; 7, 10 and 15 kilorads (krad) increased oil content over control, did not
affect the refractive index, but at 10 and 15 krad increased specific gravity.
These two levels also significantly increased total geraniol content and ester
value after acetylation, but decreased acid value. All radiation levels reduced
percentage germination in direct proportion to treatment; at 15 krad germi-
nation was reduced by 60% (Gupta et al., 1981).
Both varieties produce inflorescences on long stems with extended,
usually narrow, oblong panicles of small, spicate flowers; more widely
spaced and hairy on motia, compact and stellate on sojia. Since there is wide
variation within the two varieties and considerable natural crossing, size,
shape and appearance of individual inflorescences are no reliable guide to
identification. Flowers of both produce large amounts of pollen, cross easily,
and set quantities of viable seed. Main flowering in India is September-
November, the major harvesting period.

Palmarosa and gingergrass, although morphologically similar, are adapted
to different environments as previously noted, and that of other Cymbopogon
spp. has been described in detail (Whyte, 1968; Lazarides, 1980). T h e range

Table 4.12. Main components of palmarosa oil from selected countries

Brazil Guatemala India Madagascar

Myrcene 0.13 ng 0.07 0.19
Limonene 0.10 ng 1.74 0.06
Gamma-terpinene 1.40 ng 0.94 1.74
Linalool 2.20 0.76 3.86 3.01
Geranyl acetate 12.41 17.31 9.05 7.96
Nerol ng 14.76 1.53 0.23
Geraniol 80.85 59.96 76.15 84.01
Elemol 0.41 ng 1.45 0.32
ng, not given.
Source: Srinivas (1986)
108 Chapter 4

of palmarosa has also been extended by a variety of uses other than for oil. In
India and Pakistan in particular, but also in other Asian countries, the grass
is widely recommended for soil conservation purposes on erodible hillsides,
to heal gullies, on contour banks and terraces, re-afforested areas and similar
Palmarosa has a natural range in India from 12-32"N, but is grown
commercially on Java and the Seychelles almost on the Equator, and on
Madagascar around 20"s. It is usually grown at 300-1200 m but as a local
cash crop from 150-800 m depending on rainfall and soils (Husain et al.,
1988). Palmarosa was considered day-neutral, but recent studies indicate
greatest rate of oil synthesis and highest geraniol content occurs with a
daylength approaching 16 hours (Ghosh and Chatterjee, 1990). Wild pal-
marosa is often found in drier hilly areas with a rainfall below 600 mm and,
although this indicates a degree of drought resistance, a rainfall of 1500 mm
is necessary in north India for high leaf yield (Singh, 1977). However, 750
mm produces a reasonable yield and palmarosa can probably be grown as a
cash crop in many low-rainfall regions of India. The intensively managed
Java plantations with four or five annual cuttings were in areas receiving at
least 1500 mm, with supplementary irrigation. If palmarosa is to be grown as
a commercially profitable crop, it must be well fertilized and this requires
adequate levels of soil moisture; a minimum of 1500 mm, well distributed,
plus supplementary irrigation during dry periods. Palmarosa prefers warm
sunny conditions with a daytime temperature of 20-25°C; extended periods
at 25-30°C can significantly reduce oil yield and suppress flowering. Frost
causes severe damage at any growth stage, and at higher elevations plants
die-back to ground level in the cold season. A slight frost during harvesting
can halve herbage oil content. The effects of hail and high winds are similar
to citronella.
The general effect of climate on oil content and composition is mainly via
the rate of growth and physiological changes which take place in plants.
Thus a dry season will retard growth and reduce oil yield, while adequate
rains promote vegetative growth and increase oil yield. However, oil compo-
sition, especially geraniol content, is usually inversely correlated with these
effects. Annual climatic variation normally has a greater effect on oil content
and composition than any other factor, and thus adverse conditions for plant
growth can seldom be profitably offset by management, i.e. more fertilizer or
applied water. Seasonal variation is also important and harvesting at the
most suitable period is essential to obtain a high yield of good-quality oil (see
section on harvesting).
Gingergrass, although occupying the same general range in India as
palmarosa, thrives below 500 m. A rainfall of 1000 mm with no extended dry
periods produces most herbage. Heavy sustained rains as in monsoon areas
of India which saturate the soil are well tolerated, as are less well-drained
Gramineae 109

soils, conditions inimical to palmarosa. Since gingergrass is not cultivated,

there are few records of the effects of other climatic components.

Soils and fertilizers

Palmarosa normally grows on hill soils in India and was previously believed
to prefer such conditions. This may be true of wild plants, but cultivated
palmarosa is grown on sandy and organic loams, stony and mineral soils, and
thrives on fertile soils in Java, the Seychelles, Madagascar and Malaysia.
Whatever the soil type, it should be free-draining as palmarosa withstands
high rainfall but has low tolerance of waterlogging. Neutral to slightly
alkaline soils p H 6.5-7.8 are most suitable, acid soils unsuitable. In India
and Pakistan, palmarosa tolerates salinity, a valuable asset for a cash crop in
countries where the area of saline soils is increasing. In pot trials, palmarosa
suffered no significant reduction in herb and oil yield up to 1 1.5 mmhosicm,
while geraniol content was not reduced at 15 mmhos/cm (Singh and Anwar,
1985). Gingergrass is normally found growing on more fertile soils in the
same regions as palmarosa, but is often replaced by other, usually food
crops, as the population increases.
Since gingergrass is not cultivated, the following remarks refer solely to
palmarosa. Information on nutrient requirements is scanty. Nutrient re-
moval in India from a crop averaging 1 1,000 kg dry grass with an oil content
of 1% gaveatotalremovalof(inkg):N31.6,P7.4,K20.6, Ca34.8,Mgand
S 20.6, Mn 0.9 and Zn 0.034 (Pareek et al., 1983). Thus a fertilizer
programme is essential, for in its absence herbage yield will steadily decline
and plantation life reduced to 3-5 years. In India, herbage decreased from
(kgiha) 11,500 in the first 2 years to 8400 in the fourth and fifth, to 6500 in
the sixth and 4100 in the seventh year. Oil content fell from 1.5 to 0.8% on
a moisture-free basis (Karira and Beri, 1966). Analysis of the various parts of
variety motia is shown in Table 4.13. Most commercial plantings in India are
on smallholdings and fertilizers used are those normally available; crop
residues, animal and human wastes, spent grass or its ash. Official recom-
mendations exist in detail for the main growing areas but, in general, the
only fertilizer applied is at establishment or replanting. Liming is recom-
mended for more acid soils but is seldom applied.
Nitrogen is necessary to support vegetative growth but, as oil content is
highest at flowering, application must not interfere with the reproductive
cycle. Nitrogen at planting is desirable, preferably in a compound and a
common local ratio in India is 40:40:20 NPK, either broadcast and
ploughed in or placed under ridges during construction. About 40 kg Niha
is a general recommendation and probably the minimum. The optimum
ratio between phosphate and potassium must be determined, as an inter-
action may occur between either and the amount of applied nitrogen. This is
more important with above-average nitrogen applications, as in Assam
(Hazarika et al., 1978). Nitrogen uptake and utilization by palmarosa can be
110 Chapter 4

Table 4.13. Analysis of palmarosa grass from India.

Plant part Moisture % N P Ka Ca Na CI Fe

First leaf 69.3 2.50 0.25 1.80 1.30 0.04 0.14 0.25
Second 65.8 2.80 0.22 1.30 0.40 0.03 0.14 0.22
Third and fourth 64.6 1.80 0.20 0.88 0.80 0.04 0.29 0.20
Fifth on 61.4 1.87 0.12 0.60 1.26 0.04 0.14 0.12
Stems 74.9 1.67 0.20 1.22 0.30 0.05 0.44 0.20
Roots 86.0 1.20 0.05 0.20 0.10 0.06 ng 0.05
aK as gi100g fresh weight; All others as gil0Og dry weight; From top of plant; ng, not given.
Source: Sabale (1982).

deduced from the information in Table 4.13. Since there are usually one or
two cuts annually on commercial plantings in India coinciding with flower-
ing in April and September-October, nitrogen is applied as a top-dressing in
February and August, usually ammonium sulphate or urea, since there are
no data comparing the various nitrogenous fertilizers. How the top-dressing
is applied is unimportant provided coverage is even, with foliar application
not significantly superior to the easier surface method (Singh et al., 1980b),
but foliar application increased net assimilation rate and thus rate of growth.
While the nitrogen level of 40 kg Niha is common, palmarosa also responds
to much higher rates; at Bangalore there was an almost linear rise in oil yield
by increasing urea top-dressing to 240 kg Niha; highest oil yield was also
correlated with the greatest plant population at all nitrogen levels (Prakasa
Rao et al., 1985a). A relationship may exist between high rates of nitrogen
and high geraniol content of oil, but also be correlated with a lower oil
content. This is of little practical importance compared to climatic effects
and time of harvest, which have a far greater influence on both oil yield and
geraniol content.
Data from many regions indicate a moderate phosphate requirement, and
once the minimum necessary to ensure optimum returns from nitrogen has
been determined, there is little additional benefit from larger amounts. A
general recommendation in India is 20 kg Piha at planting. The phosphate
content of maturing leaves falls less quickly than that of nitrogen or po-
tassium and a greater proportion is harvested in herbage. Since a plantation
can last for 15 years it is probable a further phosphate application every third
year or use of slow-release compounds would increase oil yield by maintain-
ing healthy plants.
There are no data on comparisons between various types of phosphatic
fertilizers, but remarks elsewhere in this chapter are relevant. Phosphate can
affect oil content of herbage and oil constituents; a deficiency reduces
response to other nutrients, suppresses volume of herbage and thus total oil
yield per hectare, but may increase geraniol content. As noted, the optimum
level of phosphate reacts positively with other nutrients to increase herbage
Gramineae 111

and oil yield per hectare, but can reduce geraniol content. For all practical
purposes the effect of phosphate on oil constituents can be ignored by
producers since the variation is generally less than that due to seasonal
Palmarosa appears to have a lower requirement of potassium than cit-
ronella or lemongrass but, as data in Table 4.13. shows, there are high levels
of potassium in leaves compared with phosphate, with a much higher level in
stems; thus substantial amounts of the nutrient are removed at harvest. The
response to potassium, however, is usually limited to alleviating a deficiency
which reduces the effect of other plant nutrients; higher levels have little or
no practical value. Potassium is normally applied pre-planting as part of a
compound fertilizer but, as with phosphate, it is possible that further
applications during the life of a plantation may be profitable. Potassium at
approximately half the phosphate level is usually recommended in regions
where there is no major deficiency. Potassium has no significant effect on
herbage oil content or oil constituents at levels normally applied.
There are few reports of minor element deficiencies, or response to their
application. Levels of calcium, chloride, iron and sodium in palmarosa are
shown in Table 4.13. and iron content is considerably higher than in many
tropical grasses. On a sandy soil of p H 8.2, a crop receiving 10 tiha FYM or
40 kg Nlha gave significant increases in herbage and oil yield when foliar
sprays of ferric sulphate and manganese sulphate were applied at tillering
and just before flowering (Pareek et al., 1984). In the presence of adequate
nitrogen and phosphate 2.5 kg/ha zinc sulphate increased herb and oil yield
in Uttar Pradesh State (Sharma et al., 1980).

The following remarks apply to cultivated palmarosa, which will become
more profitable as high-yielding strains are utilized. Palmarosa can be grown
from seed or splits, occasionally cuttings but, as viable seed is produced in
quantity, the first method is preferred. In Assam, seedlings outyielded splits
in both herbage and oil yield per hectare and, although there were no
significant differences in oil content of herbage, geraniol content was higher
in plants grown from seedlings, 73 compared to 66% (Kanjilal et al., 1981).
Seed must be obtained only from pure stands of palmarosa or plants
specially grown for the purpose, as seed collected from natural stands often
contains gingergrass seed, especially in India and Pakistan. A mixture of
palmarosa and gingergrass was a major factor in the decline of oil production
in the Seychelles. Seed should be sown in specially prepared seedbeds as
described for C. flexuosus, and about 2 . 5 kg fresh cleaned seed will provide
sufficient seedlings for 1 ha. Palmarosa seed is very small and usually mixed
with fine sand or a similar inert material to assist even distribution. Sound
seed germinates in 10-20 days and seedlings are ready for transplanting in
approximately 6-8 weeks when 15-20 cm high.
112 Chapter 4

Seedlings to be manually planted are lifted from beds and transplanted

directly into the field. For mechanical planting it may be necessary to trim
seedlings to suit the machine, and they should preferably be dipped in a
fungicide. Seedlings are planted on the flat or ridges; raised beds with several
rows per bed are probably the most suitable for irrigated crops. Planting into
moist soil following irrigation or after the first rain of May-June is common
in India, although after the main rains have ceased, October-November, is
also possible. The latter has the advantage of less competition with fast-
growing weeds, but plant growth is slower and time to first cut doubled.
Seedlings should be planted one per hill as palmarosa is a vigorous grower
and there is little advantage in multiple sowing. A spacing of 90 X 90 cm is
common for small farmers, on larger plantations 30-45 cm rows X 30 cm is
recommended, or twin rows with a wider spacing between pairs to suit
mechanical operations. A high plant population requires a high level of
applied nutrients and adequate soil moisture to produce optimum herbage
and oil yields. This relationship was well illustrated at Bangalore, where
70,000 to 110,000 pph required 240 kg N/ha annually to achieve an annual
oil yield of 125 kgiha (Prakasa Rao et al. , 1985). Seedlings planted when the
rains commence must be weeded at least twice to ensure they are not
smothered by rampant weed growth. Once established, palmarosa quickly
covers the inter-row and is able to suppress most annual weeds and
Palmarosa has only a moderate water requirement, and a crop in India
transpired approximately 300 kg water per kg dry material produced. One
watering per month to supplement rainfall is usually adequate, but most
crops grow well on rainfall alone in the main producing regions. From the
data available it appears palmarosa is adversely affected by saline water even
at low salt levels.
Palmarosa is seldom intercropped or underplanted in cultivated crops,
but in India the Forest Department recommends the grass should be
established in its plantations and reserves to provide a valuable cash crop. It
is normally unpalatable to domestic stock and this discourages grazing in
plantations, a major source of damage to young trees.

Interesting accounts of the techniques used to harvest and distil palmarosa
in India are contained in Watt (1908) and Guenther (1950), and have
changed little in many areas of the country (Singh, 1977), reflected in the
very poor quality of much local oil (see Fig. 4.12). In plantations, harvesting
can be either manual or mechanical and equipment is now available that will
cut, chop and load herbage for direct transport to stills. This system
harvested 1 ha per hour in Madagascar; hand harvesting the same area
required 6 man-days (Salomon, 1979). The harvest period could be ex-
tended by planting early and late flowering strains, allowing more efficient
Gramineae 113

use of machinery and distilling units. Such strains have been selected from
east Indian types, with a tall selection flowering in September-October, and
a late-flowering dwarf in October-December (Verma et al., 198 1). Plants
should be cut when flowering, about 6 months after planting out, then twice
annually in subsequent years. Cutting is usually September-October in the
establishment year in India, then April-May and September-October sub-
sequently. In Africa the first cut was often in the middle of the rainy season,
December-March, with a second cut at its end.
A direct correlation exists between cutting in wet or dry seasons and
herbage yield and geraniol content of oil; in the former, herbage and total oil
yield per hectare is high but geraniol content low, the reverse occurring in
the dry season. Oil characteristics may also change, as oil from herbage
harvested in May and October in India differed markedly in specific gravity,
refractive index and optical rotation, but geraniol content was much less
affected (Gulati et al., 1966). This variation in characteristics has also been
noted in oils harvested in succeeding years when there were significant
differences in weather conditions during plant growth. Time of cutting is
important and when to cut is usually judged on the extent of flowering; in
India, oil content of herbage and geraniol content of oil are highest at full
bloom, and cutting slightly earlier than later recommended since oil and

Fig. 4.12. Cutting palmarosa, India.

114 Chapter 4

geraniol content fall quickly following completion of flowering and begin-

ning of seed formation. Oil content is highest at anthesis 0.60%, before
flowering is 0.52% and following full bloom 0.44% (Sangwan et al., 1982;
Maheshwari et al., 1992).
The annual herbage yield from well-managed plantations in India is
10,000-15,000 kgiha, and the higher figure should be the target. Palmarosa
selections with double the local average herbage yield combined with a
higher leaf-oil content have been developed at research stations, thus an
average annual oil yield of 150 kgiha should be achievable. In Madhya
Pradesh, the local cultivar yielded 13,300 kg fresh herbage and 64 kg oiliha,
but the highest-yielding selection produced 21,500 kg and 124 kg re-
spectively. Total geraniol content ofthe oils was 78.6 and 82.5% (Gupta and
Trivedi, 1984). The low average Madagascar yield of 9,000-10,000 kgiha
giving approximately 40 kg oil was due mainly to the high cost and scarcity
of fertilizer which precluded its regular use. Thus annual herbage yield
declined rapidly and steadily over a short plantation life.
The height of cut affects herbage volume and oil yield per hectare, and the
optimum height should be determined by costing the harvesting-distilling
operation as a whole. While low cutting at 5-10 cm increases both total
herbage and oil yield, the volume passing through stills can so increase the
unit cost per kilogram of oil that the advantage is lost. Cutting to reduce the
volume of herbage without significant loss of oil directly increases profitabil-
ity. As a guide to cutting height in India, oil content (per cent) of whole green
plants is 0.10-0.3, in stems 0.01-0.015, inleaves 0.16-0.25 andin flowering
tops 0.45-0.55 (see also Table 4.13). Cutting to leave a substantial stubble
reduces distilling cost but trimming of plants is necessary to induce re-
growth. This can either be mechanical and cut grass spread between rows as
a mulch, or plantations burnt-off in the dry season, which is cheap and
plants killed are easily replaced. The life of a commercial plantation in India
is 6-10 years, occasionally to 15 years; Madagascar 4-6 years; Java 5-10
years, but 3-5 years in Africa. In Angola in the 1950s it was considered more
profitable to replant after 3-4 years but such a short cycle would not be
commercially viable today; pilot plantings in Zaire were costed on a 5-year
replanting cycle.

Wilting for a day in India reduced oil yield by half compared to distilling
fresh herbage, but careless handling or longer periods can reduce oil yield by
75%. Despite this, many contractors cutting wild stands often field wilt for
4-5 days then stack the dried grass for up to 2 1 days before distilling, partly
to reduce the volume to be manually transported. Oil yield is generally
12-24 kgiha. Palmarosa can be either hydro- or steam distilled, and remarks
in the lemongrass section are applicable. Provided stills are of the improved
designs and efficiently operated, good-quality oil should result. A major
Gramineae 115

reason why so much poor-quality oil is currently produced is that these basic
requirements are frequently ignored. Spent grass can be processed for
stockfeed and, in India, gave an average content of (per cent): dry matter 34,
crude protein 12, total carbohydrates 7 . An attempt to make spent grass
silage as food for cows and buffaloes in city dairies was unsuccessful; animals
rejected the material as unpalatable without additives, and transport costs
were too high compared with other feeds. Spent grass can be utilized in
Costing palmarosa oil production in India showed a plantation of less than
100 ha in 1988 was not viable, since the equipment, machinery and stills
necessary were similar for 50 to 250 ha. Calculations were based on an
annual average herbage yield of 25 t/ha, with an oil content (wet basis) of
0.1-0.15%, and a 10 year plantation life. In Uttar Pradesh, small farmer
cooperatives who obtained 25 kg/ha oil annually, had an annual expenditure
between Rs 1200 and 1500 in 1972, and received around Rs 5000 for oil
with a geraniol content of 85-90%. A lower price was obtained for oil with a
lower geraniol content. (In 1972 US$ 1.OO = Rs 15.00.) Since these figures
were published, average herbage and oil yield per hectare have nearly
doubled, but so also have costs; potential oil and herbage yield however have
increased three times. A private communication in 1994 from a leading
South Indian oil merchant stated the ratio of expenses to income was now
narrower, but an efficiently run plantation was still profitable, and profit
would rise substantially as new cultivars were utilized and the proportion of
oil exported increased.
Extending plantation life and maintaining a high annual oil yield through
efficient management are significant factors affecting long-term profitability.
If spent grass could be sold for stockfeed or papermaking, this would again
increase profitability, provided the cost of alternative fuel was less than the
price received for the grass. One large oil producer in Maharashtra State
successfully employs the nucleus plantation system, buying herbage from
small farmers to supplement output from its own plantation. Profitability of
palmarosa production in Madagascar was not only aided by the mechanical
harvesting system employed, but also by extending the use of distilling
plants. Palmarosa could be harvested in the interval between ylang-ylang
and basil, and the overall cost of operating a distillery significantly re-

Products and specijications

Palmarosa oil (also known as Rusa oil and East Indian geranium oil) is pale
yellow to olive with a sweet floral odour, but can vary considerably according
to origin, method of distillation or age of oil. Over 100 compounds have
been found in the oil (Surburg, 1988; Boelens, 1994); major components
are geraniol, the most important, in various forms to 95%, limonene,
linalool, beta-caryophyllene, neral and farnesol. Compounds detected in
116 Chapter 4

Madagascar oils are shown in Table 4.12. Another analysis of Madagascar

oil showed 4.75% hydrocarbons, consisting of 46% monoterpenes, 52%
sesquiterpenes, 1.6% alkanes and 0.4% unknowns (Gaydou and Ran-
driamiharisoa, 1987). A comparison of the main characteristics of palma-
rosa and gingergrass are shown in Table 4.14 and standard characteristics in
Table 4.15.
Palmarosa oil is used extensively in perfumery, especially in soaps where
its high tenacity is important. It is also a major source of natural geraniol,
widely preferred by formulators over synthetic substitutes and geraniol
obtained from citronella oil (q.v.). A minor use is to flavour tobacco and
certain pharmaceuticals. In India, oil is massaged into joints to alleviate
lumbago and rheumatism, and taken internally to relieve stomach disorders.
Sprinkled on rose petals prior to distillation produces a locally popular
combination, and the oil is also frequently added to rose oil (attar) as an
adulterant. Palmarosa oil is frequently adulterated, usually with gingergrass
oil or cheap synthetic geraniol.
Gingergrass oil is a yellow to amber-brown viscous liquid, with an odour
quite different to palmarosa, being more grassy or woody with less sweet
floral notes. The oil is currently consumed almost wholly in India (the major
producing country), mainly to scent soaps, household and industrial de-
tergents and similar products. The oil is sometimes offered as Inchigrass oil,
produced in southern India from local strains of variety sofiu. It is usually of
poorer quality than pure gingergrass or palmarosa oil, and is consumed
locally in cheap soaps and similar products.

Table 4.14. Characteristics of commercial oils from selected countries.

Palmarosa Gingergrass
Angola India Madagascar Java India
Specific gravity (20°C) 0.8875 0.887 0.884 0.885 0.925
0.900 0.889 0.900 0.935
Refractive index (20"Cl 1.4745 1.468 ng 1.472 1.485
1.476 ng 1.477 1.489
Optical rotation (20°C) -0" -I0 ng -3" -46"
to" t3" "g t3" t40"
Ester number 62(max) 15 ng ng 8
45 ng ng 40
Geraniol (%) (total) 93 85 85 80 40
95 91 90 49
Solubility (viv alcohol 1:1.5 1:1.5-3.0 ng 1 :2.0-3.5 1:3 often
70%) insoluble
ng, not given. Figures in columns are range.
Source: Burger, 1958 (Angola); Virmani, 1968 (India); Randriaminharisoa and Gaydou, 1987
(Madagascar); Customs Department, Java.
Grarnineae 117

Table 4.15. Standard characteristics of palmarosa and gingergrass oils

Palmarosa Gingergrass
Specific gravity a 0.882 0.882 0.855 0.878 0.900
0.896 0.894 0.897 0.890 0.929
Refractive index a 1.4715 1.472 1.473 1.471 1.476
1.4780 1.478 1.477 1.475 1.491
Optical rotation -3O -3s -2 O -2" -14"
t 3c t 3O t 3O t 3O t 54"
Ester number 10 10 ng ng ng
70 40
Geraniol (total %) 85 ng 85 88 36
94 ng 95 94 60
Solubility (viv 70% ng ng 1:2 1:1.5 Normally
alcohol) insoluble
'At 2O'Cc; ng, not given; A, Grasse Essential Oil Association; B, Afnor; C, EDN; D, Indian Standard,
Figures in columns are range.

Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanioides L.(Nash.), is native to India and occurs as a
flowering and non-flowering type. Both have been introduced into other
tropical countries, where they are well established or naturalized. In African
and Caribbean countries, vetiver is highly regarded as an aid in soil con-
servation, its dense root mass binding loose soil (Smyle and Magrath, 1993).
Oddly, it was in India that least use was made of the plant for this purpose,
although it is now officially recommended (Allison, 1990). Most Indian, Sri
Lankan and Malaysian oil is from wild plants although there is growing small
farmer production in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Vetiver is grown commercially for oil in Java, the Seychelles, Reunion,
Brazil, Haiti and Japan, but in the USA, Central America and some West
African countries for other purposes. The plant and rhizome have very
ancient usage in India for their aromatic properties and are mentioned in the
Hindu Atharvaveda. As khas-khas it was sufficiently important in the twelfth
century to be taxed, but there is no accurate date for first use of the oil; in
India and Sri Lanka it is known as 'the oil of tranquillity'. Vetiver plants,
including parts of the rhizome, are used in India and other Asian countries to
make aromatic fans, mats and screens (tatties) in houses, and leaves cut prior
to harvesting are used as thatch. Rhizomes are hung in houses to scent the air
or placed in sachets to perfume clothes; a current use is to place bags of wet
rhizomes in front of electric fans to cool and scent rooms. Rhizomes used for
these purposes are often repurchased by traders, who mix them with fresh
rhizomes for sale to distillers. A drink made from fresh rhizomes is taken as
118 Chapter 4

a stimulant and tonic, but the author found the taste unpleasant. Vetiver
could be the calamus of the Christian Bible (Duke, 1983), and vetiver
subsequently appeared in European Materia Medica but was not generally
Java was a major exporter of vetiver oil prior to the Second World War, the
plants grown mainly by smallholders but distilled by Dutch companies. This
vetiver was the south Indian non-flowering type, the date of its introduction
uncertain, but it was probably brought by merchants from India. Customs
Department statistics show exports of vetiver oil from Indonesia in the years
1989-1995 ranged from 58 to 65 tonnes, with an estimated 20,000 ha under
Vetiver has long been cultivated in China with similar uses to those in
India, but commercial production for oil began only in the mid-l950s,
reached 10 t in the 1960s and has since declined to a few tonnes as vetiver
was replaced by more profitable essential crops. Although widely planted in
the Philippines, it is not generally cultivated to produce oil (Tung and
Balina, 1993). Whole plants are used as in India, and a decoction of the
rhizome is believed to dissolve kidney stones.
Vetiver was introduced to the island of Reunion together with other
essential oil crops and good quality oil produced by French farmers until the
mid-l950s, but is now mainly grown by small farmers (Prugnieres, 1978).
On Mauritius, a paste made from pounded fresh roots is considered an
abortifacient. Development of vetiver oil production in Central America, the
Caribbean Islands and Brazil paralleled that of lemongrass. Little is now
produced on a commercial scale, but there is considerable potential as a
small farmer crop.

Vetiveria zizanioides L. (Nash) (syn. Andropogon muricatus Retz., Anatherum
zizanioides (L.) H&C., Phalaris zizanioides L.); khas-khas generally in India
and Sri Lanka (khus-khus in Europe), akar wan@ in Indonesia; Tamil
vetivern, origin of the name vetiver (Nair et al., 1979). T e n species are
included in the genus Vetiveria and two distinct types of V. zizanioides are
recognized. Vetiver is a diploid, 2n = 20. Methods of classifying vetiver
clones have been developed to aid in assessing their value in breeding
programmes (Kresovich et al., 1994). Vetiver is a densely tufted perennial
grass to 3 m, normally developing large clumps, with a rhizome and fibrous
root system containing an essential oil.
The main rootstock is a stout, branching rhizome developing an extensive
but not deeply penetrating fibrous mat of aromatic roots. The colour varies
from whitish yellow on young roots to reddish brown on roots 18-24 months
of age. Rhizomes and roots from Haiti, Reunion and Angola may appear
black, partly due to the dark colour of the volcanic soils in which they grow.
The majority of roots occur 15-30 cm below the crown, thus root growth
Gramineae 119

and extent are directly related to soil conditions (q.v.). Since rhizome and
roots contain the essential oil, their rate of growth and extent are important
and have been the basis of selection in India, where dry root weight varied
from 32 to 58 g per plant; the weight increase due to a rise in size and number
of roots and rootlets (Selvarajam et al., 1982).
For brevity, rhizome and roots will hereafter be designated roots, except
where identification is required. Data indicates there may a relationship
between tall, compact plants and low root yield; if so, removal of low-
yielding plants and rejection as planting material should be simplified. Total
root-mass can be greatly increased by manipulating soil moisture levels; in
India, single vetiver plants were grown in earthenware pipes 500 cm long
with water applied only a t increasing depths for 12 months, when roots were
350 cm long and weighed 210 g. Solvent extracting roots in sections from
the soil surface showed the first 75 cm produced most oil, but a significant
amount was obtained in the next 125 cm. Total extractives on a dry root
basis in succeeding root sections were, in per cent: 45 cm (3.19), 30 cm
(2.46), 30 cm (1.94), 45 cm (1,61), 45 cm (1.38), 45 cm (0.81), 111 cm
(0.67). A plant growing in the field alongside yielded 1.93% extractives
(Gowda and Ramaswamy, 1960). In addition to the essential oil, roots
contain fructose, sucrose, glucose and, interestingly, free glycerol, not
usually found in plants. Mature roots have a pleasant aroma and greatest oil
content, and yield high quality oil.
Since the essential oil is contained in the roots, a most important factor
determining profitability is root oil content, and there is considerable culti-
var variation in both the weight of roots and oil content. A south Indian type,
Nilamber, at the Odakkali Research Station, gave a 3-year mean annual
yield of 3856 kg roots and 14 kg oiliha, compared with the lowest which
yielded 639 kg and 2.2 kg respectively (Nair et al., 1979). Other selections
yielded 5900 kg roots and 40 kg oil/ha (Nair et al., 1982), and up to 62 kg oil/
ha (Gupta et al., 1983), while an autotetraploid cultivar had a very high oil
content (iavania, 1991). Thus the profitability of vetiver oil production
could be greatly increased by using selected material. Root oil content
however should not be the sole factor, since total yield of roots is often more
easily increased. The average oil content of Indian material seldom exceeds
2.0% and is well below that recorded in other countries of 2.2-4.6%.
The oil content of roots collected from wild plants in India is below 1.O%,
averaging 0.15% after distilling, and only the very low cost of collection and
distilling allows this system to continue. The vetiverol content of oil also
varies substantially between selections, 67-86%, and high vetiverol content
was related to high specific gravity, esters and free alcohols (Gupta et al.,
1983; Maheshwari et al., 1986). Oils collected from wild (mainly in the
north) and cultivated vetiver (mainly in the south) of India are differentiated
by calling the former khus oil, the latter vetiver oil. Indian Standards
120 Chapter 4

Table 4.16. Main characteristics of vetiver oil from selected countries.

lssa lSSb Reunion Indonesia Japan
~ ~ _ _ _~ _ ~

Specific gravity ("C) 0.990 0.992 0.986 0.993 0.998

.032(30) 1.015(30) 1.01l(20) 1.045(25)
Refractive index ("C) 1.521 1.516 1.520 1,519 1.5246
.523(30) 1.530(30) 1.530(20) 1.531(20)
Optical rotation -15O tlo" t14' t 25" t 22"
-13" t 25" t25O t32"
Acid value 40 35 4-30 8-40 15.8
Ester value 25-80 25-50 5-20 6-25 11.6
Vetiverol (%total alcohols) > 25 > 55 > 45 80-70 70
Solubility (viv % alcohol) ng 1:I-2(80) 1 :2(80) 1 :I (90) 1 :3(80)
Laevorotatory oil (khus oil); Dextrorotatory oils; ISS, Indian Standard Specification; Remainder
commercial oils.
Figures in columns are range.

Institution specifications state khus oil has a high laevorotation, while vetiver
oil is dextrorotatory (see Table 4.16).
Vetiver oil is extremely complex containing mainly sesquiterpenoids, and
their biosynthesis has yet to be fully determined. The main constituent is
vetiverol, and its relative abundance normally establishes oil quality. De-
tailed analyses from the main producing countries have been published
(Lemberg and Hale, 1978). The main characteristics of oil from selected
origins and official standards are shown in Table 4.16. The range in
characteristics can be wide even in local strains; 14 Indian cultivars gave the
following at 30°C (mean in brackets): specific gravity 0.9302-0.9997
(0.9691); refractive index 1.5168-1.5205 (1.5189); acid value 19.34-50.30
(33.88); ester value 17.62-68.47 (31.89); ester value after acetylation
154.41-190.16 (167.24); free vetiverol percentage 46-78 (61); total veti-
verol percentage 67-86 (73).
The stems are glabrous, stiff, erect, usually 2-3 m, and arise from a central
branched spongy rhizome. Stem number per plant is highly variable and
apparently not directly related to root extent or weight and thus unreliable as
a factor in selecting for oil yield. The leaves are erect, mid green, to 1.5 m,
narrow 7-1 0 cm, rigid, prominently veined, keeled and glabrous, with
scabrid margins; the lower sheaths are strongly compressed and flabellate-
imbricate. Detailed descriptions have been published of leaf anatomy (Met-
calf, 1960; Rajendrudu and Das, 1981) and photosynthetic activity (Maffei
et al., 1995). The leaves contain virtually no essential oil, and prior to
harvesting are burnt off, cut and fed to stock, or used as thatch. Analyses in
India gave the following on a dry matter basis (per cent); crude protein
(6.1-6.7), ether extract (1.1-2. l), crude fibre (34.7-42.2), nitrogen-free
Gramineae 121

extract (45.0-47.4), total ash (5.3-9.0), calcium (0.28-0.31), phosphorus

(0.05-0.06). Pulped grass is suitable for paper-making (Ciaramello et al.,
There are two types of vetiver in India as noted, the north Indian type
flowers freely and sets viable seed, while the south Indian type does not
usually flower (Husain et al., 1988). A narrow terminal panicle 14-40 cm
long is produced in flowering types, the ascending branches 2.5-5.0 cm,
whorled, with numerous slender racemes of grey-green or purplish spikelets.
The sessile spikelet is perfect and more or less spiny, the pedicled spikelet
contains two male flowers. Flowers pollinate readily and produce viable
seed, which is oblong to fusiform, oblique at apex.

Vetiver is a grass of the wet tropics, usually occurring in India below 300 m,
but altitude is apparently of less importance than climate, since it is planted
to 700 m in other countries. Vetiver grows well at lower elevations than
geranium and thus does not compete with the latter where both are grown,
as on Reunion. With good management both can be distilled in the same
plant. A moist, sunny climate with no extended hot, dry period is preferred
and soil in the root zone should not dry out as this will substantially reduce
root growth and oil content. A day temperature of 25-35OC is most suitable,
but higher temperature has little effect provided there is adequate soil
moisture or humidity; below 2OoCfor extended periods reduces growth, and
below 15°C normally inhibits development. Vetiver grows naturally in open
forest or woodland where there is sufficient moisture and intermittent shade,
and would probably tolerate this environment when cultivated; on Java
heavy shade reduced root growth and oil yield. Vetiver may be intercropped
in coconut or arecanut which have a high, relatively open canopy; it grows
well, for example, on coastal sands in southern India where there are
extensive coconut plantations.
A minimum rainfall of 1500 mm is desirable for commercial oil produc-
tion, with apparently no upper limit provided the soil is free draining; vetiver
favours moist, humid conditions but cannot withstand prolonged water-
logging. As an escape it is often found on river banks or marshy areas. In
regions with a defined rainy season, this influences time of planting as soil
moisture must be sufficient to allow splits to root quickly, since a growth
check at this stage will extend the period to harvest. The effect of time of
planting on total root and oil yield is substantial; planting monthly from May
to October reduced root yield from 4555 to 2412 kg/ha, but oil yield rose
from 7.03 to 10.38 kg/ha (Nair et al., 1979). Smallholders in Java or Reunion
harvest in the wet season and replant immediately, since the wet soil makes
digging easy and adequate soil moisture ensures quick growth of splits. This
in effect means an annual harvest, since most smallholders are unable to wait
20-24 months to sell their crop.
122 Chapter 4

Frost at any time is usually fatal. Hail causes little damage to mature
plants with well-developed roots, but if leaves of newly established plants are
shredded, growth will be retarded. Wind has little effect on established
plants, but hot dry winds may retard growth of younger ones. Vetiver is so
robust it is considered virtually cyclone-proof in Reunion, and thus an
insurance against total crop loss should one of these terrible storms occur.

Soils and fertilizers

In its natural state, vetiver grows on a variety of soils from forest loams to
sandy river banks; when cultivated, it is planted on volcanic ash soils in Java
and Reunion, heavy loams on Haiti and other Caribbean islands, laterites in
India and West Africa, peat in Malaysia and sandy soils in India and South
America. While this wide range suggests the grass can be grown on any land
available, soil type and texture have a significant influence on root growth,
and thus total oil yield. It was long considered that sandy or volcanic soils
were the most productive and light soils selected for commercial plantings in
Java, Brazil and elsewhere. These soils certainly made cultivations easier
which is why they were selected by small farmers, but later experience
showed higher root yield, more and higher-quality oil can be obtained from
soils with a significant clay content. This was demonstrated in Kerala, where
oil content of roots on coastal sand was 0.18-0.22%, on sandy-laterite
0.76-0.94% and on clay-laterite 1.02 % (Murti and Moosad, 1949). Vetiver
is grown successfully on clay soils in Reunion whose texture is improved by
the application of spent roots. Annual harvesting of plants not only distrib-
utes this material throughout the root zone, it also ensures the soil remains
friable and easily penetrated by rootlets. Soils of p H 6.5-7.5 are preferred
and strongly acid or alkaline soils should be avoided; however large areas of
saline-alkali soils p H 7.0-8.0 occur in southern India, and selections from
local cultivars had salt tolerance (Sethi, 1982). Whatever the soil type, it
must allow free root growth as most oil is contained in the young fibrous
Soils which produce good yields of sugarcane are very suitable for vetiver,
but were seldom available since cane was generally much more profitable;
this however could change. Little is known of how chemical fertilizers affect
vetiver, the relationship between above-ground growthirate of growth and
total weight of roots, or the relative uptake of nutrients in various plant parts.
Thus commercial producers used the cheapest and most easily available
fertilizers at levels considered desirable. In Kerala State, root ash, guano,
sweepings from fish-curing yards, and groundnut cake are applied either
prior to, or up to 1 month after planting. The application of chemical
fertilizers to small farmers’ crops is currently unprofitable, and the most
common practice at replanting is to plough-in spent roots or their ash when
used as fuel. Use of chemical fertilizers on commercial plantings must be
established by field trials and this is now more important, since recent vetiver
Gramineae 123

selections with high root yield or root-oil content apparently give a greater
response to added nutrients.
Fertilizers should be applied to the seedbed prior to planting splits; on
Reunion a 1:2:2 NPK mixture at 80 kg/ha gave the optimum results
(Gailleton, 1977), but has since been replaced by a common cane fertilizer
of 15:12:24 NPK. Nitrogen applied alone in Georgia, CIS, had no effect on
yield of roots or oil content, but the highest yield of roots was obtained when
200 kg Nlha, 87 kg P/ha and 16 kg Wha was applied (Sichinava, 1974).
Nitrogen should not be applied unless trials establish it is either essential or
profitable, and then only at planting. The few trial results available show
phosphate promotes root growth and increases total root yield per hectare,
but there appears to be an optimum amount which must be determined
locally, as an excess may depress yield. Additionally, the often small increase
in oil yield could be worth less than the cost of fertilizer and its application.
In India, there was little increase in yield of roots and oil from two levels of
phosphate and potassium, and the 5% increase in oil between 0 and 33 kg
Plha was barely significant (Nair et al., 1979).
An increase in root and oil yield generally results from application of
potassium, but it was unclear from available data if this was due to a local soil
deficiency or a basic plant requirement. If the latter, then research into the
potassium requirement of vetiver and its use in plant metabolism would be
rewarding. There is an optimum level for potassium and higher rates
generally depress yield of roots and thus total oil yield. In India there were
significant increases in root weight and oil yield from application of 22 kg
Wha over 4 years, although there was annual variation in both when neither
was significant (Nair et al., 1979). However, as the mean oil increase was
nearly 2 kg/ha this would have been very profitable at that time. The only
record of a minor element deficiency is a severe iron-induced chlorosis on
vetiver growing in a peat soil in Malaysia (Ng, 1972).

The remarks on cultivation in the introduction to this chapter are applicable.
Roots are the most important plant part, thus ploughing to a depth of at least
30 cm should be the aim in more clayey soils. If vetiver is to follow vetiver, it
is especially important to remove old roots since these have a lower content
of poor-quality oil. A major objective should be maximum weed reduction,
particularly tropical grasses such as Imperata cylindrica, Sorghum halepense,
Digitaria spp., and it may be necessary manually to remove clumps or spot-
spray with a herbicide. On sloping lands, contour banks or broad-based
terraces reduce the danger of soil erosion, and vetiver is planted in many
countries to bind soil on these terraces, but not harvested.
Vetiver can be grown from seed or splits, but commercial plantations use
splits. Micropropagation has been successful in the laboratory (Mucciarelli
124 Chapter 4

et al., 1993). Methods noted in the lemongrass section are generally applica-
ble when seed is used, and production of suitable splits is similar to
citronella. Selection of parent material is important since it is very difficult to
counteract the adverse effects of planting low yielding or low oil-content
material. In India, oil yield increased from the local average of 67 to 88 kgiha
without a similar increase in volume of roots harvested when selected
material was planted, and oil cost per unit substantially reduced. At least
150,000 splits per hectare should be available, more if two or three splits are
planted per hill. Most small farmers plant manually but many horticultural
planters are suitable. A spacing of 30-45 cm rows X 20-30 cm is common
for ridge or bed planting; 40 X 40 cm for surface planting. Accurate in-row
spacing within reasonable limits is not essential, since roots in suitable soil
normally expand to fill the available space. Splits can be sown on ridges, beds
or the flat, and the system chosen depends mainly on the soil type and need
for irrigation or drainage. There is little difference in root and oil yield per
hectare between the various methods on those soils where one method is not
obligatory; over 3 years in India, planting on ridges, 60 and 70 cm wide beds,
or on the flat gave average yields in kgiha of roots (oil in brackets): 4087 (14),
41 95 (1 l), 3725 (1 1) and 3834 (1 l), with no significant differences between
them (Nair et al. , 1979). Narrow beds with two rows of splits is common in
southern India. Twin rows are preferable when mechanical diggers are used,
with row and bed spacing to suit the machinery. Planting should be into
moist soil following irrigation or after rain; in India in May but not later than
July. It may be necessary to fence newly sown vetiver plantations against
domestic stock, as young growth is palatable although not mature foliage.
Vetiver plants grow rapidly once established and only one weeding is
usually necessary, as leaves quickly produce a closed canopy. Weeding is
usually manual or mechanical as herbicides are seldom used except as
directed sprays after planting; the following have been so used: 2,4-D,
atrazine, glyphosate, linuron, MCPA, simazine and there is tolerance of
dicamba and picloram. Vetiver generally follows vetiver for several years,
unless a build-up of disease requires an interval between crops.

The most important field factor determining oil content is age of roots at
harvest, older roots containing more and higher quality oil. A period of
15-1 8 months is usually the minimum necessary to obtain a profitable yield
from cultivated plants, but wild plants are harvested at any age. After 30-36
months, oil content drops and roots are virtually worthless as oil producers.
However, roots harvested at the optimum time and stored in a clean dry
environment can be distilled several years after lifting, loss in oil content
being offset to a considerable extent by improved quality and higher price.
In southern India, oil content progressively increased from 0.10% at 10
months to 0.56% at 15 months, 0.79% at 17 months and 0.87% at
Gramineae 125

21 months, with the optimum 16-18 months (Sobti and Rao, 1977; Nair et
al., 1979). In some Indian selections high ester value was also correlated
with high vetiverol content (Gupta et al., 1983). Although 3 harvests at 11
month intervals may give a greater yield of oil at 40 kgiha than 30 kgiha from
two harvests at 18 months, the higher quality oil from more mature roots is
worth more than the increase in weight. It also costs less to produce in terms
of harvesting, distilling and replanting expenses. Despite this, most small
producers in India, Java, Reunion and elsewhere, desperate for money,
harvest roots annually to their long-term disadvantage.
Prior to lifting roots, leaves are either slashed, mowed, laid in rows and
burnt, or removed to provide the raw material for various products noted in
the beginning of this section (see Fig. 4.13). Burning is common on large
estates, and provided herbage is dry, a fast burn does not harm roots. The
ash remaining is a useful fertilizer and soil ameliorator. A worker in Reunion
is expected to cut leaves, dig roots, remove soil and pile for transport about
40 kg roots daily. The number of men required to keep a still running is thus
substantial but, when roots are dried for export, time is of lesser importance
and collected roots are baled when sufficient are available. A shaker-digger
has been developed that greatly reduces harvesting time, but cannot be used
on hillsides where much small farmer vetiver is grown (Ducreux, 1993). In
Zaire, 50 man days were required to harvest and replant 0.5 ha based on a
day of 5-6 hours. The high labour requirement for manual harvesting is a
factor limiting expansion of vetiver cultivation where mechanization is not
possible. Roots can be easily and cheaply lifted using a potato-type digger
which also recovers more roots than manual digging. Such diggers are now
available in sizes ranging from small manually guided, to large four- or six-
row power-driven machines. Cooperative ownership, as in Japan, provides a
useful method of reducing individual investment in this type of equipment.
Whether roots are lifted by hand or machine it is essential to remove soil,
stones and any other extraneous debris, and trim excess green material.
Root yield in India is 2000-5000 kg/ha, relatively low compared to those
obtained at local experimental stations where selections averaged
7000-9000 kg/ha. Since a higher root yield is apparently easier to attain than
increased oil content, a significant increase in oil yield per hectare is thus
possible following a relatively simple selection programme. Root yield on
Java was initially around 1000 kgiha, average oil content below 0.2%, but is
now 3000 kgiha at 0.5%. On Reunion the yield from small plots is
2000-2500 kgiha with oil yield of 0.6-1.5%, but up to 5000 kg/ha obtained
under improved management. Yield in Brazil of 700-1500 kg/ha is directly
related to soil fertility. An oil content of 1.0% in young and 1.5-2.0% in
older roots was very high for a commercial plantation, obtained on a British-
owned and very well-managed estate which operated until 1952. Haiti roots
contained 0.5-1.5% but no root yield, was noted; likewise 2.5-3.0% from
126 Chapter 4

Fig. 4.13. Harvesting vetiver, Japan.

Angola (Xabregas, 1968) and 0.5% in Malaysia; in Japan a root yield of

4000-5000 kg gave 50-60 kgiha oil.

The extent to which roots are dried depends on whether they are to be
quickly distilled or transported and exported. Roots to be distilled on site or
within days are usually allowed to remain in the field, or stacked on field
margins. The interval prior to distillation must be established locally, since
there are conflicting reports on the degree of oil loss. Whether this is due to
climate, type of storage or is an inherent characteristic of local cultivars is
unknown. Roots to be transported to distant distilleries or exported are
usually washed, sun-dried and baled. Provided they have been correctly
stored, dried roots normally produce higher quality oil than fresh roots, and
good quality dry roots on Java yield up to 3% oil. Dry root exported to
Europe and distilled in modern plants produced oil of very high quality, but
at a substantially higher cost than locally distilled oil. Root age basically
governs oil yield but distillation and subsequent treatment of distillate
frequently determines oil quality. Roots less than 15 months old generally
have a low oil content, the oil has a harsher, grassy or earthy odour disliked
by manufacturers, and is often reprocessed and added to higher quality oil.
Roots over 24 months old have high oil content, a lower proportion of
fibrous material, yield high quality oil, but distilling time is prolonged. Most
Gramineae 127

suitable material is between 15 and 20 months, fibrous, clean and dry, has
the highest ratio of oil to weight of charge, and produces oil containing all the
desired components. Large modern distilleries are normally independently
owned and operated, buying raw material from producers. A major problem
is to ensure only suitable material is offered and thus an effective inspection
and buying procedure is essential. Inclusion of immature or aged roots,
partially distilled and redried material, or roots which, in India in particular,
have been recovered from tatties and the like must be quickly distinguished
and rejected. Unless an inspection system is rigourously applied, the au-
thor's experience is that the quality of offered material quickly deteriorates;
most small growers are always short of cash and will use any method to
increase their income!
Distillation is more complicated than for the other grasses discussed,
partly due to the material but also to the complex nature of the oil. A
substantial proportion of oil is obtained by direct-fired stills fuelled by wood
or dried foliage and operated by smallholders or cooperatives. Distilling is
thus time-consuming and labour intensive, made more so by the high
boiling-point of the oil's main constituents. One common technique in India
is to soak chopped roots in water for about 12 hours before distilling. A
charge of 40 kg is distilled for 12-24 hours; up to 125 kg for 72-96 hours in
larger plants. North Indian stills mainly use roots from wild plants, are
portable and taken from site to site between December and January. Opera-
tors buy roots from licensed collectors working in state forests, plus any
available cultivated material. Stills consist basically of a copper vessel and
bamboo condenser, probably little changed since their introduction cen-
turies before. Stills are normally heated by wood or cow-dung, and although
oil recovery and quality is poor, this is of little importance since most is sold
Direct-fired stills on Reunion are larger with a capacity of 400 kg of sun-
dried roots distilled for 36-48 hours. Charges are 150-500 kg on Java
distilling for up to 48 hours, and material must not be tightly packed as this
not only prolonged distilling time, but the resultant oil had lower acid and
ester numbers and vetiverol content. Maximum oil yield of 2% was achieved
at bulk density of 0.07 kgil compared with 1.43% at 0.1 kgil (Hardjono and
Deswert, 1973). Government sponsored stills in main producing countries
now use steam with cohobation, substantially reducing distilling time. Roots
are usually sun-dried to lower moisture content and mechanically chopped
into 2.5-5.0 cm lengths; a charge is 500-700 kg distilled over 36-48 hours.
The resinous material remaining in Indian stills, about 25% of total ex-
tractives, had the following characteristics: specific gravity (30°C) 1.182;
optical rotation +48.4"; acid value 46.9. Roots remaining after extraction
can be dried and used as fuel, burnt to provide ash or composted together
with leaves as fertilizer.
128 Chapter 4

Products and speciJications

Vetiver oil is a dark brown to dark amber viscous liquid; odour strong, sweet,
woody earthy, not grassy or greeny and very tenacious; over-distilled oils
have a poor, less persistent odour. The main component is vetiverol,
normally less than 75% and often around 50%, according to origin. The oil
has a very complex structure (Lemberg and Hale, 1978; Ashour, 1980;
Shibamoto and Nishimura, 1982; Marchetti-Smaja, 199 1). Because it is so
complex, the oil’s odour and other important characteristics have yet to be
duplicated synthetically. Three carbonyl compounds, alpha-vetivone, beta-
vetivone and khusimone, are considered the primary odour-influencing
components; beta-vetivone has the better vetiver odour and is considered
the most important, while the major isomer nordihydro beta-vetivone has a
strong, rich, woody-peppery note. Molecular distillation produces a residue-
free pale yellow or pale amber oil with a very high vetiverol content. Lack of
residue makes this oil more soluble in alcohol and improves miscibility when
blended with other perfume materials.
Two main types of vetiver oil exist, dextrorotatory and laevorotatory, but
this is normally of little interest to perfumers or those using the oil as a source
of vetiverol (Ganguly and Trivedi, 1990). Table 4.16 lists the main charac-
teristics of vetiver oil. Laevorotatory oils are often sold as khus-khus oil. The
main use for vetiver oil is in perfumery and cosmetics of all kinds, and in
certain food products to reinforce the natural flavour or odour, i.e. canned
peas or asparagus. The whole oil is normally used unprocessed, but is also
raw material for a number of isolates; most important is vetiverol, source of
vetiveryl acetate by acetylation. Vetiverol and acetates have softer odours
than whole oil, but are more expensive and used only in high-class products.
These derivatives are normally prepared in importing countries often by end
The highest quality vetiver oil is considered to be from Reunion, Bourbon
vetiver oil; Indian oil is of good quality but seldom available owing to strong
domestic demand; Angolan oil was pale yellow with a dry-woody odour.
Some importers mix oil from various origins to produce their own standard
blend and guarantee the quality to buyers, generally with a specified level of
acidity and vetiverol content. Vetiver oil can be adulterated with lower
quality oil, other oils or their derivatives but, as many adulterants affect the
basic vetiver odour, they are easily detected; less obvious are chemicals
which extend the oil without loss of odour, and are detected on analysis.
Vetiver concrete is obtained by solvent extracting dried chopped roots,
usually with benzene, and subsequent vacuum removal of the solvent. It is
commercially available as vetiver resinoid, a dark brown or dark amber,
plastic semi-solid, with the distinct, persistent, somewhat attenuated odour
of high quality vetiver oil. An extract prepared on Reunion was virtually
insoluble (Gailleton, 1977). Concrete composition is similar to vetiver oil,
but because it is solvent extracted, contains few or no low boiling-point
Gramineae 129

compounds, but a high ratio of those with a high boiling-point, and con-
sidered more accurately to reflect the oil in vetiver roots. Combined with its
excellent fixative properties it is highly regarded by blenders. Isolates from
the carbonyl fraction are insect-repellent gain et al., 1982), the whole oil
proved toxic to mosquito larvae (Murty and Jamil, 1987), and also possessed
fungicidal properties (Dikshit and Husain, 1984).
Vetiver oleoresin is prepared by further extracting concrete, most recently
by liquid carbon dioxide, which gives a golden yellow, more mobile liquid
containing less non-volatile compounds. A very stable extract with a rich
odour is obtained by molecular distillation. Vetiver attah is produced in
India by condensing the distillate in an oil of choice, sandalwood, ground-
nut, sesame, etc. and sold wholly on its odour related to the product's end
use, as flavouring, unguent, or hair-dressing.


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The Lamiaceae (syn. Labiateae) to which the genus Pogostemon belongs, is
one of the ten largest families of flowering plants, comprising 9 subfamilies,
200 genera and about 3200 species. The family is readily identified, the
flowers having distinct and widely gaping lips, a four-part ovary, opposite
aromatic leaves and angular petioles; it is noteworthy for the number of
species producing an essential oil, a spice or both.

The genus Pogostemon contains 40 species mainly native to South East Asia,
with 20 occurring in India. The common European name patchouli is
probably derived from the Tamil paccilai and the species name from the
Philippine vernacular cablin. Pogostemon cablin is the prime source of patch-
ouli oil but several other species, P. comosum, P. hortensis, P. heyneanus and
P. plectranthoides are cultivated for their oil, also described as patchouli oil,
but of inferior and often variable quality. Essential oil from plants in other
genera, Microtaena cymosa Prain. (Chinese patchouli), Plectranthus patchouli
Clark., is also sold as patchouli oil, and in the seventeenth century Rum-
phius described a plant he named Melissa lotoria with a similar scent (Herb.
Amboin 5, p. 292). Since patchouli has been widely disseminated in Asiatic
and Far Eastern countries, its original home is still in doubt. Many of the so-
called indigenous species are probably long established and acclimatized
local cultivars of P. cablin. The South East Asia-China border region is
probably patchouli’s centre of origin, and the Philippines a modern centre of
domestication and dispersal. Regional names for patchouli are very similar:
nilam wangi (Indonesia), dilem wangi (Java), nilam (Atjeh) singalon (Batak),
dhalum wangi or tilam wangi (Malaysia).
Patchouli has a long history of use by man, and plants of the genus
Pogostemon producing oil very similar to the present patchouli oil were widely
used in Asia and the Far East for incense, body and garment perfumes,

Lamiaceae 139

insect repellents and sprinkled in temples (Morris, 1984). The plant was
known as huo-hsiang in ancient China, and an early Chinese reference to
propagation by suckers may indicate that true patchouli was cultivated there
some 2000 years ago (Laufer, 1919). Arabs used it to perfume carpets,
Indians textiles, and Chinese produced a perfumed ink for use on scrolls.
Patchouli was known as malabathron in classical Europe. The plant was first
described as patchouli by a Mr Wallich in 1835 who obtained it from Penang
(Burkhill, 1966), and later by a Frenchman Pelletier-Soutelet, who in 1845
named it P. patchouli. In 1896, Holmes identified the plant as P. cablin
(Benth), native to the Philippines (Pharmazie 561, 222). The scent of
patchouli had, however, been known in Europe for some time as the
splendid fabrics and garments from India were permeated with its exotic
odour. The first shipment of dried patchouli leaves arrived in London in
Growing patchouli for its essential oil began in the nineteenth century in
Malaysia using plants obtained from the Philippines; from Penang it was
introduced to Java in 1895. Patchouli cultivation quickly spread to other
Indonesian islands including Sumatra in 1910; by 1920 it was well estab-
lished in western Atjeh and northern Sidikalang highlands, but later became
more important on the island of Nias. The area under patchouli in Indonesia
has risen from 11,000 ha in 1983 to about 18,000 in 1995, with total oil
production officially estimated at nearly 1000 tonnes; exports during the
period 1985 to 1995 varied from 350 to 850 tonnes.
Patchouli was extensively grown in the wetter regions of southern China
in the eleventh century, by the sixteenth century had become centred on
Hainan Island, but when oil production commenced in China is uncertain.
In the last decade, annual oil production slowly decreased from about 10 t to
2 t in 1990, and recent reports indicate this level is unlikely to rise as the area
under cultivation has decreased in favour of other essential oil crops.
Patchouli has been successfully grown in Mauritius, some Caribbean
countries, West Africa and Vietnam, but only India, Brazil, Taiwan and
Seychelles established commercial oil production. In Russia, patchouli oil is
obtained from P. plectranthoides, but little information is available. Oil of this
species is used to provide medicinal products in India, where it is known as
P. benghalensis, and the species occurs naturally throughout the country. Use
of patchouli without qualification in the text refers to P. cablin and its

The classification of P. cablin is complex; it is currently described as P. cablin
Benth. (syn. P. patchouli Pellet, P. patchouli var. sauves Hook, P. tomentosus
(Hassk.); or P. patchouli Bell. (syn. P. cablin (Blanco) Benth., P. heyneanus
Benth., P. sauves M. and Briq., and Mentha cablin Blanco). Pogostemon
140 Chapter 5

heyneanus is also known as P. fleurissant; P. comosus as P. tomentosus; P.

plectranthoides as P. benghalensis Kun. while the Java patchouli identified as
P. hortensis Backer is probably a local cultivar of P. cablin. Different methods
of cultivation and local climate cause substantial morphological changes in
patchouli plants, especially when transferred between countries, and this has
also contributed to the classification problem. Chemotaxonomy has assisted
in distinguishing three Philippine cultivars, and will probably solve other
local problems of identification (Hasagawa et al., 1992).
Patchouli is an aromatic, herbaceous, perennial shrub, with erect stems,
large green leaves and small white-pink flowers. Unlike many other mem-
bers of the Lamiaceae, there are no horticultural varieties, and patchouli is
seldom seen outside its natural habitat, other than in botanical and similar
collections. The roots are extensive, branching and, in mature plants which
are allowed to grow unchecked, penetrating to some depth. Roots contain a
small proportion of essential oil. T h e stems are erect, to 1.5 m sometimes
higher, quadrangular, much branched and more or less tomentose depend-
ing on cultivar; in colour they are green to greenish purple and generally
similar to leaves. Stems also contain oil of inferior quality.
The leaves are opposite, broadly ovate, apically acuminate, basally trun-
cate to cuneate, with coarsely serrate to dentate margins; slightly fleshy,
softly tomentose mainly on the underside, and drooping when mature. Leaf
size varies especially between cultivars, but mature leaves are usually 5-10 X
2.5-8 cm, light to medium green in colour, varying considerably with
location or cultivar. The essential oil is contained in glands located mainly
on the underside of leaves. Glandular hairs are small with a short single-
celled stalk and double-celled head. T h e leaf area varies significantly
between Indian patchouli cultivars, suggesting this could be an important
factor in selecting high oil yield clones (Kumar, 1985).
Dried patchouli leaves are a brownish yellow and, in addition to the
typical musky patchouli odour, have a sharp, spicy flavour; fresh leaves have
very little of the patchouli scent, which only develops after fermentation.
Leaves also contain calcium oxalate needles of varying types and amount.
Freshly cut leaves contain 0.25-0.75% oil, varying with local cultivar, age
and stem position. Oil yield from dried material in Indonesia was, in per
cent: buds 5.8, young leaves 5.0, mature 5.7, fallen but sound 4.1 (Soepadyo
and Tong, 1968). Leaves are normally dried before distilling and lose
80-85% moisture, while naturally dried leaves yield 1.8-2.5% oil when
distilled by small producers, but to 5.0% in modern plants. Solvent extrac-
tion normally doubles the yield of steam distillation. T h e considerable
increase in average oil yield to be expected from simple selection procedures
is indicated by Indonesian results, where laboratory trials produced yields of
6-8% oil from individual plants. These strains are later vegetatively propa-
gated by the Agricultural Department for distribution to growers. Dried
Lamiaceae I41

P. hortensis leaves were frequently mixed with patchouli leaves when ex-
ported and for this reason leaves of Malaysian origin were often rejected by
European buyers; dried leaves yield about 2% oil (Chan, 1969).
The main constituents of patchouli oil are the patchouli alcohols 23-55%
(averaging 33%) and minor alcohols 0.4-0.6% ( mainly norpatchoulenol).
There is little information on oil biosynthesis and the mechanisms involved
although certain aspects have been irivestigated (Croteau et al., 1987;
Weyerstahl et al., 1989). Thus vital data on which to base crop improvement
and plantation management programmes are lacking. For all practical
purposes oil is contained only in the leaves, and factors directly affecting this
plant part are of greatest interest to producers. Fertilizers affect growth,
number and also oil content of leaves.
The flowers are small, white, in dense interrupted whorls on short spikes,
terminally and in axils of the uppermost leaves. They are bisexual and
hypogynous, with more or less purple/mauve streaking. The stamens have
long, pale mauve filaments which give the genus its name. The calyx
segments are united into a tube 5-7 mm long, with four to five unequal teeth
closely appressed to the corolla tube, divided into two upper lips, each with
two lobes, the upper lip being longer. The androecium has four exerted
stamens, a long style and two stigmas arising from centre of the ovary, which
consists of two carpels deeply indented into four lobes, each lobe containing
a single ovule. The fruit contains four smooth, ovoid nutlets. Some regional
cultivars seldom or never flower, especially those in Malaysia and Indonesia,
since vegetative propagation has preserved a characteristic inherent in the
original introductions.
Pogostemon heyneanus (Benth.) is probably native to the Indo-Malaysian
area and known in India as pachaput; in Malaysia as nilam bukit, in Indonesia
as dilam kembang, and grows wild in all. Pogostemon heyneanus is also a highly
aromatic herb with stems to 1 m. The leaves are ovate, acuminate or obtuse,
crenate, usually double-toothed, thinner than patchouli, on long petioles.
The species is widely cultivated on a minor scale or in gardens for its fragrant
leaves, which are dried and stored with clothing to repel insects. The oil
content of dried leaves is 0.05-0.25% in India, but up to 0.75% has been
reported. Pogostemon heyneanus flowers and produces viable seed. The
flowers are white tinged with purple, in terminal and axillary spikes, the
whorls usually separate on panicles.
Oil distilled on Java was much inferior to patchouli oil and its production
abandoned; the oil is occasionally produced in India for local consumption,
and elsewhere is used as an adulterant or extender of patchouli oil. A sample
from Bangalore was a greenish brown somewhat viscous liquid, with the
following characteristics: specific gravity (1 5°C) 0.9365; refractive index
(20°C) 1.4986; optical rotation (20°C) -18"; acid value 4.35, acid value
after acetylation 92.80; ester value 6.27; soluble in 0.5-10 vol. 90% alco-
142 Chapter 5

Pogostemon hortensis (Back.) occurs naturally only on the island of Java,

and is probably not a true species but a long-established cultivar of P. cablin.
General growth is more vigorous than patchouli; the leaves are a dark green,
more oblong, thinner, apex acute, margins serrate, less fragrant with a lower
oil content than patchouli leaves. Dried leaves are frequently mixed with
patchouli leaves for distilling or export, and the oil is a common adulterant
of patchouli oil.
Pogostemon plectranthoides (Desf.) occurs naturally at higher elevations
than patchouli in the Indo-Malaysian region. A subshrub to 1 my with
opposite, ovate, medium green leaves to 7.5 cm in length, with double-
toothed margins. The white or purplish white flowers are borne freely in
clusters on spikes. The stamens are long, protruding, with long, pale lilac
hairs. It can be propagated by splits or stem cuttings. It is grown as an annual
in Russia as a substitute for patchouli, which it reportedly outyielded in
herbage and oil.

Patchouli flourishes in areas with high average temperature and high relative
humidity, but can be successfully grown wherever similar conditions can be
achieved by mulching, partial shade, or ridge-planting in marshy areas.
These techniques may affect rate of growth or leaf-oil content, but a high
standard of management can normally compensate and produce a profitable
oil yield. An annual rainfall of 2000-3000 mm well distributed throughout
the year is the optimum, 1750-2000 mm acceptable, but it is unlikely that
patchouli will be commercially profitable below 1500 mm without irriga-
tion. Although patchouli has a high water requirement, seedlings and young
plants cannot tolerate waterlogging, and 3-4 days of standing water can be
fatal. Relative humidity should be high and a minimum monthly average of
75% is considered necessary for sustained growth in Indonesia (Soepadyo
and Tong, 1968).
Bright sunny days are necessary for maximum leaf-oil content, although
plants tolerate partial or intermittent shade. The effect of shade is sub-
stantial; unshaded plants in Indonesia had an oil content of 5 6 % compared
to 4.0-4.7% in shaded plants. A comparison of leaf and oil yield from
partially shaded and non-shaded plants in Malaysia showed that shaded
plants gave a slightly higher herbage yield, but lacked vigour, regenerated
more slowly after cutting and leaves, although longer, were thinner and had
lower oil content (Chin and Ahmad, 1970). When grown under no shade,
half shade and full shade in India, leaf yield fell linearly from 345 to 254 g per
plant and oil yield from 3.0 to 2.5% (Nanjan et al., 1982). The adverse effect
of shade on oil content resulted in patchouli being recommended as an
intercrop only in young rubber or oil-palm plantations in Indonesia and
Malaysia. Shade can however be beneficial where the environment is less
suitable for patchouli cultivation, and cultivars may also react differently
lamiaceae 143

when grown outside their normal habitat (Jimenez et al., 1990; Radhakrish-
nan et al., 1991).
For maximum growth an average daily temperature of 25530°C is desir-
able, but there are no published data comparing plant growth at different
temperatures. It is widely considered that patchouli grows better at higher
altitudes, but this could be due to better drainage on slopes, since lower soils
generally have impeded drainage. Wind can cause severe damage to mature
patchouli in open fields but, as most patchouli is grown by smallholders in
small areas interspersed with taller crops, wind damage is usually minimal.

Soils and fertilizers

Patchouli grows on a wide range of soils but, for commercial crops, deep
fertile loams are most productive, usually found under forest in the main
growing regions, and thus patchouli was often the first crop on newly cleared
lands. Since above-ground plant growth is directly related to rate of root
growth, a soil which allows rapid and easy root penetration and proliferation
is essential. Forest soils tend to be acid, and soil samples from patchouli-
growing areas ranged between p H 5.5-7.0. It is frequently stated in the
literature that patchouli is an exhausting crop and land which has been
planted to patchouli will not produce acceptable yields from succeeding
annual crops. This is akin to a similar much quoted statement about castor,
which the author has conclusively disproved (Weiss, 1971), and is equally
invalid for patchouli. Patchouli is normally the first crop grown by small
farmers on highly fertile soils cleared from jungle, for 2 to 3 years. During
this period up to 50 dha of herbage is harvested, containing large amounts of
plant nutrients. Since small farmers seldom applied fertilizer and moved to
a new site when yields fell, the land they left behind was a virtual desert!
Thus has arisen the belief that patchouli is an exhausting crop; under such
management almost any crop would exhaust the soil. This system has
virtually disappeared and patchouli must now be grown on the same site and
supplied with adequate plant nutrients.
Since small farmers do not normally follow a systematic fertilizer pro-
gramme, the following information has been obtained mainly from experi-
mental stations and pilot commercial plantings. Once the basic requirement
for phosphate and potassium as determined by soil analyses has been
satisfied, additional application has little value and may depress leaf yield.
The most important nutrient is nitrogen, but response depends upon
adequate levels of phosphate and potassium being available. Nitrogen,
phosphate and potassium in the ratio 60:30:30 gave the highest herbage
yield in India, but the most profitable was 40: 15:15 (Irulappan and Ponnus-
wami, 1982a). A compound NPK fertilizer of 20:12:5 plus Mg or 15:15:6
plus Mg, at 30-50 dseedling placed in holes prior to planting, is recom-
mended in Indonesia and Malaysia. When a compound fertilizer is not
available, diammonium phosphate (DAP) is suitable, and if potassium is
144 Chapter 5

necessary, sulphate or nitrate of potash are compatible with DAP. A similar

application after one year is considered desirable, and again at the beginning
of the third crop year if herbage yield remains at an acceptable level.
Top-dressing with 150 kg Niha is usually necessary, the first application
about 1 month after establishment, a second 3-4 months later depending on
growth. After 6 months, plants are usually too large to permit inter-row
operations. About 4 weeks after harvesting, a top-dressing of 50 kg Niha
should be applied, since two applications between harvests is not usually
possible. The level of nitrogen must be determined locally, since there are
indications that too high a level can suppress branching and thus total leaf
production; 300-500 kgiha ammonium sulphate per annum has been used
in Malaysia and Indonesia. Foliar sprays of urea increased both leaf size and
oil content in Indonesia, but had no effect on oil characteristics (Soepadyo
and Tong, 1968).
There are no records of minor element deficiencies occurring in patchouli,
but where application of a minor element has been found necessary on other
local crops, it will probably be required. In Indonesia and Malaysia, there is
a general recommendation to include magnesium in compound fertilizers,
but no data is available to confirm the requirement which is based on soil
analyses. Magnesium and calcium increased leaf and oil yield in pot trials in
Russia, but it was not mentioned if these results became field recom-

Land selected for patchouli cultivation is often cleared to a greater extent
than for other crops, with most large trees felled, burnt and the ashes spread
as fertilizer. When grown as an intercrop in plantations, patchouli benefits
from the generally higher standard of management, and has been cultivated
successfully between young rubber and oil palms in Indonesia and Malaysia,
young and mature citrus in Malagasy and Malaysia, coffee in Malagasy and
Brazil, pepper vines in several South East Asian countries and under
coconut palms in Seychelles and Mauritius.
Patchouli is normally propagated by cuttings, preferably from the central
section of semi-mature stems (Fig. 5.1). In Indonesia, cuttings from
9-month-old stems gave the highest strike rate, as did cuttings with a
carbon-nitrogen ratio of 50 (Soepadyo and Tong, 1968). Cuttings with a
high level of total and ortho-dihydroxy phenols rooted more quickly in India
Bhattacharjee and Thimmappa (1 991), and treating cuttings with IBA or
NAA also significantly increased rooting (Selvarajan and Rao, 1982). Cut-
tings 5-10 cm long are often planted in shaded nursery beds and are
normally ready for transplanting in 3-5 weeks. When propagating material is
limited or for multiplication of selected elite plants, 2.5-5.0 cm of stem
including a leaf node can be used provided the node is completely buried in
the rooting medium. Such cuttings require careful handling as the survival
Lamiaceae 145

rate is often low when repotted or transplanted. In vitro meristem culture

(0.5-1 .O mm terminal shoots) has been successful in India using various
culture media. Plantlets were transferred to pots after 6-8 weeks when
approximately 3 cm high, and later planted out in the field (Padmanabhan et
al., 1981; Saha et al., 1989).
Field planting of cuttings is normally manual, but the operation is easily
mechanized. Small farmers usually dig individual holes suitable for cuttings
30-40 cm long inserted at an angle of 60" with at least three nodes below
ground level; several can be placed per hole but one is sufficient if rooted
cuttings are used. One Malaysian estate ploughed a series of deep furrows
between lines of young rubber trees, cuttings or seedlings were placed in the
furrow at the required spacing, and workers then filled in soil around each.

Fig. 5.1. Patchouli single-node rooted cuttings.

146 Chapter 5

Table 5.1. Effect of spacing on patchouli herbage yield in India.

Spacing 60 cm row Plant height (cm) Branches per plant Herbage (kgiha)
~ _ _ _ _

30 cm 60 8 2178
45 cm 72 8 1650
60 cm 77 5 1230
75 cm 65 6 995
Source lrulappan and Ponnuswami (1982b)

The method was effective, quick and mortality low. Distance between
furrows can be varied to suit other estate machinery.
Spacing is often arbitrary, but 60-90 X 30-45 cm between plants or 60 X
60 cm on the square is most common, with 100 X 100 cm on very fertile
soils. A high plant population is generally to be preferred and where row
width is determined by existing machinery, in-row spacing must be adjusted
to compensate. Close spacing suppresses weed growth, tends to increase
branching, and as oil content is highest in upper leaves, this increases oil
yield per hectare. The effect of various in-row spacings with a standard row
width is shown in Table 5.1. As a guide, 4000 standard cuttings for planting
in a nursery weigh approximately 100 kg or a total of 1000 kg/ha at a spacing
of 30 X 60 cm. Cuttings or seedlings should be planted at the beginning of
the rainy season when there is usually cloud to minimize sun-scorch; in
Sumatra this is August-December and in Malaysia March-April. On land
susceptible to temporary flooding or waterlogging, cuttings can be sown on
large ridges; on sloping land or hillsides, rows or ridges should follow the
contour to minimize soil erosion.
Patchouli is normally grown in small plots and weed control is usually
manual, carried out as necessary until the canopy closes in about 6 months
and suppresses most weeds. Following the first and subsequent harvests,
two to three weedings are sufficient. Herbicides are seldom applied, but
diuron, linuron, and simazine have been successfully used pre-emergence in
established patchouli. When patchouli is grown as an intercrop in young
rubber or oil palms, herbicides may be essential for general weed control,
and glyphosate, oxadiazon, prometryn and terbacil have been used as
directed sprays.
Little information is available on the water requirements of patchouli, but
it is doubtful if patchouli would be profitable as a wholly irrigated crop, as
total water requirement is high and the cost of supplying water is constantly
increasing. In regions where monsoon rains may be interspersed with a dry
period, mulching can successfully keep soil moist and maintain plant
growth. Underplanting in plantations with high canopies such as coconut
palms which provide intermittent shade also assists in reducing moisture loss
(Seychelles Department of Agriculture, 1970).
Lamiaceae 147

Patchouli is ready for harvesting 4-7 months after establishment when
plants are usually about 1 m in height and the foliage becomes pale green to
light brown, and thereafter at 3-6 monthly intervals over its productive life.
Small farmers normally cut plants 10-20 cm above the soil, but where only
one annual harvest is possible, as in Russia, plants are cut as low as possible.
When using machinery, the optimum cutting height should be established,
since cutting too low can kill plants especially if followed by a dry period.
Harvesting should not take place following rain when leaves are saturated
nor early in the morning if wet with dew. During hot or dry periods,
however, cutting in the morning and evening is preferable.
Harvesting includes stems and leaves and may amount to 5-10 t exception-
ally 15-20 t/ha in the first year, falling to 1-5 t/ha in subsequent years with
leaves usually accounting for 50-60% of the total. Smallholder yields from new
plantings are generally 1-3 t h a of green leaves in the first year, falling to 1-2 ti
ha in subsequent years, mainly due to poor management and use of low
yielding plants. Under estate conditions in Johore, Malaysia, average yield of
air-dried leaves was 1500 kgiha from the first cut and 900 kgiha from
subsequent cuts. Using current techniques, 2000-3000 kgiha dried leaves is
acceptable, but local trials indicate twice this is possible and the full potential of
patchouli has yet to be determined. A major factor reducing average leaf yield
is the general use of unselected planting material, as there is substantial
variation in leaf yield between individual plants.
All plant parts contain oil, but as oil in leaves is the main source, ideally
only leaves should be harvested. It was initially recommended in Indonesia
that only the three to five uppermost pairs of leaves should be cut as soon as
these had fully developed. Such selective harvesting is still possible for
smallholders; stems with three to five pairs of mature leaves which have not
turned yellow or brown are cut, while those with young leaves are left to
mature. This system not only promotes rapid regrowth, it also ensures more
efficient working of the usually small local stills. Fresh herbage has a
moisture content of 80-85% and oil content 0.5-1.2%. Thus 1000 kg of
fresh material from smallholder crops in Indonesia yields 150 kg dried leaves
and 1-2 kg oil, in Malaysia the average is 200 kg of dried leaves and 2-3 kg
oil, and in India about 200 kg dried leaves yields 3-4 kg oil. Also in India
8000 kg of fresh leaves yielded 1600 kg shade dried leaves, then 40 kg oil
(Kumar et al., 1986)
Under smallholder management the normal life of a patchouli planting is
2-3 years as fertilizers are seldom used, growers relying on natural soil
fertility. Thus patchouli was seldom replanted on the same land, and the plot
abandoned in favour of a newly cleared area. With rapid destruction of
mature forest in patchouli-growing regions, particularly Indonesia, the
amount of new land available is continually being reduced. This has resulted
in a reduction in smallholder-grown patchouli, but if patchouli is properly
148 Chapter 5

managed, a more stable industry could develop. When grown as a plantation

crop, patchouli is usually replanted after 3 years, but up to 5 years, when rate
of regrowth makes retention unprofitable.

Unlike other members of the Lamiaceae, fresh patchouli leaves should not
be distilled as they yield only a small proportion of their oil unless distilled
under pressure or with superheated steam. Both methods greatly increase
distilling cost, and may alter oil odour and characteristics. Normal distilla-
tion apparently does not rupture cells within the leaf, but drying or light
fermentation changes the cell structure which becomes more permeable and
allows oil to be liberated.
Stems with leaves are dried for 2-5 days and how this is accomplished is
extremely important since it basically determines oil yield when locally
distilled, or quality of dried leaves if these are to be distilled elsewhere. Fresh
herbage must not be piled in heaps as this quickly encourages mould growth,
or uncontrolled fermentation. Cut material is usually dried by spreading on
wooden racks, clean, hard-packed earth, or specially constructed concrete
floors adjacent to a distillery, and regularly turned to ensure uniform drying.
Herbage must also be protected from rain and heavy dew, and locally woven
large grass mats are often used. Although sun-drying is normal, shade-
drying with air circulating freely over cut herbage is preferable. Sun-dried
herbage may also become over-dry, with consequent loss of oil or leaves
through shattering, while a drying temperature above 40°C in Malaysia
resulted in 80% oil loss (Chin and Ahmad, 1970).
Following drying, leaves are stripped from stems and placed in woven
baskets containing about 15 kg to allow fermentation, which a skilled grower
controls by smelling the leaves. Over-fermentation produces a mouldy note
in the oil, while under-fermentation reduces oil yield but has no effect on
quality. In Malaysia, leaves are not deliberately fermented but packed in
sacks for transport to a distillery, and this delay allows some fermentation to
take place. Dried leaves can be stored for long periods provided they are kept
free of moisture and no additional fermentation occurs. Storage facilities at
rural stills are usually inadequate, and in these circumstances it is preferable
temporarily to cease harvesting. A yearly minimum of 40-60 t of dried leaves
is required to establish a small district distillery; in Malaysia 20-25 t dried
leaves are required monthly for an estate distillery to be viable.
There was previously an extensive trade in dried leaves from Indonesia to
Singapore and Europe, where high quality oil was obtained, but this trade
has virtually ceased due to the high transport cost. Leaves for export were
dried, compressed, and baled with little delay; bales store well provided they
are kept in clean, dry buildings. French buyers required leaves to be shade
dried for about 14 days, free of fermented and mouldy material, and with a
minimum 3% oil content. Patchouli leaves are frequently adulterated with
Lamiaceae 149

leaves of P. heyneanus, Ocimum basilicum, Urena lobata, Microtaena cymosa

and Plectranthus patchouli. Partially distilled patchouli leaves may also be
mixed with fresh leaves.
The bulk of patchouli oil is produced by smallholders and the crude oil
sold to larger operators for cleaning and refining. Many small producers use
direct-fired stills with leaves kept above the water-level by a grill, and a
second grill may be used to keep layers of leaves separate. The type of grill
may be important, for in Indonesia there was a significant increase in oil
yield per charge when a perforated steel-plate was substituted for a wire grid
(Rusli and Hasanah, 1977). A charge is normally 75-100 kg of dried leaves,
which may be moistened with water during filling. In these stills distillation
time is generally 6-8 hours, but up to 24 hours depending on skill of the
operator, since the most desirable oil fractions distil over last. Oil yield
averages 1.5-2.5%, and is directly influenced by the amount of non-leafy
material included in the charge, depth of charge, and amount of heat used to
boil water or steam temperature. Distillation temperature affected yield but
not oil characteristics in Indonesia; doubling the temperature increased oil
yield from 1.32% to 2.21% (Rusli and Hasanah, 1977).
Substantial changes may occur in the characteristics of crude, bulked and
unrefined oil directly related to type of container and storage conditions;
specific gravity, acid number and ester number rose with storage period in
Indonesia. When contained in aluminium (A), iron (I) or green glass (G)
containers, specific gravity increased most rapidly in A and least rapidly in
G; acid number rose fastest in G and slowest in I; ester number increased
faster in A and I and was slowest in G (Muchlis and Rusli, 1979). Similar
effects have been noted elsewhere and, in general, full, sealed glass or
stainless steel containers are the best. Similar changes can also occur in
refined oil, or oil produced in modern distilling plants, but are less pro-
nounced since storage is generally adequate.

Pests and diseases

There is little published information on patchouli pests and basic data on
distribution, population dynamics and economic importance is yet to be
determined. The most damaging insects are those attacking roots and
leaves, and patchouli interplanted with pepper vines generally suffers more
damage than when grown alone in the same locality. Nematodes, partic-
ularly Heterodera marioni in Indonesia and an unidentified species in Ma-
laysia, cause extensive damage to roots. In some parts of Indonesia, nema-
tode damage is so serious that to replant patchouli on the same plot is
considered unprofitable as a high proportion of plants are killed. Controlling
Helicotylenchus dihystera in India significantly increased leaf number and size
(Kumar and Nanjan, 1984), while Meloidogyne incognita reduced herbage
yield by 80% in heavily infested fields (Prasad and Reddy, 1984).
150 Chapter 5

Young plants and seedlings are frequently attacked by various mole and
other crickets, particularly Gryllidae, while grasshoppers are easily con-
trolled in smallholder crops by hand picking, equally effective against giant
snails, Achatinafulica, which can be a local pest. Larvae of various moths, the
leaf-rolling caterpillars, are more serious pests and difficult to control.
Pachyzanela spp. are most frequently recorded, particularly P. staltalis in
Indonesia. Unidentified stem borers attacked plants in India and Malaysia,
and a gall-producing weevil was reported from India which caused decay of
stems above the gall. Mites can damage individual plants but have not been
reported as a serious pest, although they are often present.
As with pests, there are only a few reports on patchouli diseases. That
some are of considerable economic importance, and may in fact limit
production in certain areas, can be assumed from remarks contained in
general reports on the crop. Most often mentioned are root diseases caused
by Sclerotium spp. in Indonesia and Fomes spp. in Malaysia, where F. lignosus
has been identified on patchouli, and becomes a problem when the crop is
interplanted in rubber plantations. Visual symptoms of F. lignosus infection
are change in leaf colour from green to reddish purple, followed by wilting
and finally defoliation. In East Africa, P. cablin was so severely attacked by
Pythium spp. leaf spots that the author was unable to maintain demonstra-
tion plots, whereas P. heyneanus was relatively unaffected and made good
growth. Cercospora spp. and Alternaria spp. cause extensive leaf damage, and
in India a severe attack ofA. alternata causes defoliation and death of plants,
while Cercospora leaf blight also causes severe damage unless controlled.
Symptoms attributed to a virus have been reported from several countries,
identified in India as patchouli mosaic virus (PMV) but in Brazil as tobacco
mosaic virus (TMV). Bemisia tabaci, a whitefly, is the insect vector in India,
and mass propagation of virus-free seedlings for distribution to growers the
only satisfactory method of control (Kukreja et al., 1990).

Products and specifications

Crude patchouli oil is a viscous, dark or orangy-brown liquid depending
mainly on the method of distillation and storage; refined oil or oil produced
in modern stills is a pale orange to light amber colour. The odour is
distinctive, very rich, sweet-herbaceous, spicy and aromatic; the odour of
crude or newly distilled oil is more harsh, less sweet and spicy, but softens
with age. The taste of the whole oil is spicy, sweet, never bitter, somewhat
hot on the tongue; refined oil is more bland. Patchouli oil is used mainly as
a whole oil, and not processed for individual components, although it may
be refined to remove impurities or slightly modify its odour. Since the odour
of the oil improves with age when correctly stored, users generally maintain
relatively large stocks.
The oil is mainly used in perfumes of all kinds, cosmetics, toiletries,
especially soaps, and was previously popular as a masking agent in breath-
Lamiaceae 151

freshening preparations. Flavour and odour are quite distinctive, and patch-
ouli flavoured sweets are especially popular in Asia and Arabia. The oil is
used to flavour foods, mainly processed products such as baked goods, some
meats and sausages, but very seldom as a culinary spice although frequently
present in speciality cooking oils. The reduction in tar content of cigarettes
and tobaccos has affected their perceived flavour, and patchouli oil is one of
the additives used to offset this effect; the Chinese cigarette industry is the
major user of locally produced oil. The whole oil has antimicrobial and
insecticidal activity, but is normally too expensive for these uses to be
commercially exploited. These properties are, however, well appreciated in
Asian countries where the whole oil is widely used in local medicines and as
an insect repellent. In Japan and Malaysia it is considered (erroneously) to
be an antidote to snakebite.
Patchouli oil is extremely complex, is in demand as a whole oil, and is a
very important perfumery raw material. Some 60 constituents have been
detected (Akhila and Nigam, 1984; Weyerstahl et al., 1989; Dung et al.,
1990), including sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and patchouli alcohols
(patchoulol and norpatchoulenol) (Munck and Croteau, 1990). Azulene
has also been reported from the oil. Some important odour compounds and
related synthetics have been described (Weyerstahl et al., 1989). Among
cyclohexenones found in the oil, isophorone, trimethyl cyclohexenedione
and tetramethyl cyclohexenone all have a camphoraceous odour; a carbonyl
compound, beta-patchounone, possesses a strong woody-patchouli odour,
whilst alpha-natchoulone has a strong ambergris odour.
Significant regional variation occurs, with Indonesian (East Indian) oil
considered the best quality, then Seychelles oil, and no other origins ac-
cepted as substitutes. Vietnamese and Chinese patchouli oil differs markedly
from other oils, with patchouli alcohols in Chinese oil usually below 25%
and the oil has a less sweet, slightly harsher odour. Oil is normally sold on a
sample basis, but Chinese oil may be sold in grades based on solubility i.e.
1:7-9, 1:11-12, 1:13-14, the second being most popular. Patchouli oil can
be adulterated with oils having a similar basic odour, but most other
adulterants are detected on analysis, or by the formulator’s nose. In In-
donesia, a common adulterant is a balsam resinoid, although this is officially
banned. The main characteristics of patchouli oil are shown in Table 5.2.;
values for other oils have been published (Sugimura et al., 1990).
Patchouli concrete or resinoid is obtained by solvent extracting dried
leaves, and is a very viscous liquid whose colour depends on the solvent
used; benzene produces a dark, orangy-brown, petroleum ether pale orange
to dark amber. The odour is finer than that of distilled oils, very sweet,
aromatic, rich and spicy, and improves with age. Benzene extraction in India
gives an average resinoid yield of 5% containing 70-80% of alcohol-soluble
absolute. Concrete is mainly used as a direct substitute for patchouli oil.
152 Chapter 5

Table 5.2. Main characteristics of patchouli oil from selected origins.

Sumatraa Indiab Malaysiab Seychellesb

Specific gravity (15°C) 0.950 0.955 0.970 0.940
0.990 0.986 (25'C) 0.990 0.969
Refractive index (20°C) ng 1.503 1.500 1.502
1.516 (25") l.515(15°) 1.510
Optical rotation -40" - 45" -48O -47Q
- 70" -68O -55O - 52"
Acid number 3.0 < 5.0 2.2 1.5
6.5 - 2.8 2.5
Ester number 2.0 2.0 2.0 2.0
10.0 14.0 4.8 3.5
Ester number after ng 10-28 ng ng
Solubility (viv 90% 1:lO 1:lO 1 :7 1 :10-I2
ng, not given.
Source: a Soepadyo and Tong (1968); Department of Agriculture Annual Reports.

Extracts produced by molecular distillation are claimed to be superior in

strength and odour, more stable and easily incorporated into formulations.
Concentrated patchouli oil has been offered commercially, but appears to be
a variant of patchouli concrete in a more liquid form. Synthetic patchouli
oils are claimed to match the odour of genuine oils, but none are effective
substitutes (Weyerstahl et al., 1989).

A bibliography of patchouli is contained in Medicinal and Aromatic Plant
Abstracts 10(6), 595-599, published by MAPIS, Technical and Information
Services, Hillside Road, New Delhi, India.

Akhila, A. and Nigam, M.C. (1984) GC-MS analysis of the essential oil of patch-
ouly. Fitoterapiu. 55(6), 363-365.
Bhattacharjee, S.K. and Thimmappa, D.K. (199 1) Studies on the growth hormone,
length of cuttings and number of leaves on root formation of P. patchouli. Ind.
Perjbn. 35(2), 71-76.
Burkhill, I.H. (1 966) A Dictionay of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. 2
vols. Government Printer, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Chan, S.K. (1969) Recent investigation on short-term cash crops in Serdang. In:
Progress in Oil Palms. pp. 265-286. Incorporated Society of Planters, Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia.
Chin, H.F. and Ahrnad, R. (1970) Crop Diversz'jication in Malaysia. Incorporated
Society of Planters, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, pp. 107-1 17.
lamiaceae 153

Croteau, R. et al. (1987) Biosynthesis of sesquiterpenes in leaf extracts of patchouli.

Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 256(1), 56-68.
Dung, N.X. et al., (1990) Chemical composition of patchouli oil of Vietnam. In:
Proc. 1lth Znt. Cong. Ess. Oils Flav. Frag. Vol. 4. Aspect Pubs, London, UK, pp.
99-1 02.
Hasagawa, Y . et al. (1992) An additional constituent in the oil from a patchouli
cultivar. FZav. FragJ. 7(6), 333-335. Also 5(5), 109-112.
Irulappan, I. and Ponnuswami, V. (1 982a) Effect of N, P and K on growth and yield
of patchouli (P. patchouli Pell). In: Proc. Nut. Semin. Medic. Aromatic Plts. Tamil
Nadu Agricultural University Coimbatore, India, pp. 141-144.
Irulappan, I. and Ponnuswami, V. (1982b) Effect of spacing on patchouli. In: Proc.
Nut. Semzn. Medic. Aromatic Plts. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimba-
tore, India, pp. 139-140.
Jimenez, M. et al. (1 990) Performance of patchouli in a plantation of Pinus caribea in
Vinales. Rev. Forest. Baracoa 20(1), 47-58.
Kukreja, A.K., Mathur, A.K. and Zain, M. (1990) Mass production of virus-free
patchouli plants. Trop. Agric. 67(2), 101-104.
Kumar, A., Gaunigal, A.K. and Virmani, O.P. (1986) Cultivation of P. patchouli for
its oil. Curr. Res. Med. Aronz. P1. 8(2), 79-86.
Kumar, S. and Nanjan, K. (1984) Control of spiral nematodes in patchouli. Amer.
Phytopath. SOC.1984, 39-93.
Kumar, T.V. (1985) Estimation of leaf area in patchouli. S. Znd. Hort. 33(1),
Laufer, B. (1919) Sino-Zranica. Pub. Field Museum S a t . Hist., Chicago, USA.
Morris, E.T. (1984) Patchouli - the scent that intrigues. Dragoco Rept. 1, 16-21.
Muchlis, N.A. and Rusli, S. (1979) Storage of patchouli oil in several kinds of
packing. PLPT Zndustri (Bogor) 33(2), 1-8.
Munck, S.L. and Croteau, R. (1990) Purification and characterisation of the
sesquiterpene cyclase patchoulol synthase from P. cablin. Arch. Biochem. Bio-
phys. 282(1), 58-64.
Nanjan, K. et al. (1982) Performance of patchouli grown with and without shade
under rainfed conditions. In: Proc. Nut. Semin. Medic. Aromatic Plts. Tamil
hTaduAgricultural University, Coimbtore, India, pp. 134-1 35.
Padmanabhan, C., Sukumar, S. and Rangasamy, S.R. (1981) Patchouli plants
differentiated in vitro from stem tip and callus culture. Current Sci. 50(4),
Prasad, P.R.K. and Reddy, D.D.R. (1984) Pathogenicity and analysis of crop losses
in patchouli due to M . incognita. Znd. J. Nemat. 14(1), 33-36.
Radhakrishnan, V.V. et al. (1 99 1) Shade tolerance studies on patchouli (P. pachoulz).
South Znd. Hort. 39, (6) 387-388.
Rusli, S. and Hasanah, M. (1977) Distillation methods affecting yield and quality of
patchouli oil. PLPT Zndustn'. (Bogor) 24(1), 1-9.
Saha, B.N. et al. (1989) Introduction of patchouli to Itanagar. Znd. P e ~ u m 33(1),
Selvarajan, M., Madhavarao, V.N. and Shanmugavelli, K.G. (1982) Studies on
phenolic factors in rooting of patchouli cuttings. In: Proc. Nut. Semin. Medic.
Aromatic Plts. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India, pp.
136- 137.
154 Chapter 5

Seychelles Department of Agriculture (1970) Annual Report. Mahe, Seychelles.

Soepadyo, R. and Tong, T.H. (1968) Patchouli - a profitable catch crop. World
Crops 20(1), 48-54.
Sugimura, Y . et al. (1990) Cultivarietal comparison of patchouli plants in relation to
essential oil production and quality. Fluv. Frug. 3. 5(2), 109-1 14.
Weiss, E.A. (1971) Castor, Sesame and Safflower. Leonard Hill, London, UK.
Weyerstahl, P. et al. (1989) Odor of monocyclic partial structures of patchouli
alcohol and related compounds. 3. Ess. Oil Res. 1, 1-8.
This great family of tropical and subtropical plants includes some 40 genera
and over 2000 species of trees and shrubs, many aromatic and some
commercially important. The genus Cinnamomum Schaeffer contains ap-
proximately 200 species of evergreen trees and shrubs occurring from Asia
eastward through Melanesia, the Pacific islands and Australia. The most
important essential oil producers are C. camphora, C. cassia and C. verum.
Other species, indeed many unrelated plants, also produce a bark or oil
labelled cinnamon or camphor as will be noted. Basic chromosome number
of the genus is x = 12, and C. verum and some other species are diploids
2n = 24 (Darlington and Wylie 1955). The closely related genus Aniba has
members with an aromatic bark or essential oil.
The genus Sassafras is small, containing only three species, the most
important oil producer being S. albidum. Other species in the related genus
Ocotea yield an oil of similar type and a closely related family, the Mon-
imiaceae, has an Australian member Doyphora sassafras,whose leaves also
yield an oil containing safrole. The genus Laurus is even smaller, just two
species, L. azorica (seub.) Franco. and the essential oil producer L. nobilis L.
Laurel, however, is widely and erroneously used to prefix tFie common name
of numerous unrelated plants. The genus Litsea contains about 200 species,
including L. cubeba (Lour.) Persoon. whose fruit contains oil rich in citral.
Other family members produce oils, buds or fruit similar in composition,
odour or use to those of unrelated species, and are mentioned where
appropriate. Most have very local use but others are more important:
Ravensara aromatica, the Madagascar clove-nutmeg; Dicypellium cayophyl-
Zatum, the Brazil clove; and Cyptocaya massoia, the source of massoia oil.
In this chapter cinnamon will refer to Cinnamomum verum and its prod-
ucts, cassia similarly for C. cassia, C. loureirii and C. burmannii. The author
considers the designation cassia is inappropriate and misleading, but it is so
well-entrenched in world trade it is unlikely to be changed. There is in the
Caesalpinioideae a genus Cassia, which includes C. siamea the well-known

756 Chapter 6

tropical fuel and shade tree, while cassia oil is derived from Acacia famesi-
The botanic origin of commercial cinnamon and cassia products is as
follows: True, Ceylon and Seychelles cinnamon from Cinnamomum verum;
Chinese, Canton, Kwantung, Kwangsi, Yunnan, Honan and China Junk
cassia from C. cassia; Saigon, Vietnam, Danang, Annan and Tonkin cassia
from C. loureirii; Indonesian (or cassia vera), Padang, Batavia, Korintji,
Koringtoji, Java and Macassar cassia from C. burmannii; Indian cassia may
be derived from C. obtusifolium, C.tamala or C. sintok. Many of these
designations are (deservedly) falling into disuse, and most of little commer-
cial importance. Chinese cassia bark from main producing areas in Kwangsi
and Kwantung provinces is now officially sold as Tung Sing and Si Chang.
Philippine cinnamon is obtained from C. iners, C. mindanaense and C.
mercadoi and consumed domestically. The last named is said to produce the
highest quality bark (Baja-Lapis, 1979).

Camphor oil is usually obtained by steam distilling leaves, wood and roots of
Cinnamomum camphora (including putative subspecies), but there are other
camphor oils not obtained from C. camphora, including Ocimum kilimand-
scharicum, Labiatae, described later. Additionally various subspecies
(chemotypes) of C. camphora produce oils which differ substantially in their
major components. The Japanese C. camphora, known as Hon-sho, is con-
sidered to be the true camphor tree and native to Japan, with C. camphora
occurring in other countries designated a subspecies. The validity of this
nomenclature remains in dispute. Cinnamomum camphora and proposed
subspecies have been further divided into varieties on the basis of main oil
constituent, i.e. cineole, safrole, linalool or terpineol. A major argument
against division into subspecies is that seed from a particular tree may
produce seedlings whose leaves yield oil in which any of the four main
constituents predominates. The proposed subspecies are botanically similar
to C. camphora, and will not be described separately except in relation to
their essential oil. Differentiation on the basis of oil composition is probably
the most valid method of describing what are chemotypes of C. camphora
and not true subspecies. In this section, use of camphor without qualifica-
tion refers to C. camphora and its products.
Europeans became aware of camphor via Arab traders and one of the
earliest descriptions is in Adams (Paulus Aegineta, iii, 427-429), who stated
that Sarapion, a Greek governor of the Tebaid area of the Red Sea coast
about 150 BC, gave an account of refining camphor he obtained from an
Arab, Ibn Amram, while Symeon Seth was the only Greek author to write of
camphor itself (caphura). The Arab merchant Sinbad in the ninth century
lauraceae 157

described the method of obtaining camphor in the Riha Peninsula (probably

Malaysia) by making incisions in trees and collecting the solidified exudate;
also, in the ninth century, Suleiman the Merchant described in his Memoirs
this trade in camphor and other oils and spices (French trans. Paris, 1922).
Camphor was widely known in European medicine by the twelfth century,
and a German abbess, Hildegarde, recommended its use under the name
ganphora as a counter-irritant in the treatment of rheumatism and inflamed
joints. In the sixteenth century, Garcia de Orta noted Sumatran camphor
was so superior and costly that none found its way to Europe.
The use of naturally produced camphor in China must have been widely
known as it is mentioned as well established in the sixteenth century Chinese
herbal Pun-Tsao-kang-mu, together with extraction by boiling (Anon. ,
1976a). Camphor was introduced to Japan from China in the seventeenth
century, and Japan subsequently became the world’s largest producer of
camphor and camphor oil. It was originally believed that camphor could
only be obtained from the trunk or branches of mature trees but, in the
nineteenth century, leaves were distilled to produce camphor oil. The
production of camphor leaf oil in China has been revived with government
support and, since 1988, farmers in Sichuan Province in particular have
substantially increased their plantations. A new distillery at Yibin produced
1000 t of oil in 1994, about 70% of China’s total output.

Cinnamomum camphora (L.) Nees & Eberm. (syn. C. oficinalis Nees; Laurus
camphora L.) is commonly known as camphor and its many similar names in
European languages are probably derived from the Javanese kapur. Many
Asian names are also very similar; in India the Sanskrit karpura and Hindi
kafur suggest a single original source of the oil when it became known
outside the Far East. In Japan and Taiwan, Hon-sho means true camphor
(oil) to distinguish it from other oil types, although Taiwanese know the C.
camphora tree as kusunoki.
Cinnamomum camphora is a medium to large evergreen tree to 30 m, with
a dense, wide spreading head, large lustrous green leaves and yellow flowers.
The leaves and twigs, when crushed, smell strongly of camphor. The roots
are usually extensive, but not generally penetrating, although the linalool
form is considered in Japan to be deep-rooted. When felled to provide
camphor, large lateral roots are also excavated for distillation. Roots gen-
erally contain the highest content of essential oil, to 10%, with a camphor
content to 27%. There is normally a single stem to 30-50 m in the wild,
often enlarged at the base, with a number of large branches, the lowest at
some height on the trunk. The bark is rough, often with small fissures from
which oil exudes and solidifies, and collecting this material probably pro-
vided the original source of camphor with deliberate slitting of bark to
increase the flow the first method of harvesting. The wood is yellowish
158 Chapter 6

brown, moderately hard, fine textured, takes a good polish, and has a
persistent odour of camphor. The timber is extensively used in cabinet work,
especially chests. In a camphor tree aged 30-40 years the trunk contains
about half the total tree weight, roots 20%, stump 14%, branches 13% and
leaves 5%. The largest camphor tree on Taiwan was 51 m tall, 5.3 m DBH,
with the first branch at 20 m. Total volume was calculated as 588 m3, to
produce 7200 kg oil and 2743 kg crude camphor. The tree was estimated to
be 1400 years old. The largest tree in Japan is said to be 1200 years old with
a trunk length of 31 m and 2.3 m DBH.
The leaves are on long petioles and are leathery, alternate, ovate-elliptic,
acuminate, with one main rib and usually two side ribs; 5.0-12.5 x 1.5-5 cm
but variable; the upper side is lustrous green, the lower lighter and glaucous.
Young leaves are pinkish to light red, the colour varying between the
different forms. Although considered an evergreen, a large proportion of
mature leaves are shed annually, usually coinciding with the flush of new
growth. Leaves contain an essential oil, 0.2-2.0%, camphor content 0-80%.
Young leaves generally have a higher camphor content than those more
mature, and shaded leaves of any age less camphor than those exposed to
direct light. In India, leaves from the Cochin region average the highest
camphor content, although air-dried leaves from Darjeeling had a camphor
content of almost 2%. There are four main forms of C. camphora as noted,
each yielding a leaf oil with a different major constituent; (linalool type) 80%
linalool and 10% monoterpenes; (cineole type) 76% cineole with alpha-
pinene and 1-alpha-terpineol 20%; (sesquiterpene type) 4 0 4 0 % nerolidol
and 20% each sesquiterpenoids and monoterpenes; (safrole type) 80%
safrole and 10% monoterpenoids (Shi et al., 1989; Hirota and Hiroi, 1967).
A quick method of establishing the oil type is to crush fresh leaves, which will
smell strongly of either camphor, turpentine or eucalyptus.
The inflorescence is a short, dense, axillary panicle on the ends of the
twigs, and seldom exceeds the leaves in length; the buds are scaly (Fig. 6.1).
The flowers are small and yellow or yellowish white; the perianth is mem-
branaceous. The main flowering period in India is May-June, and in Taiwan
and Japan, April-May. The fruit is an ovoid drupe to 9 mm diameter, dark
green becoming blackish when ripe, containing one globose seed. In India,
most fruit normally ripen in October, in Taiwan and Japan, in September.
Seed from the first crop of fruits in India is frequently infertile and, like
cinnamon, ripe seeds quickly lose their viability. Seeds contain nearly 50%
of a yellowish-white crystalline aromatic fat with a high lauric content, a
melting-point of 21-23"C, used for soap making in India. Fat characteristics
are (all at 25°C): specific gravity 0.925; refractive index 1.4442; acid value
0.6; saponified value 272.3; iodine value 4.0 and unsaponified matter 0.7%
(Shastri, 1978).
The essential oil is the most important product, thus how oil is produced
in the tree, its distribution and the physiological changes which can occur are
Lauraceae 159

important to growers. The oil is present very early in seedling development,

but may contain no camphor. The rate of oil development is generally
related to tree growth, i.e. the faster the growth the greater the oil content,

Fig. 6.1.Cinnamonum camphora. A, Flowering shoot; B, flower in longitudinal section and reproductive
organs; C, fruit. (Purseglove et al., 1981.)
160 Chapter 6

and with growth of seedling, oil characteristics also change. Camphor

formation in the oil is apparently dependent on location; it is gradual in roots
and wood, quicker in leaves.

Cinnarnornurn carnphora is native to China, Japan and Taiwan, but has been
introduced into many other countries, and cultivated in some with little
commercial success. The various forms of C. carnphora previously noted can
occur in any region, but in some a particular type naturally predominates,
the Yu-sho in China, the Hon-sho in Taiwan and Japan; elsewhere the
dominant type depended on the introduced parent stock. Camphor is found
in many botanic gardens well outside its natural range, as an avenue tree and
in public gardens in many countries, the southern USA and India for
example. Analyses of wood and leaves of such trees usually show a low
essential oil content and camphor may be absent. Oil from leaves and twigs
from a specimen growing in the Entebbe (Uganda) botanic garden yielded
1.8% camphor, but on Mauritius camphor content was negligible.
Camphor flourishes in warm-temperate to semi-tropical regions, and
although mature trees can withstand frost, seedlings or young trees fre-
quently succumb. The degree of growth inhibitor activity in leaves is a factor
increasing frost resistance of Cinnarnornurn spp. in Russia (Bregvadze et al.,
1975); thus selection for a high degree of this activity to increase frost
resistance is possible. A minimum temperature of 15°C is considered
desirable, but no maximum recorded. Camphor is basically a forest or
woodland tree, but highest camphor content is found in wood and leaves
from trees growing in direct light. Shaded trees, or shaded leaves from a
specific tree, usually have a lower oil and camphor content.
A rainfall of 1000-3500 mm occurs in its natural habitat, but above 3500
mm the soil must be free-draining as camphor is relatively shallow rooted
and intolerant of waterlogging. In higher rainfall areas it should be planted
on hillsides. In areas with very high rainfall the camphor content of oil is
reduced, and in East Africa there was a reduction in both oil and camphor
content following prolonged rain. Camphor grows naturally from sea-level
to nearly 3000 m, but below 1000 m is considered the optimum, especially
in Japan where leaf oil is the most important product. In India, there was a
substantial difference in oil content in leaves and wood from trees growing at
sea-level near Calcutta, 1.24% with 56% camphor, and near Darjeeling at
2200 m with 2.9 and 80% camphor (Choudhury, 1958). The latter is a very
high yield and equalled 1.6% of the air-dried material, excluding that
remaining dissolved in the oil and recovered by fractionation.

Soils and fertilizers

Camphor naturally grows on a range of soil types, but thrives on well-
drained sandy loams. Soils with impeded drainage, or where seasonal water
Lauraceae 161

accumulates are not suitable. Soil type can affect both essential oil and its
camphor content and, in Taiwan and Japan, trees growing on sandy soils
had a higher content of both compared to trees in the same area on soil with
a high clay content. A neutral to slightly alkaline soils is preferred for
plantations, p H 6.5-8.0, although there are no data comparing essential oil
and camphor production from soils with differing p H values.
When camphor is grown in plantations, no fertilizers are normally applied
after seedlings are planted out. When grown to provide leaves for distilling
and coppiced to promote bushy growth, fertilizers are necessary to ensure
high foliage production; however, little fertilizer is normally applied to
plantations other than plant residues. When stills are located close to
plantations, spent leaves may be returned as mulch. Seedbeds are normally
well fertilized and this is discussed in the section on cultivation.

Prior to the First World War, a high proportion of camphor traded interna-
tionally was obtained by felling wild trees principally on Taiwan (then
Formosa), with smaller production in Japan. Chinese production was al-
most wholly consumed domestically. Wild trees were thus a forest resource
and harvested in a similar manner to normal logging, with no special
protection or management. It was not until the decline in number of wild
trees threatened the industry’s future that plantations of camphor trees were
established on Taiwan, and after the Second World War in Japan. The
establishment of plantations required a more intensive management system,
but no special requirements other than those required in normal forestry.
Seedlings are planted out, protected and weeds controlled until the young
trees are well established at between 4-7 years. In Japan, plantations are
individually owned, and labour input depends on the inclination or skill of
the owner. This was usually reflected in a faster rate of tree growth or lower
seedling mortality. With the introduction of synthetic camphor, establish-
ment of plantations mainly for camphor production became uneconomic,
and leaf oil from other forms of C. cumphoru became more important.
Production of linalool type oil is paramount in Japan, but in India and Sri
Lanka the camphor content remains most important.
Camphor is normally grown from seed, the ripe fruits collected and seed
cleaned of pulp and dried. Seed is normally sown within a few months of
collection, and viability after 6 months storage is usually low, but in regions
of China with a severe winter, seeds are kept in cool storage and sown in
spring. Decorticating and soaking seeds prior to sowing increased and
hastened germination (Wang and Shao, 1984). Seeds are sown in prepared
seedbeds, and the seedlings are normally 12-14 months old at planting out.
When ready for transplanting into prepared holes, seedlings are cut back to
5-10 cm; in India the roots are also pruned. Seed from a particular form of
C. cumphoru tree produces seedlings whose leaf oil may be any of the major
162 Chapter 6

types. Where a specific oil type is needed, linalool in Japan for example, only
seedlings which produce this oil are required, and to determine which are to
be retained the leaves are crushed and the odour indicates the strain. When
grown for camphor the form is less important than camphor content.
Total oil yield per hectare can also be substantially increased by vegetative
propagation of high-yielding parent stock. A population of 2000-2500 per
ha is common but up to 5000 in some districts at approximately 2 x 2 m or
2 x 3 m. Plantations are weeded as necessary, and herbicides seldom used.
Trees are usually harvested at 16-20 months and normally make rapid
regrowth, since camphor coppices readily and vigorously.

When harvested for camphor the whole tree was felled, dismembered,
reduced to chips and distilled to obtain the crude oil, later refined to separate
the camphor. A full description of the process as carried out in Taiwan,
China and prior to the Second World War in Japan is contained in Hirota
(1 956). Where camphor trees are still felled to obtain crude camphor oil, the
operations involved are essentially those used to obtain sandalwood oil
(Chapter 13). When camphor was the main product in Taiwan, age of tree
was a major factor in selection for felling, since camphor content of oil
increased with age. Yield of camphor in a tree 120 years old was three to four
times that ofa tree aged 20 years, but oil content was 25% less. The average
oil and camphor yield from a mature wild camphor tree on Taiwan was 2.4%
and 1.1% respectively, from a plantation tree of the same age 1.5% and
0.8%. The oil content of wood from young camphor trees in Japan averaged
1.4%, the main components being camphor, 1,8-cineole and safrole in that
order (Fujita et al., 1974). A relationship with age also exists for other tree
types; for example the more mature the leaves and twigs collected from the
linalool-type tree, the higher the safrole or camphor content and the lower
the linalool content in the oil (Kingstone, 1966).
Plantations to supply leaves in Japan are normally harvested annually
between October and March, although in some districts two harvests are
possible; in Sri Lanka and India, up to four harvests per year are common.
Harvesting is generally manual, but mechanical harvesting is being in-
troduced in Japan. Initially this involved the use of hand-held mechanical
cutters and strippers, but fully mechanical harvesting of leaves is considered
practical, and may involve modifying the shape of bushes to suit equipment
as has occurred on tea estates, or harvesting smaller bushes more frequently.
This is possible since leaf growth is fast, new leaves becoming mature in 2-3
months. In these circumstances, it will be profitable to select strains with
high camphor or linalool content in young leaves.
The time of cutting is not critical but prolonged rain or very cloudy
weather reduces leaf oil content and camphor content of oil. After cutting,
lauraceae 163

leaves are carefully shade-dried for 2-4 days then distilled. There is appar-
ently no difference in the camphor content of fresh, wilted or shade-dried
leaves although, in Japan, oil content may be reduced by artificial drying. Oil
yield from commercial plantations is 50-150 kg/ha, and is highest in Japan
where selection is steadily increasing average oil yield. In India, camphor
yield is 1% by weight of leaves; in Japan, crude oil yield is 1.1-1.5%, with a
linalool content of 91 %; in Sri Lanka the yield is 130-140 kg/ha of crude oil
(probably distillate). A very high yield of 300 kgiha camphor was reportedly
obtained from a trial planting in Algeria, compared with 140-1 60 kg/ha from
pilot trials in the USA. The life of a leaf-producing plantarion depends
mainly on type of camphor tree selected. In Japan, the linalool type has an
effective life of approximately 20 years, but up to 60 years in India and Sri
Lanka where high-camphor forms are planted.

Essential oil is obtained by steam or hydro-distilling wood or leaves, and
camphor obtained by pressing or rectifying crude oil. No special technique is
required, and oil remaining after removal of camphor varies according to
type of camphor tree (see section on products and specifications).

Pests and diseases

The insects attacking C. verum (c.f.) can also be found on camphor,
although there may be regional differences in the species concerned or the
degree of damage. Among the insects attacking foliage the weevil Cratopus
punctum is a serious pest in Mauritius; Acrocercops ordinatella in Asia gen-
erally; Attacus atlas, Euproctis lunata, Suana concolor in Asia and South East
Asia; and Hylobius spp. in Japan and China. Also active in the region is
Dictyoploca japonica, the camphor silk moth. Adults and larvae of a large
cockchafer, Leucopholis pinguis, attack seedlings above and below ground,
and can cause substantial loss of plants in nurseries in several Asian coun-
tries. Insects causing most damage to branches, shoots or twigs include
Tragocephala nobilis in many African countries; Helopeltis antonii in Asia; the
widespread Pseudococcus comstocki (Comstock’s mealybug); Zeuzera coffeae
which has many hosts; Xyleborus mutilatus in China, Japan and probably
elsewhere in this region. Also in this area, a bark beetle Xyloterus pubipennis
can cause serious damage to individual trees, as can Pyrestes haematicus, the
camphor longicorn beetle. Scale insects, including Aspidiotus destructor,
Aulacaspis spp. and Chtysomphalus spp. are commonly recorded but seldom
cause major damage.
Many diseases which infect C. verum (c.0 also damage C. camphora and
although a large number of pathogenic fungi have been reported from
camphor, most are of minor importance. The following have been recorded
as causing noticeable damage. The very widespread Armillaria mellea causes
164 Chapter 6

armillaria root rot, has a wide host range, and is most often recorded from
Africa, but also occurs in Asia. Other Armillaria spp. have been recorded
from China, Taiwan and Japan. Another root rot caused by Clitocybe
tabescens occurs mainly in more tropical regions of Asia and South East Asia.
Pink disease due to Corticium salmonicolor is widely distributed in the tropics,
and takes its common name from the mass of pink mycelium which covers
affected bark. Heavily infested branches are usually killed. Another fungus
which attacks small branches, twigs and shoots is Glomerella cingulata,
especially on Mauritius but also elsewhere in Asia. A canker caused by
Pkysalospora rhodina has been reported from a number of countries, but the
degree of damage on Cinnamomum spp. is usually slight.

Products and speca9cations

Camphor was initially the most important constituent of essential oil ob-
tained by distilling wood of C. camphora but with the introduction of
synthetic camphor its importance diminished and the residual oil increased
in importance. This residual oil is of various types, each having a different
major constituent as previously noted, initially came from a specific region,
and was identified in international trade by the country prefix. Camphor
wood oil distilled from C. campkora is known as Hon-sho oil or true camphor
oil while Yu-sho oil is known as Apopin oil in world trade. The characteristics
and major constituents are shown in Tables 6.1 and 6.2 and all can vary but
are generally directly related to regional origin.
Wood oil is usually colourless or whitish (some Indian oils are yellow or
brown), and contains a solid partly crystalline mass of camphor which is

Table 6.1. Main characteristics of some unrectified camphor oils.

Taiwan China
Hon-Sho Ho-Sho India Hon-Sho Yu-Sho
Specific gravity (25°C) 0.9543 0.9231 0.9428 o.91Ola 0.9270
0.9306 0.9436 0.9337
Refractive index (25%) 1.4806 1.4692 1.4713 1.4751 1.4704
1.4702 1.4727 1.4735
Optical rotation t 32'24' t 1714' t 26" t31'23' t 748'
t 22" -29O - 18"48'
Acid number 1,l ng 2.48-3.1 25 0.6-0.9
Ester number 4.1 ng 4.0-5.0 1.4-2.2
Acetyl value 23.3 ng 21.6 36.4-47.9
Alcohol content (%)(as 6.5 36.8-30.0 ng ng
Camphor content (%) 50.5 39.6-44.0 51.4 27.0-34.2
a 20"C, 30°C; ng, not given. Figures in columns are range.

Source: Hirota (1956, 1967); Choudhury (1958).

Lauraceae 165

Table 6.2. Composition of some unrectified camphor oils (%)

Japan Taiwan China

Monoterpenes 14 7.2 15.9-18.5
Cineole 4.6 4.1 19.0-21.6
Camphor 45.6 39.6 36.8-33.3
Terpene alcohols 9.9 36.8 16.3-9.3
Safrole 18.1 7.8 2.9-0.8
Sesquiterpenes (plus alcohols) 6.2 2.0 6.3-3.O
Other 1.2 2.0 1.7-1.8
Resinous matter 0.4 0.5 1.I-1.7
Source: Hirota (1956,1967)

separated by filter-pressing, the residual oil being known as crude camphor

oil. This oil yields up to 50% camphor when rectified under vacuum, the
residual oil being camphor-free: under further fractionation the oil yields
light fractions known as white camphor oil, medium fractions as brown
camphor oil and heavy fractions as blue camphor oil. The main character-
istics of these oils are shown in Table 6.3.
Natural camphor is a transparent or whitish solid or crystal, usually in
easily broken masses with a characteristic odour. It is closely related to the
terpenes, being a ketone derivative of a dicyclic terpene, specific gravity
0.99, melting point 174-1 79"C, is dextrorotatory and slowly vaporizes at
room temperature; insoluble in water, but soluble in various alcohols.
Synthetic camphor is similar in appearance to natural camphor, but is
usually optically inactive. It is derived from pinene, converted to camphene,
and thence via treatment with acetic acid and nitrobenzene to camphor.
White camphor oil, also known as light camphor oil, amounts to some
20% of camphor-free oil or 6% of crude oil; the main constituents are

Table 6.3. Main characteristics of various fractionated camphor oils.

White Brown Blue Yellow

Specific gravity (15°C) 0.870 1.000 < 1.000 0.97
0.880 1.035 0.99
Refractive index 1.4663 1.5150 1.5050 1.5010
Optical rotation t15" On ng +IC
t 20" t 12Y 0' t 5O
Boiling range ("C] 160-185 210-250 220-300 215-225
Camphor content ("hi < 2.5 < 3.0 < 2.5 ng
Safrole content (%) ng 50-60 ng 20
Cineole content (%) 20-25 ng ng ng
ng, not given.
Source: Abstracted from published data.
166 Chapter 6

cineole and monoterpenes, and further fractionation yields minor compo-

nents used in formulating artificial perfumes. The pinene fraction is a base
material for synthesis of terpineol and borneol. The oil is used as a solvent in
the production of lacquer and paints, and for scenting household and
industrial detergents, insecticides etc. and as an adulterant of other camphor
oils. It is a major competitor to Australian eucalyptus oil (see Chapter 8).
Brown camphor oil is also known as red camphor oil; the main con-
stituents are safrole and terpineol. Safrole is the base material for the
important derivatives isosafrole, heliotropin and vanillin. Redistilled brown
camphor oil can be used directly in soap manufacture. Synthetic sassafras oil
is also derived from brown camphor oil, with a safrole content usually above
80%. Artificial sassafras oil from Taiwan was an important competitor of
true sassafras oil of the USA, until the introduction of Ocoteapretiosa oil from
Blue camphor oil (also known as green camphor oil) consists mainly of
sesquiterpenes, sesquiterpene alcohols and azulenes. It is viscous, dark,
bluish green or bluish brown, and of little importance. Yellow camphor oil is
a by-product from manufacture of synthetic sassafras oil from brown cam-
phor oil. It normally contains about 20% safrole, plus terpineol, sesqui-
terpenes and sesquiterpene alcohols.
Leaf oils distilled from the leaves of C. camphora are generally colourless,
although Indian oils may be pale yellow and pale green. Japanese and
Taiwanese oils differ in the major constituent remaining after removal of
camphor as previously noted. The most important oil is obtained from the
form known as Rau-kasu in Taiwan, later planted extensively in Japan. This
oil is designated Formosan Ho oil, Ho oil Taiwan or Japanese Ho oil and its
major constituent is linalool 80-85%. Analyses of cineole-type trees in
Taiwan gave the main constituents as cineole 40-72%, average terpineols
2 1%. About half the oils contained linalool and camphor, averaging 1.9 and
1.4% respectively. Only 8% of cineole-type oil contained sesquiterpenes and
only 4% safrole (Lin et al., 1977). In India, a cineole-type oil contained the
following (percentages in brackets): pinene (3.7), camphor (0. l), beta-
pinene (1.32), limonene (0.4), 1,8-cineole (69.6), p-cymene (1.2), beta-
terpineol (1,7), alpha-terpineol (7.7) (Gulati, 1982). The Mauritius cam-
phor tree is the cineole type and camphor is absent from its oil.
Ocimum kilimandscharicum Gurke is a small herbaceous plant native to
East Africa where it has occasionally been cultivated. It is a perennial low-
growing shrub which, when cultivated, is cut two to three times a year. The
whole plant is distilled, although essential oil is almost wholly in the leaves.
Leaf oil contains about 60% camphor, but no safrole (Chowdhari, 1959;
Charles and Simon, 1992). During the Second World War, 0. kilimand-
scharz’cumwas cultivated in Kenya and the Sudan to supply all local require-
ments, and could continue to do so given sufficient incentive. In the Sudan,
where it is known as rihan, 20 feddans (c. 5 ha) of good crop produced one
lauraceae 167

litre oil and crystalline camphor (Tothill, 1952). Other species yielding an oil
containing camphor include Blumea balsamijera, Chysanthemum sinense var.
japonica and Menandra benghalensis.
Aniba rosaeodora Duckei (syn. A. duckei Kost), native to South America,
yields Bois de rose oil by steam distilling the wood. As oil is currently
obtained mainly from wild trees and few plantations are established, only
basic details are included. Aniba rosaeodora and what is claimed as the closely
related A. r. var. amazonica Duckei, are forest trees of the Amazon basin.
There are about 40 members of the genus, all native to tropical South and
Central America (Gottlieb & Kubitzki, 1981). Another member, A . cane-
lilla, has a cinnamon-scented bark which is locally used to make cinnamon
tea and to scent stored clothes and is probably the explorer Humboldt’s
‘Cinnamon of the Amazon’. Accepting the variety as botanically correct, the
following remarks apply to either.
Both are tall, to 30 m, straight, evergreen trees, trunk to 1 m DBH, with
large glossy green leaves. The timber was once extensively used for furniture.
Trees are felled, cut and transported to distilleries where the wood is
reduced to chips for distilling. The trees should have a minimum trunk
diameter of 35 cm DBH at about 10-15 years of age. Excessive exploitation
has greatly reduced easily accessible stands, and transport problems and
attendant costs have increased the expense of oil production. The Brazilian
government has introduced legislation requiring processing companies to
plant Aniba trees in proportion to the number felled, but it is generally
believed the number felled far exceeds those planted.
Oil obtained from comminuted wood averages 0.5-1.5% and there is
strong regional variation in wood-oil content. Yield from freshly cut logs is
higher than from trees felled and left for any period. Leaf and branch oil
content and composition have been shown to vary substantially between
seasons especially the monoterpene hydrocarbons, oxides of linalool and
linalool (Araujo et al., 1972).
Bois de rose Brazilian oil is colourless to pale yellow, with a sweet, slightly
woody odour; the main constituents are, in per cent: linalool 75-80, limo-
nene and eucalypt01 1-2, alpha-terpineol 4-6, 1-8-cineole + beta-
phelladrene 1-2, geraniol + geranial to 1 (Formacek and Kubeczka, 1982;
Buccellato, 1988). The major use is in soft drinks and confectionery. The
main oil characteristics are shown in Table 6.4.
Bois de rose Cayenne oil is usually colourless or faintly yellow, with a finer
scent than Brazilian oil, is normally available only in very small quantities
and its continued regular production is uncertain. The oil is slightly different
from Brazilian and main characteristics are included in Table 6.4. The
linalool content is usually higher, to 97% has been recorded, and is laevoro-
tatory due to the presence of I-linalool. The main oil use is in high quality
perfumes and toiletries. Linalool is also derived from Linaloe wood oil,
168 Chapter 6

Table 6.4. Main characteristics of bois de rose oil.

Brazil Guiana
Specific gravity (15°C) 0.875 0.868 0.872
0.895 O.89ga 0.878
Refractive index (20") 1.462 1.4620 1.460
1.485 1.4685 1.463
Optical rotation - 4O -4" -12"
t5" t5" -17"
Ester content (%) (as linalyl acetate) ng ng 0.5-1 5
Alcohol content (??) (as linalool) 75-85 84-90 85-95
Solubility (viv 70% alcohol) 1:2 1 :2 1:3-4.5 (60)
a 20'Cc; ng, not given: A = commercial samples: B = EOA specification. Figures in columns are range.

Note: The linalool content is easily adjusted, and very high levels in Brazilian oils are suspect.

Mexican obtained from Bursera delpechiana, and Ho leaf oil from C. cam-
phora in Taiwan and Japan. All have been virtually replaced by synthetic

Commercial cassia bark and oil are obtained from various Cinnamomum spp.
as noted in the introduction to this chapter but only three are important
internationally: C. cassia (Chinese cassia), C. burmannii (Indonesian cassia),
and C. loureirii (Vietnamese cassia). Indian cassia is obtained from C.
tamala, and is of local importance only (Brown, 1955/56). In the text, cassia
without qualification will be used in a non-specific sense. The name cassia
should not be confused with the genus Cassia, Caesalpinioideae, of which C.
angustijolia supplies the well-known senna pods. Cassia bark and, later, oil
was originally obtained wholly from wild trees but increasing demand
encouraged cultivation, with China the major producer. Total production in
1995 was 300 tonnes, with Guangxi Province contributing 170 tonnes from
five large factories, and Guandong Province around 1 15 tonnes. Cultivation
also became more common in Indonesia and Vietnam, and it is most likely
that all future supplies to the international trade will be from plantations.
The cassia of European antiquity probably originated in the Assam area of
India and reached the Middle East via early Mesopotamian civilizations,
whose records on clay tablets indicate considerable knowledge of spices to
flavour and prepare foods as early as 2000 BC (Bottero, 1985). From
Mesopotamia to Egypt, thence to Rome and Greece is a natural progression,
and cassia was widely known in Europe by the fifth century BC. Pliny
describes both cinnamon and cassia in his Historia Naturalis (6.163-97), and
Lauraceae 169

apparently there were several kinds of bark and twigs known as cinnamon
and cassia. In fifteenth century England ‘synamome was for lordes, but
canelle (cassia) was for commyn people’. The powdered bark is current in
the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia as a specific remedy for flatulent dyspepsia
or colic with nausea.

Chinese cassia

The bark was probably first described in China in the fourth century BC
Elegies ofCh’u (Rosengarten, 1969), again mentioned in the third century as
kui, and the medicinal use of bark reported by T’ao Hun-kin (Laufer, 1919),
but its use must have predated these writers since the tree has been familiar
to peoples of China’s southern provinces before recorded history (Bretsch-
nider, 1895). A later mention of what could be cassia was in Periplus of the
Erythraean Sea, written about AD 200 (Huntingford, 1976). ‘Kasia bark’ was
listed as shipped from Somalia, but this was most likely re-export of Indian
or Indonesian material as the author found no Cinnamomum spp. native to
eastern Africa. Arabs and Persians later knew cassia bark as darchini, from
dar meaning wood or bark and chin meaning China. However in some
countries, including India, darchini came to mean true cinnamon!

Cinnamomum cassia Presl. ex-Blume, closely resembles C. obtusifoliumNees
of which it was originally considered a variety, and also incorrectly known as
C. aromaticum Nees. Chinese cassia produces dried buds, bark, and bark and
leaf oils of similar composition. Chinese cassia is known generally as kwei or
kui in China, widely as cassia lignea (true cassia) in international commerce.
Cinnamomum cassia is an evergreen tree to 20 m, naturally conical in shape
with small white flowers and coarse greyish-brown bark (Chun, 1921). The
tree is aromatic in all its parts, but only bark and leaf oil are economically
important. The root system of a wild, fully grown tree has apparently never
been described; however, under cultivation roots are deeply penetrating and
extensive, with normally a single taproot and several substantial laterals.
When grown from cuttings rooting is slow, commonly 6-8 months before
sufficient roots develop to allow planting out. This tardy root growth may
also account for the slow rate of above-ground growth, since at 5-7 years
trees may reach only 1.5-2.5 m. Roots contain an essential oil of no
commercial importance.
There is normally one central trunk on uncut trees to 20 m, 20-25 cm
DBH at 10-1 5 years of age. Cultivated trees are usually coppiced when 5-7
years at 2-3 m, and subsequent regular cutting keeps trees to 3-3.5 m. Trees
required to produce cassia buds or fruit are left uncut. The trunk is normally
well branched from low down, and the progressively acute angle of branches
170 Chapter 6

gives the tree its conical shape. Bark on mature trees rough, greyish brown;
on young shoots and stems smooth and greyish. Bark from mature wild trees
is locally considered especially valuable for medicinal use. The inner bark is
brown or brownish red, containing irregularly shaped oil cells in the phloem.
Bark from young shoots is removed, scraped, dried and becomes the cassia
bark of commerce. The inner bark contains 1.5-4.0% essential oil and
Kwangsi bark generally has a higher average oil content than Kwantung
bark; the main constituent is cinnamaldehyde a t 60-98%. The wide range of
yield and main constituents is apparently due to similar factors affecting
these characters in C. verum. For example, bark from trees growing at higher
altitudes, Kwangsi, is of better quality than trees from lower levels, whose
coarser bark is the cassia lignea of commerce. A detailed description of the
morphology and histology of various cassia barks is contained in Parry
The leaves are alternate or nearly opposite, oblong-elliptic to lanceolate,
acuminate, basically cunate, petioles 1.O-1.5 cm. Young leaves are light
green, flaccid and soft; mature leaves stiff, thick, and leathery, with three
prominent ribs from the base, 8-20 X 4-7.5 cm, shiny dark green above,
finely hairy below. Fresh leaves may contain up to 1.6% oil although yield
after distillation seldom exceeds 0.5-0.6%; the main constituent is cinnam-
aldehyde at 80-95%.
The inflorescence is a lax, spreading, terminal or axillary silky-tomentose
panicle, 7.5-15 cm; the flowers are small, pubescent, white or whitish
yellow, in cymose arrangement of threes on short pedicels; the perianth is
pale yellow and deeply divided into six oblong, blunt lobes; main flowering
in China is June-August. The fruit is an ovalielliptic, black to blackish-
purple pulpy drupe, 1.O-1.5 cm, containing one seed borne in the shallow
cup of calyx lobes. Fruits are avidly eaten by birds which are the main seed-
dispersal agents; fruits mature February-March. The seed is oval, 1 cm,
dark brown with lighter stripes, usually 2500-2700 per kg. Immature fruits
are dried and become the misnamed cassia buds, Flores cassia, of commerce.
The morphology and histology of cassia buds have been described in detail
(Parry, 1962).

Chinese cassia is a subtropical forest tree, between 30"N and 30"s latitudes
and within these limits has adapted to a range of environments. Cassia
occurs naturally in south-eastern China, northern Assam and Burma, but is
cultivated only in southern China (mainly Kwangtung and Kwangsi), and
on Sumatra. It was introduced to South America, the southern USA, Hawaii
and Sri Lanka, but is not commercially cultivated. Cassia flourishes in hot,
sunny and humid conditions, at temperatures of 1 5 3 0 ° C but is adaptable to
B very wide seasonal range from the high 30s to -7"C, and also to very large
differences in day-night temperatures. The main areas of cultivation in
Lauraceae 171

China have a summer maximum of 38°C and minimum of 28OC, winter

15°C and -0.5"C respectively. Cassia cannot withstand periods ofvery cold
weather, but is resistant to sporadic light frost. Lowest temperatures tol-
erated were -2.5"C in China, -6.5OC in Florida, USA, and below freezing
in Paraguay (Anon., 1976b; Plucknett, 1978).
A minimum annual rainfall of 1500 mm is necessary and there is appar-
ently no upper limit where soils drain freely. In cassia's natural habitat,
monsoon conditions apply and rainfall occurs as very heavy seasonal storms
interspersed with dry periods of irregular length. Trees can therefore with-
stand short periods of waterlogging or dry weather, but prolonged periods of
either adversely affect growth. The most favoured situation for plantations
in China are middle slopes of high hills or low mountains facing north-east
(Anon., 1976b). Plantations in China are usually below 500 m, frequently
below 100 m, but wild trees up to 1500 m. Altitude generally affects the type
of bark produced as noted. Cassia is a forest tree and thus partially shade
tolerant, especially young trees, but mature cassia grows well in full sun-

Soils and fertilizers

The soils of cassia's natural habitat are generally well-drained, severely
leached, hill or mountain soils of low fertility and many strongly acid, p H
4.5-5.5. Thus cassia is most suitable for areas or situations with few
alternative cash crops. For this reason it is usually planted on hillsides where
its deep-rooting and evergreen characteristics resist erosion. When culti-
vated on hillsides in China, special terraces are constructed and where
possible these are also irrigated. Similarly to cinnamon the only fertilizers
applied to cassia plantations in China are organic wastes or mulches.
Fertilizer recommendations for cinnamon are equally applicable to cassia
under the same standard of management.

Cassia can be grown from seed, cuttings or layering, but the first is most
common in China. Ripe fruit is picked and treated as for cinnamon. Seed is
planted as soon as possible; if sown within 7 days germination is around 90%
after 20-40 days; after 20 days storage viability quickly falls. Seed can be
sown in pots or prepared beds, 1.5 cm deep and 3 cm between seeds. Most
seed-beds are located under trees and thus intermittent shade is provided
naturally until seedlings are strong enough to be planted out in 1-3 years.
Cuttings can be one, two or multiple leaf, from ends of new growth, and
allowed to wilt before planting. Rooting is slow (2-18 months) and the strike
rate is usually about 50%. The optimum time for taking cuttings is just after
the new flush of growth has matured, when flaccid young leaves become firm
and horizontal. Single leaf cuttings with 5 cm stems and the top axillary bud,
172 Chapter 6

must be exposed to full light to promote development. Preparation of

planting holes is generally as for cinnamon, and seedlings are planted out at
15-1 8 cm high. A spacing of 50-60 cm in 100 cm rows is usual in China, but
density is often regulated by shape and size of individual fields and terraces.
Between 9500 and 10,000 treesiha is considered the optimum for leaf oil
Trees are cut almost to ground level at 5-6 years, and subsequently to
15-25 cm every 3-4 years. The strongest three to four shoots are allowed to
develop and cut when 2-4 cm in diameter. Some trees are left uncut to
produce seed and cassia buds, usually 15 X 30 m apart, and these provide
intermittent shade. Plantation life is 40-60 years before replanting, although
dead or diseased trees are replaced. Weeding and plantation maintenance is
generally as for cinnamon in Sri Lanka. Irrigation, especially of young tress,
is common where water and topography allow. An improved system of
management was developed in Hawaii to obtain maximum leaf and twig
production, with a minimum population of 10,000 treesiha. Trees are not
cut back to near ground level, but are cut to provide a vertical framework of
stems and branches to maximize leaf and twig production, which ‘leaves a
harvested plant which resembles a vertical hatrack structure rather than a
stump’ (Plucknett, 1978). Since the climate in Hawaii is not strongly
seasonal, trees are cut three or four times annually.

Bark collection, stripping and drying is basically as for cinnamon and has
been described in detail (Purseglove et al., 1981). Cassia buds, kui tsz, are
the dried immature fruit including calyx and often pedicel. These are
harvested from trees especially left in plantations, or collected from wild
trees in October-November. Cassia buds are smooth, greyish or reddish
brown, 6-10 X 5 m m in diameter; the attached calyx is hard and wrinkled.
Bark, leaves, twigs, small stems and fruit buds can be used for oil production
since characteristics are similar.
Leaves are collected when the bark is harvested, but prunings and excess
foliage can be distilled at any time. The main harvest in China is June-July,
a lesser in January-February; the highest oil yield is from green leaves
harvested in May-July (Anon., 1976). Oil quality depends on time ofharvest
and leaf maturity, but there are no published data on seasonal or regional
influences. Large mature leaves are considered to yield best quality oil in
China, and a high admixture of twigs and small branches reduces quality.
Leaves are often wilted for 6-8 days before distilling, but the reason for this
is unclear since fresh leaves generally give a higher oil yield. Pests and
diseases are as for C. verum and C. camphora.
lauraceae 173

Leaf oil was formerly produced in simple, locally constructed, direct-fired
stills but the establishment of rural communes in China allowed the in-
troduction of more modern stills, centrally operated and maintained. These
stills take charges to 200 kg, are coal fired, and cohobation is normal. The oil
quality, characteristics and cinnamaldehyde content are subject to official
standards, which are not very efficiently enforced. The oil content of fresh
leaves in China is 0.3-0.4%, seeds (buds?) 1.5% and small twigs and stems
1-2% (Anon., 1976), but Parry (1962) quoted the oil content of bark as
1.5%, buds 0.55%, budsticks (pedicels?) 1.64%, and a mixture of leaves,
petioles and young twigs as 0.77%.

Products and specijkations

Chinese cassia leaf or Chihese cinnamon crude oil is a brownish-yellow to
dark-brown viscous liquid which can deposit a resinous sediment with
storage. The odour is similar to rectified oil, but more tenacious, and thus
preferred by food processors and cola beverage makers to whom the dark
colour is no disadvantage. Rectified oil is clear, pale to dark yellow, less
viscous, with a persistent, sweet, spicy warm note. The flavour is warm,
spicy, balsamic, and very sweet. Rectified oil is also used in the flavouring
industry, but its clarity enables it to be used in perfumes, toiletries, soaps and
similar products. The major constituent is cinnamaldehyde (70- 95%), with
unadulterated oils and Chinese official grade oils having a minimum content
of 85 or 90%. However, an analysis of leaf oil from C. cassia growing in
Nigeria gave a cinnamaldehyde content of only 4.2%, but 92% benzyl
benzoate (Lockwood, 1979). Constituents of Chinese cassia oils have been
described and compared (Lawrence, 1994). There are few data on the
characteristics of unadulterated Chinese cassia oil; some are quoted in Table
6.5. The properties of rectified oils reflect those of the parent crude.
Genuine cassia oil differs markedly from many commercially available oils
sold as Chinese leaf oil. Adulteration of Chinese oil was so frequent in the
past that it is doubtful if any substantial amount ofpure oil was ever available
commercially. References to composition and characteristics thus had little
relevance to the commercial oil offered, which was sold on its individual
character to a specific buyer. Common additives were kerosene, rosin,
synthetic cinnamaldehyde, or a mixture of the aldehyde with benzyl acetate.
Detection is now much simplified and thus adulteration less practised.
Standard specifications are shown in Table 6.5.
Cassia bark oil is similar to leaf oil, contains cinnamaldehyde as its major
constituent, and varies in its characteristics and composition. Factors affect-
ing cinnamon bark oil also affect cassia bark oil. Analysis of bark oil from
trees growing in Nigeria gave 71% cinnamaldehyde and 13% eugenol
(Lockwood, 1979). Cinncassiol E has been isolated from the oil (Nohara et
al., 1985); occurrence of the cis-isomer of cinnamic acid is uncommon in
174 Chapter 6

Table 6.5. Main characteristics of Chinese cassia oil

Crude oil Rectified oil

Specific 1.055 1.046 1.045 1.049
gravity (25°C) 1 .O7Oa 1.059 1.063 1.067b
Refractive 1.600 1.6045 1.602 1.600
index (20°C) 1.606 1.6135 1.615 1.614
Optical -1"O -0"40' -I0 n9
rotation (25%) t 6"o t o"30' +I0
Acid number 6-15 (to 20) ng ng < 7.0
Cinnamaldehyde(%) 75-90 88-99 > 80 ng
Carbonyl value ng ng ng > 340
Solubility (viv 70% 112-3 1 :2 1 :2 1:3
a15'C: 20°C; ng, not given. Figures in columns are range,
Source: Abstracted from published data: Column 3, US Pharmacopeia; Column 4, British Standard

nature, the only other major source being a by-product of cocaine extraction
from Erythroxylum coca. Methods of distinguishing C. verum bark oil from
bark oil of other Cinnamomum spp. have been published (Lawrence, 1969;
Salzer, 1975). The minor components used are ortho-methoxy cinnamalde-
hyde, eugenol and coumarin. Cassia bud oil is similar to leaf oil with a yield
of 2%, and aldehyde content of 80%. It is neither produced nor available
commercially. The leaf and bark oils from other Cinnamomum spp. occur-
ring in China have been described (Zhu et al., 1994)

Indonesian cassia

Cinnamomum burmannii (CG & Th.Nees) is native to Indonesia, Borneo and

Malaysia (Hall and Koppel, 1949; Isdyoso, 1977). Indonesian cassia pro-
duces bark, bark and leaf oils and dried buds, but only bark is commercially
important. Since oil is unlikely to be available in commercial quantities or
able to compete with cinnamon and Chinese cassia oils in the foreseeable
future, only brief details of the tree and its cultivation are given.
Cinnamomum burmannii is generally similar in form to C. cassia but less
tall, frequently below 6 m. Leaves are smaller, dull green with the three ribs
less prominent and often not continued to the apex. Flowers are similar but
panicles smaller. Fruit similar in shape and colour, but slightly smaller (Fig.
6.2). Cinnamomum burmannii is known as kayu manis in Indonesia where
two main forms are recognized: one with red young leaves occurring at
higher altitudes, the other with green young leaves at lower altitudes. The
first, korintji, produces higher-quality bark than the last, named Padang or
lauraceae 175

Batavian and cassia vera. Cultivation, harvesting and preparation of bark is

similar to that of cinnamon in Sri Lanka.

Products and specz3cations

Indonesian cassia bark is available in several types but quality is very variable
and, although the Indonesian government introduced standards, adultera-
tion with bark of other Cinnamomum spp. or with aromatic bark of unrelated
trees is common. Thus data said to be derived from Indonesian cassia should
be treated with caution. The oil is obtained by steam distillation with yields
of 1.5-4.0% for korintji and 1.0-3.0% for Batavian. The oil is colourless to
brownish yellow, with an agreeable aromatic odour, and a sweet, pungent
but not astringent taste. Crude oil distilled in Indonesia is very variable in
quality and composition; the main constituents are cinnamaldehyde at
60-80% and phenols to 15%. Also present are alpha-terpineol, coumarin
and benzaldehyde but no eugenol (Datta et al., 1962; Lawrence, 1969).

Fig. 6.2. Cinnamomumburmanii, fruiting shoot. (Department of Agriculture Library, Kuala Lumpur.)
176 Chapter 6

Indonesian leaf oil is obtained by steam or hydro-distilling fresh or wilted

leaves and twigs, with a yield to 0.5%. The oil is pale to darkish yellow or
yellowish brown, and crude oil distilled locally is, like bark oil, very variable
in colour, odour and composition; the main constituents are cinnamalde-
hyde at 40-65% and phenols to 10%. It is seldom available commercially.

Vietnamese cassia

Cinnamomum loureirii Nees, native to Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and prob-

ably also to neighbouring areas of Thailand and Malaysia, is considered by
some taxonomists to be a variety of C. obtusifolium (Roxb.) Nees, occurring
from the central and northern Himalayas, through Bengal, Assam, to Burma
and the Andaman Islands; also confused with C. japonicum (syn. C. ped-
unculatum Prs.) native to China, Korea, the Ryukyu Islands and Japan; and
with C. sieboldii also native to the Ryukyu Islands but introduced and widely
planted in Japan. A common name for C. loureirii in arboreta or botanic
gardens is the cassia flower tree. The bark is known as canelle de Saigon,
Saigon, Annam, or Tonkin cassia, cassia lignea, and as Annamese cinnamon
in China. Bark from selected trees in Thanh-ha province was known as que-
thank or canelle royale at the Hue court of the Vietnamese kings. Vietnamese
cassia produces bark, bark and leaf oils and dried buds. Since the oils are
unlikely to be produced in commercial quantities in the foreseeable future,
only brief details of the tree and its cultivation follows.
Cinnamomum loureirii is a medium-sized tree to 8-1 0 m, similar in shape to
C. cassia. The leaves are opposite or alternate, rigid, elliptic or oblong,
alternate-acuminate, 7.5-1 2.5 X 3-5 cm, three-ribbed, green to dull green,
petiole 12-1 5 mm. The flowers are very small and white to yellowish white.
The fruit and seed are similar to C. cassia but smaller. The wood is reddish
grey, moderately hard and glossy. Cultivation is similar to that of Indonesian
cassia, except trees can be much older when first harvested. Harvesting and
preparation of bark is also similar.

Products and sfleczjkations

Bark is the only product of commercial importance and sold under a number
of regional names with Annam and Tonkin origins considered superior, but
most bark was available under the general name Saigon cassia. The Viet-
namese government introduced the name Vietnamese cassia as a standard
without reference to regional origin and established official grades, but bark
from several Cinnamomum spp. is still found in most consignments.
Vietnamese bark oil is locally obtained by hydro or steam distillation but
only in very small quantities, and reports and data on the oil are from
analyses carried out on exported bark, with a yield of 1.5-4.0%. The oil is
dark yellow to yellow brown; the major constituent is cinnamaldehyde to
Lauraceae 177

80%, but the proportion of other components is unreported. Some compo-

nents of bark and wood oils, but not their proportions, have been published
(Asakawa et al., 197 1). The oil is aromatic with a sweet, pungent and slightly
astringent taste.
Leaf oil data is mainly from C. loureim'i trees growing in Japan, where it is
known as Nikkei hi, and thus may not be directly applicable to Vietnamese
cassia. Steam distilled leaves and twigs yielded 0.2% light brown oil,
containing 40% linalool, 27% aldehydes (mainly citral) and cineole (Nitta,
1984). Another leaf oil contained citral as its major and eugenol as a minor
component. Thus leaf oil is of quite different composition to bark and root
oils. Root bark oil data is lacking, but some information is available from
Japan, thus the same qualification applies. Steam distilled bark in Japan
yielded 1.2% of light brown oil, the major component being cinnamalde-
hyde to 80%, with camphene, linalool and cineole as minor components
(Asakawa et al., 197 1).

Indian cassia

Indian cassia bark and leaf oil are obtained from Cinnamomum tamala Nees
& Eberm. native to the subtropical Himalayas from Kashmir to Assam and
Bangladesh. The tree is known as tejpat or tajpat in Hindi and Bengali,
tejpatra in Sanskrit and tamalpatra in Gujarati. Bark is traded locally as
Indian cassia bark or Indian cassia lignea, and substantial amounts of bark
and dried leaves are exported to neighbouring countries. Fresh and dried
leaves, as tajpat leaves, are commonly sold as a spice in markets, and an oil is
obtained by hydro or steam distillation of fresh, wilted or dried leaves.
Two types of C. tamala are known; one whose leaves yield oil high in
eugenol, the other in cinnamaldehyde. The strains are somewhat dissimilar
in appearance and range, though the latter overlaps. The fruits are attractive
to birds, which are the main seed-dispersal agents. Both types apparently
grow easily from seed, as almost pure stands can be found in some areas,
Sylhet, Bangladesh for example, and commonly found growing naturally in
forests between 900 and 2000 m on the Himalayan foothills. Bark from both
is used to adulterate C. zlerum bark.
Cinnamomum tamala (eugenol type) is an evergreen primarily forest tree
generally below 8 m, with the central trunk to 45-50 cm DBH, and
mucilaginous bark. The leaves are large, dark green, generally lanceolate,
acute, three ribbed, on short, stout petioles. The flowers yellowish to white,
on loose terminal panicles. The fruit a small pulpy, purplish drupe contain-
ing one small brown seed. The tree is very long-lived, and when only leaves
are harvested, cultivated trees over 100 years old are known in northern
India (Gulati, 1982). The eugenol type occurs generally over the natural
178 Chapter 6

range of the species in India and Bangladesh and wild trees make a sub-
stantial contribution to the total of harvested leaves and bark. The tree is also
widely cultivated in large and small plantations to provide dried leaves as
spice, but leaf-oil production is less common; the bark is coarser than C.
verum bark, although possessing the true cinnamon odour, and is a used as
a substitute and adulterant.
Cinnamomum tamala (cinnamic type) is generally slightly smaller than the
eugenol type, to 7.5 m, with the central trunk 30-40 cm DBH when mature.
The leaves are opposite, glabrous, green to dark green, three ribbed, ovate-
oblong, acute, on short petioles; young leaves are lanceolate, acute, initially
pink. The flowers are small, whitish to yellow white, on loose terminal
panicles. The fruit is a small fleshy, purplish drupe, containing one dark
brown seed. Main flowering is in May and the fruits ripen in June-July. This
type of C. tamala is more restricted in its range, although locally common in
a specific area. It is especially plentiful in hills around Nainital, where it is
also cultivated on small farms. Wild and cultivated trees are harvested
primarily for their leaves, which are dried and sold as a spice, and only a
small amount of leaf oil is distilled.

Cultivation and harvesting

Wild trees supply a significant proportion of bark and leaves produced, but
both types of C. tamala are also cultivated, which includes care and main-
tenance of basically wild or self-sown trees whose numbers and density in
some areas allow this kind of supervision. These semi-wild plantations
become the property of individual families who manage and harvest them.
Preparation of seedbeds, care of seedlings or cuttings, and transplanting are
similar to C. verum. Seedlings are transplanted into the field at 4-5 years old,
at a spacing of 3 X 2 m or 3 X 3 m. Shade trees are planted or trees retained
in new clearings for the first 8-10 years.
The trees are not usually harvested for bark and the first harvest of leaves
is at around ten years of age and continues annually until the tree dies; up to
100 years. Such plantations receive little regular attention once established,
mainly slashing or removal of vegetation and protection from fire. The leaves
are harvested after the main monsoon rains have ceased (October-March)
or during dry periods, as rain depresses oil content and aroma of leaves and
thus their value as spice; the annual yield is 10-20 kg of leaves per tree.
Although cultivation of naturally established plantations appears perfunc-
tory, analyses show a higher oil yield of 45% from leaves harvested from
these trees compared with an average from wild trees of 33% (Gulati 1982;
Bradu and Sobti, 1988). The leaves are normally dried for 3-4 days before
distilling and generally sold to a still owner for distillation; thus oil produced
is very variable but acceptable for local purposes.
Lauraceae 179

Table 6.6. Characteristics of WOtypes of Cinnarnomum tarnala leaf oil from India

Cinnamic type (b)

tvDe (a) Wild Cultivated
Specific gravity (30°C) 1.025 (20°C) 0.956349643 0.97304.9876
Refractive index (30°C) 1.526 (20°C) 1.4942-1.5038 1.5119-1.541 9
Optical rotation t 1V37' +0"12'tO -0"6 -0"30
Aldehyde content (??) ng 24-37 50
Eugenol content (%) 60-80 ng ng
Solubility (viv 70% alcohol) 1 :1.2 ng ng
Source: a Sarin et al. (1978); Gulati 91982); from one sample only: ng, not given.

Products and specz3cations

Leaf oil characteristics from the two types of C. tumalu are shown in Table
6.6. Another eugenol type had a specific gravity at 15°C of 1,0257, and a
refractive index of 1.5775. The main components of both are shown in
Table 6.7. Another sample of the cinnamic-type oil distilled from dried
leaves bought at a local market had a cinnamaldehyde content of 6 1%. Bark
oil obtained from C. tamalu (type unspecified) is pale yellow, with 7 0 4 5 %
cinnamaldehyde. The odour is that of true cinnamon, but fainter and

Table 6.7. Main components of Cinnamomum tarnala leaf oil from India (%),

Cinnamic type a
Wild Cultivated Eugenol type
~~ ~

Camphor 0.90 3.19 ng

Linalool 15.28 15.67 0.2
Pinene ng ng 1.5
Borneo1 1.07 1.18 ng
Beta-caryophyllene 7.26 4.00 ng
Caryophyllene ng ng 0.7
Cadinene ng 3.06 ng
p-Cymene ng ng 3.2
Alpha-terpineol 1.54 1.77 0.3
Limonene ng ng 0.7
Benzyl cinnamate 1.87 1.81 ng
Benzaldehyde 2.00 4.1 1 0.2
Cinnamaldehyde 55.19 41.20 ng
Cineole ng ng 0.9
Eugenol 4.23 13.2 7.8
Euaenol acetate 2.06 12.45 1.2
ng, not given.
Source: a Gulati (1982); Sarin etal. (1978).
180 Chapter 6


It was as spices that cinnamon and cassia first became commercially im-
portant and cinnamon is still considered one of the finest sweet spices, with
cassia a coarser substitute. Reports of cinnamon usage in dynastic Egypt or
ancient China are considered unsound and probably referred to cassia, if
indeed the references were to any kind of Cinnamomum bark. This is
particularly so in China, where early Chinese writers habitually referred to
several spices with the same character(s), the meaning often changing over
time according to the spice’s relative importance. The very ancient use of
these spices in their natural habitat to flavour food, in social and religious
ceremonies, and in herbal remedies, with their dissemination along tradi-
tional eastern trade routes is well documented. As this trade gradually
extended from Asia to Europe, so knowledge and use of the spices grew,
creating greater demand. This demand finally sent Europeans sailing in
search of their source and thus broke Arab domination of the oriental spice
trade - a monopoly the Arabs had maintained for centuries by inventing
fantastic stories of the origin of cinnamon and the dangers involved in its
collection, many retold in the Thousand and One Nights. It was to search for
a route to the spice islands that sent Columbus sailing west to make landfall
in the Americas, discover gold not spices, and led to the destruction of the
great Aztec and Inca empires.
An early mention of Ceylon cinnamon by the Arab writer Kasawini about
AD 1275 was followed by that of a Minorite friar, John of Montecorvino in
1293. The noted traveller Ibn Batutah in 1340 also referred to Ceylon
cinnamon in his books, and described the huge storehouses, bangasalus,
which then existed in what is now Colombo. In the eighteenth century the
Dutchman Francois Valentijn described bark harvesting in detail (Arasar-
atnam, 1978). Arabs called it kitfut-ed-darsini, corrupted later to kitfah
which survives as kelfar used to describe Malabar cinnamon bark.
When the Portuguese arrived in Ceylon in 1505, cinnamon bark was
obtained from wild trees, and the historian Ribeiro described various meth-
ods used to collect and prepare bark in the Kingdom of Kotte (Fatalida
historica da Ilha Ceilao. Lisbon 1836 trans.). Following the Dutch occupa-
tion, systematic cultivation began between 1767-1 770 by a colonist, de
Kok, encouraged by Governors Falk and Van der Gaff. Under the Portu-
guese and Dutch, cinnamon production in Ceylon was a state monopoly,
protected by the most stringent laws, but the British abolished the monopoly
in 1833. Removal of the very high export duty in 1843 encouraged exports,
and large shipments were made to Europe. Contemporary authors state the
Portuguese extracted an annual tax of 110,000 kg of bark; the Dutch
produced about 180,000 kg annually, and under the British this rose to
lauraceae 181

500,000 kg. The area under cultivated cinnamon in Sri Lanka was 16,000 ha
in 1850, falling to 14,000 ha in 1970 (Wijesekera et al., 1976).
The Dutch also introduced cinnamon into their East Indian colonies,
particularly Java, and Indonesia is now a major producer and exporter of
cinnamon products. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that bark
exports in the period 1989-94 were, in tonnes, 3293, 2957, 3958, 7857,
3379, 3890, with the USA, Singapore and The Netherlands the main
destinations in that order. Liberalization of the industry is expected to
increase production of cinnamon products and exports. Cinnamon was
brought to the Seychelles in 177 1 by Pierre Poivre and, by 1880, successfully
established (Fock-Heng, 1965). Although cinnamon has been introduced to
many other tropical countries, significant commercial production is limited
to Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, Madagascar and India in that order. Where and
when cinnamon oil was first produced is unknown, but it was steam distilled
in Ceylon during the Dutch occupation. An early mention of cinnamon oil is
in European documents of the sixteenth century, when a German ordinance
was published controlling its price.

Cinnamomum verum Presl. (syn. C. zeylanicum Breyn; Laurus cinnamomum
L). The generic name is derived from the Arabic or Persian mama via the
Greek amomum meaning spice, and the prefix chini to its believed origin.
Cinnamon is commonly known as kurundu in Sri Lanka, dalchini and
ilayangam in India, in Sanskrit tamalpatra, in Dutch caneel, in Spanish and
Portuguese canela, and commercially as true cinnamon to distinguish it and
its products from those derived from other Cinnamomum spp. In this section
cinnamon will designate C. verum and its products unless stated other-
Cinnamomum verum is a bushy, evergreen tree to 15 m with numerous
branches, long, leathery, bright green leaves, small yellow flowers and ovoid
blackish fruits (Fig. 6.3). The bark and leaves are strongly aromatic. There
is considerable physical variation within the species, indeed between in-
dividual trees, and distinct local strains exist. In Sri Lanka for example, six
named types are differentiated by the taste and aroma of their leaves.
Chemical classification would be a more accurate method of differentiation;
however, some differences are probably due to local environment as soil and
climate have a substantial effect on tree growth, type of bark and oils
produced, as discussed later. That three quite distinct essential oils (bark,
leaf and root) are obtained from one tree is of particular phytochemical
interest, and the method of biosynthesis which can generate or store eugenol
in leaves, cinnamaldehyde in stem bark, and camphor in root bark is
remarkable; light may be a major factor. The biosynthetic pathways of
phenylpropanoids and terpenoid compounds leading to oils with varying
182 Chapter 6

characteristics has been investigated but not fully determined (Senanayake

and Wijesekera, 1990).
Cinnamon commonly produces moderately deep and extensive roots,
which contain about 3% essential oil with camphor to 60%. Seedling root
growth is initially rapid, with formation of a penetrating taproot followed by
numerous spreading laterals. There is normally a single central stem to 20
m, usually 12-1 5 m, but under cultivation trees are coppiced to 3 m at 3-4
years. The trunk on uncut trees can reach 60 cm DBH, up to 90 cm in the
Seychelles, with numerous, often drooping branches beginning low on the
trunk. Wood of mature trees varies from light brownish grey to grey or
yellowish brown, without markings, more or less lustrous and faintly
scented. The timber is light to moderately heavy, usually straight grained,
even textured, and weak. It seasons early but warps, splits, cracks and
The bark on young shoots is smooth and pale brown, on mature branches
and stems rough, dark brown or brownish grey. The bark contains 0.5-2.0%
oil, the main constituent being cinnamaldehyde at 60-70%, but there is a
basic difference between oil distilled from outer and inner bark. Oil cells are
located in the phloem, and are oval or round in cross-section. A detailed
description of the morphology and histology of cinnamon bark has been
published (Parry, 1962). Trees with a purple flush of new growth in India
had nearly 30% more bark oil than trees which flushed green, and thus flush

Fig. 6.3. Cinnamon plantation, Sri Lanka.

Lauraceae 183

colour could be used to select seedlings with a high bark oil content
(Krishnamoorthy et al., 1988). Bark on young shoots is removed, scraped,
dried and becomes the cinnamon quills of commerce. Five bark types are
recognized in Sri Lanka, but the major differences are probably more
environmental than genetic, since visual differences do not consistently
correlate with oil yield and type. Commercial cinnamon bark is a dull pale
brown, to 5 . 5 mm thick, with the inner surface somewhat darker, and finely
striated longitudinally. The finest quality has a delicate fragrance and tastes
warm, sweet and pleasant. The presence of calcium oxalate crystals has been
correlated with low quality bark (Mikage et al., 1987).
The leaves are opposite, leathery, generally ovate or elliptic, 5-18 X 3-10
cm, base rounded, tip acuminate; exstipulate; petiole 1-2 cm, upper surface
grooved. They are green to bright green above, dull grey-green below, but
young leaves may initially have a reddish tint. The leaves have three to five
conspicuous longitudinal light-coloured veins running from base to tip (Fig.
6.4). The anatomy of many Cinnamomum species has been described in
detail (Bakker et al., 1992).There is considerable local variation in leaf shape
and size, and four types are recognized in Sri Lanka based on taste: sweet,
neutral, pungent and bitter, but only the last two are distilled. By keeping
them separate it is possible to produce two types of oil, but there is no
commercial demand. The two leaf oils formerly available in Sri Lanka were
regional types; one high and one low in eugenol. Green leaves yield about
1% essential oil, cinnamon leaf oil, whose main constituent is eugenol at
70-95 %.
The inflorescence is a lax terminal or axilliary panicle, peduncle soft,
hairy, to 5-7 cm. The flowers are up to 3 mm diameter, pale yellow or cream,
and have an unpleasant fetid smell. The calyx is campanulate, softly hairy,
with six acutely pointed segments; a corolla is absent. The superior uni-
locular ovary tapers to a short style, and contains a single ovule. Main
flowering is April-May in Sri Lanka, January-February in India. The fruit a
black or bluish fleshy ovoid drupe, 1.5-2.0 cm when ripe, the enlarged calyx
persisting at its base. Fruits mature in 3-5 months, are edible and attractive
to birds which are the main seed dispersal agent. Ripe fruits have a distinct
odour when opened, and a flavour resembling juniper. Crushed ripe fruits
boiled in water yield an oil known in India as cinnamon suet, used in candle
making. The globular brown seeds contain approximately 33% fixed oil.

Cinnamon is a tree of the wet tropics and a somewhat restricted natural
range in Sri Lanka, India and South East Asia. Introduced to other coun-
tries, it thrives and is grown commercially only where the climate is very
similar to its natural habitat. In the Seychelles, fruit pigeons and the
introduced Indian mynah so widely dispersed seeds that cinnamon became
dominant in secondary forest on the main islands of Mahe and Silhouette a
184 Chapter 6

century after its introduction, and seedlings appeared on almost any vacant
undisturbed land. Another important factor assisting establishment is that
cinnamon is not an attractive browse plant to cattle and, once past the
seedling stage, is normally ignored.
Cinnamon produces the finest bark in sunny regions with an average
temperature of 27-30°C, but will grow well in a wide range of environments
as specimens in botanic gardens in many countries demonstrate. Bark from
these trees is usually of indifferent quality; for example bark collected by the
author from trees growing in the Botanic Gardens, Entebbe, where the
climate is cooler and drier than Sri Lanka, was thin, brittle and of poor
quality; similarly in Melbourne, Australia. A rainfall of 2000-2500 mm with
no pronounced dry season is the optimum, thus productive regions near
Colombo, Sri Lanka and Victoria, Seychelles, have an almost similar annual

Fig. 6.4. Cinnamomum verum, cinnamon, A, Flowering shoot; B, flower in longitudinal section; C, fruits;
D, fruit in longitudinal section. (Purseglove et al., 1981,)
lauraceae 185

average of 2365 and 2354 mm respectively. Cinnamon grows naturally from

sea-level to 1500 m, but for good quality commercial bark 500 m is
considered the maximum altitude in Sri Lanka, somewhat higher in India.
Essentially a forest tree, cinnamon grows well in a more open or low tree
environment, and heavy shade is apparently detrimental. T o what extent
this affects bark production per tree, or quality of bark and oil is not known,
but most plantations in Sri Lanka are unshaded.

Soils and fertilizers

Cinnamon grows naturally on a very wide range of soils, but soil type directly
influences rate of growth, especially of young stems which produce commer-
cially desirable bark. Sandy soil produces the highest-quality bark in Sri
Lanka and India, but in the Seychelles a more loamy soil is the best. Lighter
soils in the 2000 mm rainfall zone generally produce acceptable quality bark
and oil, with yield mainly affected by standard of management. In Sri Lanka
under similar management, highest-quality bark is produced on light sandy
soils of the western region around Negombo, while lateritic soils of the
southern region produce a heavier bark of lower quality, although yield per
tree is significantly higher. Coastal loams are favoured in Madagascar, but
cinnamon also grows on lateritic soil further inland. Waterlogged soils are
unsuitable and low-lying areas subject to sporadic flooding should also be
avoided, as bark from trees growing under these conditions is generally low
in oil. Cinnamon is considered susceptible to salinity, but there are no data
to support this. In the Seychelles and on Zanzibar healthy trees grow in
coastal coconut plantations within reach of sea-spray, but no comparison of
bark obtained from such trees and those growing elsewhere was available.
The most common fertilizer applied to cinnamon is animal or plant
residues, and although chemical fertilizers are generally recommended, little
is used. Cinnamon produces a relatively large root system, even when
regularly coppiced, and is thus able to scavenge a moderately large soil
volume for nutrients. Placing phosphate in planting holes is recommended,
and single is preferable to double or triple superphosphate as it contains a
small amount of sulphur which is often beneficial in tropical soils. In India
and Sri Lanka, a mixture of equal parts of dung and leaves, coconut poonac
or topsoil is commonly placed in holes when planting out seedlings.
A Sri Lanka recommendation, also followed in south India, is a 2: 1.5:1.5
mixture of urea, rock phosphate and potassium chloride, applied annually to
trees 1-3 years old at 40-60 kgiha, and to mature trees at 100 kgiha in two
equal applications between April-August and October-January, depending
on beginning of the rainy season and combined with weeding which hoes in
the fertilizer. Since quick growth produces the finest bark and plants are
required to coppice readily, a nitrogenous top-dressing at the beginning of
the rainy season is advisable even where no other fertilizer is used. Well-
186 Chapter 6

established estates in India which have their own stills return residue to the
plantation as mulch.

Cinnamon is propagated vegetatively or from seeds but as cinnamon is open
pollinated, vegetative propagation from selected parents is recommended
and modern micropropagation methods have been successfully used to
produce large numbers of seedlings (Rai and Chandra, 1987). The fruits are
avidly eaten by birds, and it is usually necessary to bag fruits for protection.
Ripe fruits for seed are heaped until the pulp rots and the seeds are then
washed, shade-dried, and planted as soon as possible since viability quickly
declines. In India, where freshly harvested seed was sown daily for the first
7 days and weekly for 7 weeks thereafter, the highest germination rate of
94% was obtained by sowing the third day after seed was harvested, fell to
50% after 14 days storage and was nil after 40 days. Seeds sown within
7 days germinated in 20-25 days; later sowings extended the period to
32-42 days (Kannan and Balakrishnan, 1967).
Seeds should be sown thickly in rows 20 cm apart and covered with
2-3 cm of soil. Four-month-old seedlings may be transplanted into baskets,
and planted out 4-5 months later. Seedlings may also be left in the nursery
until required for transplanting, but from six months shade should be
gradually reduced. Cinnamon can be propagated by cuttings, layering, or
division of rootstocks, and the last is probably the quickest method of
upgrading a plantation, since high-yielding stools can be selected. Plants are
cut to within 15 cm of the ground, suitable sections of rootstocks removed
with adhering soil and planted out immediately into prepared pits. The great
advantage of this method is that stems are ready for cutting in 12-1 8 months
compared to 2.5-3.0 years for seedlings. A comparison of cuttings of
different lengths and ages in the Seychelles showed young two-node cuttings
planted in polythene bags filled with a mixture of red soil and coconut coir
dust then placed under a polythene tent had the highest strike rate and were
ready for planting out in 12-18 months. Apical cuttings with three leaves
were best in Sri Lanka, and treatment of more mature hardwood cuttings
with IBA at 2500 ppm encouraged rooting.
A field spacing of 120 X 120 cm or 90 X 90 cm is recommended in Sri
Lanka for commercial plantations, and blanks should be infilled to ensure
this population is maintained (Wijayaratne and Pieris, 1981). For direct
sowing, a 2 X 2 m spacing is usual and up to 20 seeds are placed into
prepared holes and later thinned. In India, a common spacing is 3 X 3 m
with several seeds sown per site. Seedlings are planted out just prior to the
rainy season with supplementary watering, or just after the rains commence.
This is normally June-July in India, May-June in Sri Lanka, and October-
November in the Seychelles. Weeding three or four times annually is
necessary during the first two years, thereafter twice per year should be
lauraceae 187

sufficient. Herbicides are seldom applied to cinnamon plantations, and it is

unlikely that their use would be profitable under present production sys-
Plants are coppiced after two years to 10-15 cm from the ground and
stools covered with soil. This encourages shoot formation and four to six are
allowed to grow and kept straight by pruning side shoots and excess foliage,
as shade retards growth. Stems are cut at 2-3 m and 1.2-5.0 cm in diameter.
Stools are pruned after cutting to remove all unwanted material and earthed-
up. The number of shoots from a stool normally increases annually reaching
a maximum at eight and declines after 10-12 years.

The stems are cut during the rains to facilitate peeling, when the red flush of
the young leaves is beginning to turn green and the sap is flowing freely. In
Sri Lanka, harvesting is mainly in May-June and October-November,
although harvesting on a limited scale continues throughout the year. The
first harvest yields a thick bark of inferior quality, but quality improves from
successive cuts. The finest quality is obtained from shoots with uniform
brown thin bark, 1.0-1.25 m X 1.25 cm diameter, from central shoots, and
the middle portion of shoots. The leaves and twigs remaining after cutting
can be distilled. Cut shoots are bundled and removed for peeling and drying
(Fig. 6.5). Bark to be distilled for oil should not be left in wet bundles or
become damp, as this encourages mould or fermentation which directly
affects oil composition. A detailed description of the preparation of cinna-
mon quills, and the various grades and qualities obtained are contained in
Purseglove (1 98 1).
A brief description of the various grades is useful, since the names will
occur in the text. Quills are yellowish-brown, cylindrical, approximately 1 m
X 10 mm diameter, scraped, smooth, thin, rolled bark with occasional scars,
and fine, light-coloured wavy lines running lengthwise and clearly visible.
These have a pleasing, fragrant odour and a warm, sweet, aromatic taste.
Quillings are broken pieces of quills of various grades, length and diameter,
which approach but do not equal the full aroma and taste of sound cinna-
mon quills. Featherings are the shavings and small pieces of bark remaining
after processing inner bark into quills, with a taste similar to quillings. Chips
are small pieces of mature, unpeelable bark, occasionally fragments of inner
bark, greyish brown within, and deficient in both aroma and taste.
Bark yield per hectare in Sri Lanka depends mainly on the standard of
management. Smallholders average 100-125 kg/ha quills and 25 kgiha chips
annually; on well-managed larger plantations the first crop after 3-4 years
yields 56 to 67 kgiha quills subsequently increasing to 168-224 kg/ha. About
63 kg of cinnamon chips and approximately 2.5 t of undried leaves per
hectare are also obtained, but only 75% of leaves available are distilled, the
remainder left as mulch. On well-established plantations in India, the first
188 Chapter 6

Fig. 6.5. Harvested cinnamon.

harvest yields 100-120 kgiha quills rising to 200-250 kgiha. A cinnamon

plantation can remain profitable for 15-45 years depending mainly on the
standard of management, and the effective life can also be extended by
selecting only high-yielding, long-lived material at establishment or replant-
ing. Little information on this aspect of management is available, indeed few
comparisons of individual tree yields could be found, data which would
appear to be a basic requirement for improved profitability. In Tamil Nadu
State, India, tree yield is being monitored for information to be used in
selecting high-yielding trees. Production in the Seychelles depends mainly
on felling self-sown trees for their bark. Oil was formerly the most important
cinnamon product exported, but was later replaced by rough-grade cinna-
mon bark, consisting of unselected pieces obtained from bushes and trees.
Yield varied from a few kilograms per bush to 45 kg dried bark from a large
mature tree. Average annual yield in the 1950-60s was 0.6 tiha, but declined
rapidly in the 1970s (Lawrence, 1984). When leaves only were collected, up
to 2 t/ha annually was usual. Rough bark is also produced in Madagascar
using techniques similar to those in the Seychelles. Plantations have received
little attention since the Second World War, although birds have dispersed
seed over large areas. Trees are not regularly coppiced and usually harvested
only when bark or oil price is high.

Cinnamon bark produces two oils, a superior type derived from the inner
bark and a lower quality from broken quills, chips and bark. In Sri Lanka, a
third oil, katta thel, is produced from bark and twigs for local consumption.
lauraceae 189

Leaf oil is usually complementary to bark production; leaves stripped from

shoots, together with small leafy twigs and stems are left in the field for 3-4
days then transported to the distillery. Root bark also contains an essential
oil high in camphor, but is produced only when a plantation is uprooted for
replanting. Roots are cleaned of soil, trimmed and peeled prior to distill-
The use of modern stills constructed of metal or similar materials is not
obligatory, nor should their lack preclude stills made of more traditional
materials if their use enables a local industry to be established at little cost.
Standard of still management is usually far more important in producing
high quality oil, In Sri Lanka for example, cone-shaped still bodies are made
of vertical planks of wood, tightly bound by horizontal metal bands, and so
well made and fitted are the planks that there is little leakage. Maintenance
and replacement cost are low and within the competence of local craftsmen.
Traditional wooden stills hold about 200 kg leaves, with steam generated in
a separate wood-fired boiler, and distilled for 8-9 hours at the height of the
bark-peeling season, but up to 24 hours in the off season. Oil yield varies
from 0.5-1 .O% (about 30-40 kg/ha), depending on the distilling method,
the time of year the leaves are harvested, and whether the leaves are fresh or
Bark oil is obtained by steam- or hydro-distillation with cohobation, but
solvent extraction of the distillate is recommended to obtain the finest
quality oil; highest grade oil is produced from selected bark in the USA and
Western Europe. Oil from various distillation methods is basically similar in
characteristics and composition but quite different in odour and taste,
properties of paramount importance to end users (Wijesekera and Ratna-
singham, 1975 ) . Cinnamon bark contains water-soluble volatile aromatic
components, recovered by extracting distillation water and adding the
extract to water-distilled oil. Such oil is known as complete oil and is
considered superior to the distilled bark oil generally available. Oil is
commonly obtained by rather primitive methods in most spice producing
countries using inferior materials, and such oil differs in yield, characteristics
and composition. Oils produced in the same still from quillings, featherings
or chips, indicate how varying the proportion of chips affects the oil pro-
Chip oil has a very good odour and flavour although containing 20% less
cinnamaldehyde and twice the amount of eugenol than bark oil. Hydro-
distilling chips, plus variable amounts of featherings, quillings and wild
cinnamon bark (pathura) is the usual practice in Sri Lanka. Most stills are
small, copper, built into a stone hearth, and heated by direct fire. About
23-27 kg chips and 180-225 litres water is the usual charge, distilled for
5 hours; the residual water from one distillation is collected and used in the
next. Oil yield is approximately 0.2%. Very similar methods are general in
India, although large private plantations in Kerala State have upgraded their
190 Chapter 6

stills and obtained yields of 1.5-2.5%. Yields of 0.5-2.0% are obtained from
Sri Lanka chip material by using stills developed by the CISIR, although oil
quality frequently improves before an increase in yield.
Leaf oil in Sri Lanka is obtained by similar methods, frequently in the
same stills. Since leaves are bulky and difficult to transport, stills are usually
located at a convenient site, and constructed of materials locally available.
Thus leaf oils in India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere can be very variable, but
where more modern equipment has been installed, oil of excellent quality
and type is produced. Seychelles oil is produced by water-steam distillation
of leaves hand stripped from shoots cut for bark production. Leaf stripping
is unpleasant, hand-blistering work and thus unpopular with local people,
who gladly abandoned it for less onerous jobs in the booming tourist
industry. Leaves are collected during January-September, with an average
yield of 1.8-2.0 tiha, and are distilled as soon as possible after arrival at the
distillery. A charge is 300 kg fresh leaves, distilled for about 6 hours. Under
the government's 1982-1 986 Development Plan, two modern distilleries
plants were constructed, but neither achieved full commercial operation.
Assessing available information on leaf oil production showed that there
appears to be a lack of basic data on effects of the various techniques used:
for example, the oil yield and any change in oil composition resulting from
distilling fresh leaves or leaves wilted for 1-7 days. This information is
essential to ensure a distillery operates efficiently and profitably, and greatly
assists the integration of oil production with other plantation operations.

Pests and diseases

Many insects noted on cinnamon are of little significance; those damaging
young stems and bark are most important, others attacking leaves becoming
important only where leaf oil is produced or defoliation greatly reduces stem
growth. Pesticides can be used to control infestations but few data have been
published. Insects marked with an asterisk* are also pests of C. camphora and
other Cinnamomum species. In India and Sri Lanka, caterpillars of the
cinnamon butterfly Chilasa clytia* are the most destructive pest, and nor-
mally appear in December when trees have a flush of new growth. Cater-
pillars are voracious feeders and, if uncontrolled, quickly defoliate trees,
especially in new plantations where leaf loss adversely affects growth, and
can cause death of newly planted seedlings. Shoot borers cause significant
damage to individual trees and reduce bark quality; in India and Sri Lanka
shothole borers, Xylosandrus spp. are frequently recorded.
Leaf miners, especially Phyllocnistis crysophthalma and to a lesser extent
Acrocercops spp.*, become important when, by defoliation, they reduce rate
of shoot growth. Similarly gall and leaf mites, especially Eriophyes bois and
Typhlodromus spp., caterpillars of the leaf webber Sorolopha archimedias* and
arboreal ants Oecophylla smaragdina. Young seedlings in the nursery may be
eaten-off a t ground level by agrotid larvae or mole crickets Gryllotalpa spp.",
lauraceae I91

and in the field after transplanting. Larvae of various Popillia spp., which
attack roots, are particularly damaging in nurseries and on young seedlings.
Most often recorded are P. complanata and P. discalis. Pests recorded from
stored cinnamon quills in India and Sri Lanka include Lasioderma sem'corne,
Pyralis farinalis and Sitodrepa panicea.
The numerous pathogens recorded from cinnamon are mainly of little
importance, are normally found at a low level of infection on other local trees
and seldom warrant control measures. Diseases of C. verum also attack other
Cinnamomum spp. and are marked with an asterisk*. In India, Sri Lanka and
Indonesia, a most important disease is caused by Corticium salmonicolor*
(syn. C. javanicum). Symptoms are the formation of a pale, pinkish-white
brittle layer (crust) on young stems or branches and, unless controlled, the
infection spreads, destroying bark and finally killing shoots. The pathogen
also attacks mango, jackfruit, custard apple and other fruit trees often
growing in the vicinity of cinnamon plantations. Affected prunings and other
plant parts should be burnt. Also attacking shoots and young stems is
Phytophthora cinnamomi*; the most obvious symptom being vertical strips of
dead bark which are most numerous near ground level. The disease is
prevalent on badly drained soils. In Indonesia, it has also been recorded on
other Cinnamomum spp.
A stem disease caused by Exobasidium cinnamomi can become serious in
some years in Sri Lanka, and may also spread to leaves. Symptoms on leaves
are small yellowish concave spots whose underside bears greyish-white spore
bodies. A stem blight due to Diplodia spp. attacks young seedlings in the
nursery and when first planted out. Symptoms are small light brown patches
on stems, which spread and cause eventual death. Several root rots are
damaging to some extent; brown rot caused by Phellinus lamaensis, white rot
by Fomes lignosus* and two black root rots by Rosellinia spp. Symptoms are
roots covered with a network of black mycelium and small white starlike
spots under the bark. Rosellinia spp. attack a range of cultivated trees and
shrubs. Leaf blight caused by Pestalotia cinnamomi, known in Sri Lanka as
grey leaf spot or blight, can cause severe damage and defoliation. Symptoms
on leaves are small yellow spots, becoming grey with central black dots. A
closely related species attacks coconut, and cross-infection is suspected.
Glomerella cingulata* can become locally or seasonally severe in India with
similar effects on trees. Three other leaf diseases have been recorded, caused
by Aecidium cinnamomi, Leptosphaeria spp. and Gloeosporium spp. but the
extent of damage was not noted.

Products and speciJications

A striking feature of the three cinnamon oils is their composition, each
containing a different major component, this being cinnamaldehyde to 60%
in bark oil, eugenol to 80% in leaf oil, and camphor to 60% in root-bark oil.
The main constituents are shown in Table 6.8.
192 Chapter 6

Table 6.8. Main constituents of cinnamon oils from Sri Lanka (%)

Leaf oil Bark oil Root bark oil

Alpha-pinene 0.2 0.2 1.7
Beta-pinene ng ng 1.2
1,bCineole 0.15 1.65 15.2
p-Cymene 0.35 0.55 1.o
Camphor ng trace 60.0
Linalool 1.5 2.3 1.2
Beta-caryophyllene 1.85 1.35 ng
Alpha-humulene 0.2 0.2 0.2
Alpha-terpineol 0.15 0.4 3.8
Saf roIe 0.65 ng 0.7
Cinnamaldehyde 1.3 74.0 3.9
Cinnamyl acetate 0.8 5.0 0.3
Eugenol 87.0 8.8 5.0
Acetyl eugenol 1 .o trace ng
Benzylbenzoate 2.67 1 .o 0.3
_ _ _ ~ ~

ng, not given.

Source: Wijesekera et al. (1974).

Cinnamon bark oil is a pale to dark yellow oily liquid with a strong, warm,
sweet, spicy, tenacious odour and a sweet, pungent but not bitter taste.
Lower-grade commercial oils are usually darker and lack the powerful odour
and tenacity. Oils distilled in the U K usually differ from those produced in
other European countries and the USA in having a lower specific gravity and
containing about 60% cinnamaldehyde and 10% eugenol. Oil from first
grade Sri Lanka quills, often known as Ceylon oil, is considered the best
quality. The main oil use is to flavour foods, beverages, pharmaceutical and
dental preparations, cosmetics and perfumes. Bark oil is considered to have
a strong germicidal activity and is a fungicide (Mangiarotti et al., 1990).
Research by the British Ministry of Agriculture produced a cinnamic acid
preparation with strong bird repelling properties which, when sprayed on
fruit trees and bushes, effectively protected fruit from their depredations.
Adulteration of bark oil is common, most frequently with cinnamon leaf oil,
cassia oil, clove leaf oil, eugenol and cinnamaldehyde, which is mass pro-
duced from coal-tar bases, especially toluene. Methods of detection have
been published.
The major oil constituent is cinnamaldehyde, but other components
impart the characteristic odour and flavour distinguishing this oil from other
Cinnamomum bark oils. The powerful characteristic note of high quality oil
is believed due to a combination of methyl-n-amylketone and other alde-
hydes and ketones, but the relationship between oil composition and orga-
noleptic properties has still to be accurately determined. Analyses of the
lauraceae 193

three oils are shown in Table 6.8.; however, the analytical method used can
produce differing results (Lawrence, 1994). The proportion of individual
components in Sri Lanka bark oils can vary; for example ester content is
partly dependent upon the hydrolysis occurring with a particular distillation
method. Aldehydes can range from 51-76% (average 5 9 , with eugenol
5 1 8 % but up to 31%. A high proportion of chips in distilled material can
increase eugenol content, and quillings and featherings can increase the
aldehyde content. Seychelles bark oil is generally considered inferior to Sri
Lanka, with a harsher odour probably due to camphene and camphor not
present in Sri Lankan oils. Efforts to improve quality produced oil with a
cinnamaldehyde content similar to Sri Lanka oil, but eugenol of only 3 4 % .
Few studies of Madagascar bark oil have been published; material distilled
in Europe gave oil yield of 0.6-1 .O%, aldehyde content of 62-65% (Paillot-
Cressole and Duquenois, 1952), but there is some doubt if this bark was
wholly from C. verum. A Malaysian bark oil had a cinnamaldehyde content
of 72-80%, eugenol 1-2%, and isoeugenol 1%.
Information on non-commercial sources of bark oil has been reported;
Ghana (Talalaj, 1967; Angmor et al., 1972); Burma (Kya and Min, 1970),
and some possessed unusual properties compared to commercial oils. The
major characteristics of bark oils from selected origins are shown in Table
Leaf oil is a yellow to brownish-yellow, with a warm, spicy, somewhat
harsh odour, lacking the richness of bark oil and a slightly bitter, burning,
very spicy and powerful flavour. The main use is in perfumery and con-
fectionery and as a source of eugenol. The main characteristics of leaf oil
from selected origins are shown in Table 6.10 and the major components in

Table 6.9. Characteristics of cinnamon bark oils from selected origins.

Sri Lanka Sevchelles Madaqascar BP EOA

Specific 1.023 0.943 1.016b 1.010 1.010
gravity 1.040 a 0.976 1.030 a 1.030
Optical 0" - T30' -2'34' O0 0"
rotation -1% -5'10' -2O -2O
Refractive 1.581 1.52843 1.5746 1.573 1.573
index (20'C) 1.591 1.53271 1.595 1.591
Solubility 1 :2-3 1:IO 1 :2.5 1 :3 113'
(viv 70% alcohol)
Aldehyde as 65-76 22-84 61.4 60-70 55-78
cinnamaldehyde (%)
Eugenol content (%) 4-1 0 6-1 5 10 ng
Acid number ng ng 5.6 ng
a20°C; 15'Cc; 25%: ng, not given; BP, British Pharmacopoeia: EOA, Essential Oil Association.
Figures in columns are ranges.
194 Chapter 6

Table 6.8. Leaf oil is also produced in India and oil originating from
commercial estates in Kerala State is of international quality. Oil from other
Indian regions is very variable, and some published analyses may be from
material other than C. zlerum. The eugenol content is generally 70-85%, and
some characteristics are shown in Table 6.10. Seychelles oil is a valued
source of eugenol, usually above 90%, with phenols 78-95% and aldehydes
5%. Madagascar oil has a eugenol content of 70-90%, and a distinguishing
feature is the relatively high benzyl benzoate content. A GLC study of leaf oil
prepared from cultivated trees in Ghana showed 92% eugenol, 2% eugenol
acetate and 1% cinnamaldehyde (Angmor et al., 1972), but apparently no
significant amount of benzyl benzoate, although 3% was found in Sri
Lankan samples. A similar study on Malaysian oil gave a eugenol content of
68-82% and isoeugenol 5-9%, considerably lower than Sri Lankan oils.
Thus the geographical origin of leaf oil could be determined on eugenol and
certain minor component content, but this would require more data from
detailed analyses. The only common adulterant is clove leaf oil, used when
cinnamon leaf oil is higher in price; the reverse also occurs.
Root-bark oil is colourless to pale yellowish brown, similar in odour to
stem bark oil but weaker, lacking in fragrance, and camphoraceous. The
major component is camphor, to 60%, which crystallizes out on standing.
Oil yield from root bark at 1-2.8% is higher than from stem bark and leaves.
GLC studies of oil obtained from single sources in Sri Lanka (Wijesekera et
al., 1974), and Ghana (Angmor et al., 1972) showed monoterpene compo-
nents at 80%, cinnamaldehyde at 8%, and a trace of eugenol in the
Ghanaian sample. In the Sri Lankan sample, 22 components were identified

Table 6.10. Characteristics of leaf oil from selected origins

India Sri Lanka Seychelles Madagascar

Specific gravity 1.0443a 1.044a 1.0206b 1.054b
1.0620 1.066 1.064
Refractive index 1.51223~ 1.530a 1.533" 1.535c
1.5350 1.540 1.537
Optical rotation -I0 -I0 -2"32' -1'4'
t 3O t3" t 1'27'
Acid value 14 15.7 ng ng
Ester value 4.7 16.7 ng ng
Eugenol (%) 70.0 70.0 78.0 78.0
80.5 95.0 94.0
Cinnamaledehyde (%) ng <4 <5 ng
Solubility (viv alcohol 70%) 1:lO 1 :I .5 1:1.5 1:I
a30°C; 1 5 T : 20'C; ng, not given.
Figures in columns are the range.
Source: Abstracted from published data.
lauraceae 195

with 1,8-cineole (1 5%), eugenol (5%) and cinnamaldehyde (4%) the princi-
pal minor components, with monoterpene composition similar to stem bark
and leaf oils.
Oleoresin is prepared by extracting cinnamon bark with organic solvents;
the yield using ethanol is 10-12%, using benzene 2.5-4.3%; more recently
1,1,2-trichloro-1,2,2-trifluorethanehas been used (Bernard et al., 1989).
Oleoresin is a deep reddish or greenish brown rather viscous liquid, and
contains steam-volatile oil, fixed oil and other extractives dependent on the
solvent employed. Little information is available on the composition of
cinnamon oleoresins, but volatile oil content is 16-65%. The major use is in
flavourings, cake and similar mixes, pickles, prepared meats, convenience
foods and related products where flavour stability at high temperature is
important. Oleoresins are normally commercially available dispersed on
various bases and usually sold on a volatile oil content of 23-27 or 65%.
Oils obtained from a large number of other Cinnamomum spp. of little or
no commercial importance have been described from India (Gulati, 1982;
Khana et al., 1988): Sri Lanka (Wijesekera and Jayewardene, 1974; Sri-
tharan et al., 1994): Nepal (Sthapit and Tuladhar, 1993): the Philippines
(Concha and Cruz, 1968; Lawrence and Hogg, 1974): Taiwan and China
(Hiraizume, 1950: Hirota and Hiroi, 1967; Lin and Hua, 1980): Far East
(Fujita et al., 1974; Lin and Hua, 1987).


Sassafras oil production began after European settlement of North America,

and the oil is obtained by steam distilling root bark of Sassafras albidum Nutt.
Since the use of sassafras oil could decline following bans on its incorpora-
tion in certain foods and drinks in some countries, only brief details are
included. The oil is produced wholly from wild trees. Initial use was a
decoction obtained by boiling roots, prescribed as a stimulant or tonic, and
was derived from the indigenous peoples’ habit of chewing pieces of root to
alleviate fevers. The French later developed sassafras to treat kidney and
bladder stones, and the name sassafras is believed to be a distortion of the
Latin saxijrage meaning stone-breaker. It was used in medicine as Oleum
sassafras, and known as the ague tree; the local name was pronounced
pavane. The medicinal properties of sassafras were noted by Monardes
during an expedition to Florida in 1564, and in 1574 wood and roots were
sent to Spain. It was known as fennel wood, lignumfioridum and lignum
pavane from 1582 in Germany, and as sassafras wood in England from 1597.
An Italian, Angelus Sula, is credited as the first to distil the oil. In modern
times, sassafras oil was widely used in many countries to flavour soft drinks,
but little used in medicine.
196 Chapter 6

Sassafras albidum (Nutt.) Nees (syn. S. oflciizale Nees; S. variifolium Karst.;
S. sassafras Karst.; Laurtls sassafras L.) The generic and common name is
derived from the French or Spanish salsafras as noted, and the common
name is used in many languages almost without change. There are two other
members of the genus, S. randaieme Hayata, native to Taiwan and very
scarce, and S. tzumu Hemsl. which is more common in China and some-
times cultivated. All are generally similar in appearance. A number of
unrelated species are also called sassafras, including Californian sassafras
Umbellularia californica Nutt., swamp sassafras Magnolia virginiana L., and
Tasmanian sassafras Atherospemza moschatum Labill.
Sassafras is a deciduous tree to 35 m, but generally half this, and when
undisturbed has an irregular, pyramidal head. T h e bark is grey and vertically
fissured; the timber fragrant, tough and durable. Trunks were hollowed by
local people to make excellent canoes, and settlers later used the wood for
fence posts and casks. Wood and bark yield a bright yellow dye. The leaves
are alternate, 7.5-15 cm, three-veined, and vary in shape from more or less
entire when young to two- and then three-lobed when mature and all three
shapes can be found on the same branchlets. The colour is bright green
above, becoming orange and red in autumn. Sassafras is one of the few
deciduous laurels. Fresh leaves when crushed emit a strong sweet scent of
orange-lemon-vanilla, quite different from the odour of the root oil. Oil
distilled from fresh leaves contains citral and geraniol but little or no
The flowers are yellowish-green, usually unisexual sometimes bisexual, on
5 cm racemes, appearing before the leaves in April-May; petals are absent
and there are six sepal lobes. T h e male flowers have nine stamens; females a
single ovary and style. T h e fruit is an ovoid bluish-black slightly waxy drupe
7 mm in diameter, with a fleshy, red pedicel and containing one dark brown
to blackish ovoid seed, 6 X 4.5 mm; its wall is papery and brittle. Propaga-
tion is by seed, suckers which are freely produced, or root cuttings. Trans-
planting of large seedlings or young trees is difficult due to the long tap

Sassafras is native to eastern and south-eastern North America from Maine
to Florida, and west to Texas with the main producing areas in the Appa-
lachian Mountain region. Sandy soils are favoured, but sassafras can be
found on heavy loams, less often on more clayey soils. Because of its wide-
spreading and fast-growing root system, sassafras quickly colonizes cleared
land or neglected farmland, and grows rapidly in the first five years. It can
thus suppress more locally desirable species in its native habitat, and there
was a continuous supply of material available for distillation from farmers
and landowners keeping their properties free of sassafras. Trees less than ten
Lauraceae 197

years of age are normally not harvested in commercial felling as the oil yield
is too low.

Products and speciJications

Sassafras oil is obtained by steam distilling the dried inner bark of roots, to
yield 10%. Other plant parts also contain oil, but in insufficient quantities to
make distillation profitable. Fresh root bark is almost white, but darkens
rapidly on exposure. After removing the outer corky layer and drying, it is
marketed as crude sassafras or sassafras root. It is aromatic and slightly
mucilaginous, with a pungent and astringent taste. The bark also contains
tannins to 6%, the reddish colouring agent sassafrude to 9%; balsamic resin,
wax and gum producing a mucilage in water.
Sassafras oil is a yellowish to pale brownish- or reddish-yellow, somewhat
viscous liquid with a sweet-spicy, slightly camphoraceous odour. The main
constituents are safrole to 80%, phellandrene and pinene 10%. T h e major
components and main characteristics of sassafras oil are shown in Table
6.11. More detailed analyses have been published (Sethi et al., 1976;
Choudhury et al., 1976). T h e sweet, rather woody taste is a main reason for
the oil’s use in soft drinks, especially north American root beers. Sassafras is
also the main flavouring agent in sarsaparilla drinks, since the latter has little
taste or odour. Sarsaparilla oil is obtained by steam distilling roots of various
Smilex spp. A secondary use for sassafras oil is in soaps and similar products.
T h e oil has insecticidal and bactericidal properties and is a general antiseptic
due to the high phenol-ether content. A safrole-free oil is produced by
solvent extraction, and safrole is the raw material for heliotropin and other
fragrance materials.
True sassafras oil was almost replaced in international trade by Brazilian
Ocotea cymbarum oil (q.v.), and was frequently adulterated with ocotea oil,
synthetic sassafras oil, or a blend of unrelated essential oil fractions with
similar characteristics and odour of sassafras oil. Chinese sassafras oil is
obtained from a number of unrelated Cinnamomum species, or from brown
camphor oil as noted (Zhu et al., 1994). Production of Chinese oils sold as

Table 6.1 1, Constituents and characteristics of sassafras oil from the USAa,

Characteristic Constituent %
Specific gravity (25’Cj 1.065-1.076 Safrole 80
Refractive index (20’Cj 1.530 Alpha-pinene plus
Optical rotation (25”Cj t2’0 to t 4 9 Phellandrene 10
Acid number to 1.0 Camphene 7.0
Ester number 0.5-5.0 Eugenol 0.5
Solubility (viv) alcohol 1 :2 (90%) Other 3.0
Solidification 4-6°C
a Average values.
198 Chapter 6

sassafras oil in 1995 was about 1000 tonnes, with half further processed
domestically to produce heliotropin. Australian sassafras oil is obtained by
steam distilling the bark and leaves of Doyphoru sassafrus Endl. of the small
Monimiaceae family, whose members are confined to the Southern Hemi-
sphere tropics.
Doyphoru sassafras,locally known as golden deal, is native to warmer,
high rainfall areas of eastern Australia and is a tall rain-forest tree to 42 m but
generally smaller, to 1.2 m DBH. The leaves are opposite, oblong-
lanceolate, glossy green above, dull green below, and fragrant when crushed.
The flowers are white, 2-3 cm diameter, on three-flowered axillary panicles.
The fruits are ovoid, 2 cm, containing two to four seeds; the carpels are very
hairy. The wood is pale yellow when freshly cut, darkening with exposure.
The leaves, bark and sapwood contain the essential oil which it is now
unprofitable to produce. A characteristic of undisturbed D. sassafrus stands
are circular clumps of trees, each having arisen from a decayed central


The genus Ocotea Abl. contains some 350 species mainly in the New World
tropics and sparsely represented in Southern Africa and Madagascar. Many
species are important timber trees: in South Africa 0. bullata (Birch) E.
May, stinkwood, was so extensively felled that it is now a protected species;
wood of 0. rodiaei of South America is so hard it must be drilled before nails
or screws can be used, and is important in maritime construction. Brazilian
sassafras oil or, more correctly, ocotea oil (and it will be so designated), is
obtained from wood of 0. pretiosa and is similar in its main components to
true sassafras oil, for which it is generally substituted. The oil was initially
and incorrectly described as obtained from 0. cymbarum. There are at least
two types of 0.pretiosa in Brazil; one whose wood is rich in safrole, the other
containing methyleugenol and virtually no safrole (Mors et al. , 1959). Since
the latter is confined to Minas Gerais State and the former to Santa
Caterina, there is little local confusion over oil source. Any trace of a
cinnamon scent in ocotea oil is due to adulteration.
Production of ocotea oil is a recent development, beginning in the late
1930s and quickly reaching several hundred tonnes annually. Production is
wholly from wild trees which are abundant in Brazilian forests particularly in
Santa Catarina State. Although trees occur naturally in other South and
Central American countries, only in Brazil has it been commercially ex-
ploited for its oil. Uncontrolled cutting has resulted in depletion of suitable
trees close to distilleries, and transport costs are now affecting profitability of
the industry. Similarly to sassafras, only basic details are included.
lauraceae 199

Ocotea pretiosa is a medium-sized tree to 15 m sometimes taller, with a

single trunk to 30-50 cm DBH. The leaves are alternate, large, oblong to
oblong-lanceolate and a glossy dark green. The trees are dioecious. The
flowers are small and yellowish, in axillary panicles. The fruit is oval to 2 cm,
with a retained receptacle, and resembles an acorn (Fig. 6.6). Trees for oil
are felled, then the logs are transported to distilleries, reduced to chips and
sawdust and steam distilled. Distilleries may also operate as part of a
sawmill, processing offcuts, chips and sawdust from timber production.
Since efficiency varies widely, so does the type of oil produced, and only
modern, well-supervised plants produce oil of acceptable safrole content.
Oil yield varies from 0.9-2.0% depending mainly on age of tree and whether
newly felled or seasoned from lying in the forest after cutting. Reports of oil
yield are also confused by inclusion of wood from other Ocotea spp. very
similar in appearance to 0. pretiosa. For maximum oil yield Ocotea trees at
least 40 years old are preferred.

Fig. 6.6. Ocotea pretiosa, leafy shoot and fruit. (Agriculture Department, Georgetown, Guyana.)
200 Chapter 6

Products and speciJications

Ocotea oil is a pale to very pale oily liquid with a sweet, spicy, somewhat
camphoraceous odour and a sweet, woody taste similar to sassafras oil. Its
main constituent is safrole to 90%, with most other constituents below 1%.
Table 6.12 shows the main constituents and characteristics. Bark and leaf
oils contain the same major constituents but in differing ratios. The cam-
phor content of wood oil is low but is 30-33% in leaf and bark oil, while the
safrole content ofwood oil is at least twice that of the other two (Brasil et al.,
1979). The main use of ocotea oil is as a source of safrole but it is also used
in soaps and similar products. It is a direct substitute for sassafras oil in
flavouring food and drinks but will probably be subject to the same restraints
on such usage; it is used as an industrial perfume for masking undesirable
Ocotea cymbarum wood contains mainly alpha-phellandrene, p-cymene
and alpha-pinene, but no safrole (Diaz et al., 1980), while 0. quixos, a native
of Peru and neighbouring countries, is the source of a local ciiinamon spice
substitute. The dried flower calyx contains cinnamaldehyde, cinnamic acid
and methyl cinnamate (Naranijo et al., 1981). Ocotea wrightii, native to Cuba
and other Caribbean islands, has a very aromatic bark, but is not ex-

Laurus nobilis L. commonly bay laurel, is one of two members of the genus
Laurus, the other being L. azorica (Seub.) Franco. (syn. L. canariensis Webb
& Berth.), native to the Canary Islands hence the common name Canary
Island laurel, although a number of other species were formerly included in
the genus. In 1737 Linnaeus adopted the Latin Laurus for this tree and the
Greek Daphne for the quite different spurge-laurel and related species.
Laurel is widely applied as a suffix to common names of many unrelated
plants; ironically, dried laurel leaf used as a spice is called sweet bay or bay
leaf, although true bay oil and leaves are obtained from Pimenta racemosa
(Mill.), a member of the Myrtaceae (Chapter 8). Cherry laurel, Prunus

Table 6.12. Main constituents and characteristics of ocotea oil.

Characteristic Constituent (%)

Specific gravity (25°C) 1.076-1.092 Safrole > 90.0
Optical rotation (25%) -0'30' to -2"27' Alpha-pinene < 1.0
Refractive index (20° C) 1.5251-1.5363 Eugenol 0.6
Solubility (80% alcohol) 1 :&I0 Furfural 0.2
Congealing point ("C) 9.5-7.0 Cineole 0.2
Source: Abstracted from published data.
Lauraceae 201

laurocerasus L., has serrated leaves which contain prussic acid and taste of
bitter almond, and mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia L., also has toxic
Laurus nobilis was sacred to the god Apollo in classical Greece; legend has
it that when Daphne the nymph daughter of the earth goddess Gaia was
pursued by Apollo, slayer of her bridegroom, she entreated the Gods for
assistance, who changed her into a laurel tree. Apollo then crowned himself
with a circle of laurel leaves, and declared the tree sacred to his divinity. A
garland of woven laurel leaves was awarded as a symbol of honour or victory
in Rome, but it is said that Julius Caesar preferred a crown of Alexandrian
laurel (Ruscus racemosus), as its broader leaves covered more of his bald pate!
Later in the Middle Ages distinguished men were crowned with a wreath of
berried laurel, hence for example the English title of Poet Laureate. Uni-
versity graduates were known as Bachelors from the Latin baccalaureus
(bacco a berry and laureus of laurel) and they were forbidden to marry as this
would distract them from their studies; hence the general designation in
Europe of unmarried men as bachelors. Laurel was also said to confer the
gift of prophecy, and a withering laurel tree in a garden predicted a disaster.
As a spice it is considered a vital ingredient of the genuine bouquet gami.
Various parts of laurel have long been used in herbal medicine; an infusion
of fruit was used to suppress profuse menstruation, and to hasten childbirth.
Berry oil is also believed to assist in alleviating stomach disorders, and was
also used in veterinary medicine. Infusions of bark and leaves were fre-
quently prescribed to alleviate kidney disorders and respiratory problems.
Wild trees have been harvested for centuries in many Mediterranean
countries to produce dried leaves, particularly Turkey to which laurel is
indigenous. The international trade in dried laurel leaves (bay leaves)
exceeds 2000 t with Turkey normally supplying two-thirds. Laurel leaf oil is
of comparatively recent origin, although when it was first commercially
distilled is uncertain. The oil is produced in small quantities in Spain, Italy
and Turkey, and in other European countries from imported dried leaves.
Laurel oil is currently of little importance, but has a number of advantages
over dried leaves for food manufacturers. Should demand for oil increase,
production could be rapidly expanded, as laurel is an easily established and
managed plantation crop which can be fully mechanized.

Laurus nobilis is believed to have originated in Asia minor, but is now
indigenous to many Mediterranean and European countries and widely
introduced elsewhere as it is most adaptable. A variety of L. nobilis is native
to China, but the leaf oil has a high phenolic content similar to Pimenta
racemosa. Laurel is commonly planted in gardens as a hedge or screen, and
in tubs to produce fresh leaves for culinary use. There are many horticultural
varieties, and very popular is L. nobilis Aurea, golden or variegated laurel.
202 Chapter 6

Laurel is a leafy evergreen tree generally 5-10 m, but when cultivated is

usually pruned to below 3 m. The bark on mature trees is greyish and on
younger stems it is smooth and shiny, often with a reddish tint. An essential
oil can be obtained from young shoots and bark; the main constituent in bark
oil is 1,8-cineole to 40%, but alpha-terpinyl acetate to 45% in wood oil
(Kekelidze, 1987).
The leaves are carried on short petioles and are alternate, somewhat
leathery, entire, lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate, 3-7.5 X 1.5-3.0 cm,
slightly undulate, dark green shiny above and pale yellowish green below. Oil
is contained in cells which occur below the adaxial and abaxial epidermis,
and can be distinguished early in growth. A detailed description of their
structure and development has been published (Maron and Fahn, 1979).
The leaves have a faintly anise-like odour and an aromatic and slightly bitter
taste. Time of picking may have some influence on the taste and odour of
laurel leaves and leaf oil; in Israel 1,8-cineole content was highest (60%) in
spring, and lowest (40%) in summer (Putievsky et al., 1984). The oil content
of young shoots in Turkey is also substantially higher than that of mature
shoots (Anac, 1986), but in Russia highest leaf-oil content was in mature
leaves (Bagaturiya et al., 1985). Turkish laurel leaves have a very delicate
flavour favoured by international traders, and thus command a premium.
True laurel leaves can usually be distinguished from non-laurel species by
holding a leaf against the light, when the translucent leaf margin is plainly
visible (Fig. 6.7). The flowers are inconspicuous, yellowish, three to four in
small axillary umbels, with the sexes usually on separate trees. Each flower
has a whorl of four sepals; male flowers have 8-14 usually 12 stamens,
females have four stamminodes and one style. Flowering is normally in late
spring or early summer. The fruit is a small, hard, round (to 15 mm), shining
dark purple to black berry, surrounded by the persistent perianth.

Laurel favours regions of moderate rainfall, with long sunny periods. Al-
though tolerant of lower temperatures when mature, it is not generally frost
resistant and young trees and seedlings usually succumb to a severe frost.
Laurel is intolerant of waterlogging and, should this coincide with very cold
periods, mortality is high. Laurel generally grows below 700 m, the upper
limit being determined by the degree and occurrence of frost, and flourished
in frost free areas of the Kenya highlands between 2000 and 3000 m. Low
temperature due to altitude affects general growth of trees, can also reduce
leaf size, and may also reduce oil content of leaves. In Turkey and Greece oil
content is higher in leaves from trees growing at or near sea-level than from
those growing on inland hills (0. Anac, Istanbul University, personal
communication). Considerable regional and even district variation in leaf oil
composition exists, especially in relation to phenol and phenol-ether con-
tent, partly due to ecological factors but mainly to a dominant regional strain
Lauraceae 203

Fig. 6.7. Laurel leaves and berries.

or local type. Seasonal and agronomic factors however, especially time of

picking, are far more important in determining the type of oil produced.

Soils and fertilizers

Laurel flourishes on fertile, well-drained soils but is very adaptable under
good management, and soil per se is less important than other agronomic
factors as was demonstrated on heavy clay soil in Russia (Chkhaidze, 1990).
There is no information on the effect of fertilizers on the growth of laurel, oil
content of leaves, or oil composition and characteristics. In Russia, spent
leaves were returned to pilot plantations as mulch, and as protection against
frost damage to roots.

Laurel is generally uncultivated but can easily be grown in commercial
plantations, or existing natural stands managed on a more systematic basis
when this is profitable. Propagation is by 10-12 cm cuttings, taken from
mature sections of current season’s shoots in late summer, for planting out
the following spring. Cuttings from shoots arising from apical buds grew
more vigorously than shoots from lateral buds in Russia and Romania
(Vadachkoriya, 1984: Selaru, 1992). Cuttings root readily if correctly plan-
ted, tended, and treated with a fungicide (Ravid and Putievsky, 1984).
There is significant variation in leaf oil content and oil components between
individual trees (Kutubidze and Kharebava, 1990), thus selecting a high-
yielding parent should quickly increase average oil yield per hectare, and
204 Chapter 6

micropropagation should quickly produce large numbers of plantlets (Sta-

nica et al., 1992). Plants may be grown from seed but germination is often
irregular. Soaking seed for 12-24 hours in warm water can increase per-
centage germination and hasten emergence, and such seed sown in poly-
thene bags containing a potting mixture resulted in 98% germination in
Georgia (Vadachkoriya and Loladze, 1986). Shading and mulching seed-
beds can increase germination and early seedling growth (Sheryshov, 1975),
but the time and expense involved are often too great.
When grown as a rainfed tree crop to provide cash income for small-
holders, 6 m between mature trees is desirable and the initial spacing should
allow for progressive thinning to the final stand. Thus an initial 3 X 3 m
spacing will allow sufficient bushes to provide an income while trees are
growing. Closer spacing is possible in commercial plantations; in Russia, 0.5
X 2 m rows, in Israel 2 X 3 m where supplementary irrigation is available.
Hedge-type trees may be required in fully mechanized plantations
(Chkhaidze and Vadachkoriya, 1989). Interplanting with low-growing an-
nual crops is possible in the first 2-4 years to reduce establishment cost and,
in less-developed regions, a permanent system of intercropping laurel could
be the most profitable. Weeding is generally manual and there are no records
of herbicides being used.
Well-rooted spring planted cuttings should be ready for first harvest in
autumn of the same year when irrigated or in the following year if raingrown.
T h e time of harvesting can significantly affect oil yield and oil composition,
as previously noted. In general, leaf oil content tends to rise as the season
progresses and the proportion of newly mature leaves rises. The ratio
between major oil constituents also varies over the same period, especially
1,8-cineole, from 25 to 55%, although seldom exceeding 40% in distilled oil
(Anac, 1986; Kekelidze et al., 1987; Riaz et al., 1989). Oil from young leaves
in the Russian spring was high in terpinen-4-01, alpha-pine01 and eugenol
and in summer it was high in pinene, sabinene and cineole, but the highest
content of 1,8-cineole was in oil from leaves harvested in November (Baga-
turiya et al., 1985).
Three harvests per year are possible in commercial plantations, but two
cuts generally gives the highest yield of green material. Cutting twice to 40
cm above ground in Russia gave twice the yield of dry leaves at 4900 kgiha
over cutting once to 8-10 cm (Chkhaidze and Vadachkoriya, 1985;
Chkhaidze, 1988), but irrigated plants cut once annually to 60 cm in Israel
gave a calculated yield of 9000 kgiha fresh leaves. Leaves apparently grow
vigorously for 30-40 days, more slowly for the next 15-20 days, generally
cease growing after approximately 60 days, and may remain on trees for 1-3
years. The yield of green leaves per tree will vary with the system of
management, since this will influence the number of leaves and their rate of
growth. Irrigated plantings in Israel averaged 5.5 kg green leaves from trees
7-9 years old, equal to an oil yield of 91 liha (Putievsky et al., 1984). The
Lauraceae 205

reported variation in leaf yield per tree from various countries indicates that
selection could quickly increase average yield per hectare. Harvesting is
currently mainly manual but hand-held mechanical cutters could be more
frequently employed. In Russia when laurel was grown in hedges and
mechanically harvested, one annual or three cuts every two years were the
most profitable (Chkhaidze and Kechakmadze, 199 1).

Oil yield from fresh laurel leaves is normally 0.5-3.5% and from dried leaves
1.25-2.5%. There is little difference in the oil content of leaves dried at
temperatures of 40 to 70°C under controlled conditions, with the recom-
mended temperature 60-70°C (Skrubis, 1982), but when over-dried in the
sun, oil quality can be adversely affected. When correctly dried, there is no
significant difference in constituents and characteristics between oil from
fresh or dried leaves; it is only the yield which varies. The method of distilling
has a direct effect on oil yield and composition, but the data are conflicting.
In general, it appears that water and steam distillation or a combination
produce oils of similar composition but varying yield. Oil produced by
hydro-diffusion differs significantly in composition, having much less
1,8-cineole and monoterpenes but more monoterpenoid alcohols, acetates
and benzenoids (Boelens and Sindreu, 1986).

Pests and diseases

There is little information on the economic damage caused by insects, and
most records are from garden plants. The abundance of wild trees ensures
that there is always a sufficiency of leaves, even when individuals or small
areas may suffer severe damage. Diseases are far more important and often
widespread in any specific population. The two most damaging diseases of
wild laurel are a root rot caused by Phytophthora spp. which also attacks other
Lauraceae, and leaf spots caused by Colletotrichum spp; P. cinnamomi can
damage plants a t any age and growth stage. Symptoms in young plants are a
general yellowing and wilting of leaves and failure of stems, and a severe
attack is fatal. Such plants in plantations should be uprooted, burnt and
replaced by healthy stock. On more mature plants, leaves turn yellow and fall
and twigs may die back. A severe infection may cause general defoliation and
often death; in one less severe only part of the tree dies. Symptoms of
infection by C. laurus are brown spots which become progressively larger and
coalesce. The leaves desiccate and fall and, unless controlled, leaf loss can be
severe. Commonly there is a general but low level of infection with only
minor damage to leaves, but it is accompanied by a substantial fall in leaf-oil
content. Routine spraying may be necessary in areas where the disease is
endemic. Chemicals can leave residues on leaves or in oil and analyses
should always be carried out to determine if this is so, and the spraying
206 Chapter 6

programme adjusted accordingly. Residues of DDT and BHC in dry leaves

have been detected (Sullivan, 1980).

Products and speciJications

An essential oil is obtained by steam distilling leaves or berries, and a fat
expressed from berries whose main constituent is glycerol laurate plus a
volatile element high in cineole. The main constituents and characteristics of
leaf oil are shown in Table 6.13; the major component is 1,8-cineole at
40-45% and over 100 constituents have been isolated (Boelens and Sin-
dreu, 1986; Lawrence, 1993). Different distilling methods affect the propor-
tion of main constituents and oil characteristics which can vary, sometimes
considerably, from those quoted. Leaf oil is normally colourless or very pale
yellow, with a strong, sweet, aromatic, slightly camphoraceous odour and a
sweet-warm, spicy taste. The oil is used to replace dried leaves in flavouring
meats, pickles, processed foods, confectionery, etc. since amounts used can
be more accurately controlled and thus the desired flavour level in finished
products. The oil is used to a lesser extent in perfumery, toiletries and soaps.
One well-known use in the Middle East was the manufacture of Aleppo's
famous sabun bighar, containing olive oil and 5 2 0 % laurel oil. This golden
soap has been produce and exported from Syria for at least 500 years.
Laurel leaf oil with its major constituent, 1,8-cineole, differs from that of
Umbellularia calijornica (Nutt), the Californian or mountain laurel with
umbellulone as its major constituent (Buttery et al., 1974), and Pirnenta
racemosa (Mill) J.W.Moore, the true bay whose main constituents are
eugenol and chavicol (Chapter 8). The three oils are thus not interchange-
able or alternatives for their particular uses in the pharmaceutical and food-
processing industries. The main constituent of leaf oil from Laurus azom'ca L.

Table 6.13. Main constituents and characteristics of laurel leaf oil.

Characteristic Constituent (%) a

Specific gravity (15°C) 0,912-0.926 1,8-Cineole 40
Optical rotation -1V16'to 1 8 " t I ' Alpha-terpinyl acetate 9
Refractive index (20°C) 1.4669-1.4695 Sabinene 7
Saponification number 13.0-36.6 Alpha-pinene 7
Solubility (80% alcohol) 111 vlv Beta-pinene 4
Terpinen-4-01 4
Alpha-terpineol 3
Linalool 10
pCymene 1
Gamma-terpinene 1
Methyleugenol 5
aAverage figures. The ratio may not occur in the same sample, as there is considerable, though not
wide, variation in oil obtained by similar methods of distillation.
lauraceae 207

is alpha-pinene at 12-15%, beta-pinene at 5 4 % and only 10-12%

1,8-cineole and it is not an alternative to laurel (Hokwerda et al., 1982).
Berry oil is a pale, greenish, or olive yellow mobile liquid with a spicy,
camphoraceous odour and a warm spicy taste. The major constituent is
terpinen-4-01, and although the oil's composition is similar to that of leaf oil,
the relative proportions of components are quite different. Little berry oil is
produced. Laurel leaf oleoresin (commercially bay leaf oleoresin) is pro-
duced in very small quantities almost wholly in the USA for a very limited
market in the processed food industry.

Litsea cubeba
The genus Litsea Lam. contains about 200 species widely distributed in
tropical Asia, Australia and the Pacific, and many members produce fruit or
seeds containing a fixed or volatile oil. In Java, the hard fat from L. sebifera
Pers. seeds is used in candles and soaps, bark from L. diversifolia Hk.f.
produces a poor quality cinnamon extract, and an essential oil is obtained
from fruit of L. cubeba.
Litsea cubeba (Lour) Persoon. (syn. L. citrata, Tetranthera polyantha var.
citrata Nees) is native to east Asia, especially China where it is known as may
chang and extensively cultivated, and to a lesser extent in Taiwan and Japan.
Litsea cubeba is also known as tropical verbena, more accurately applied to
Aloysia triphylla Britt. the lemon verbena, to which it is not related.
Litsea cubeba is a small tropical tree with fragrant flowers and leaves, which
emit a lemony odour when crushed. The small fruit resemble cubeb pepper,
hence the species name. Steam-distilling fruit produces an essential oil with
a high citral content, to 85%; specific gravity (26°C) 0.866-0.893; optical
rotation about +7.0"; refractive index 1.46-1.48. The oil is a pale yellow
mobile liquid with an intense, lemony, fresh-fruity odour, sweeter than
lemongrass but not so tenacious. China is the main producer and consumes
a significant proportion domestically (Liu et al., 1990). An oil can also be
distilled from bark whose main component is citronellal, and from leaves
with the main component cineole, but both are of no commercial im-

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stituents of leaf, stem and root oils of cinnamon. J. Sci. Fd. Agric. 25,
Wijesekera, R.O.B. et al. (1976) Cinnamon. Natural Products Monograph No. 1,
ISIR, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Yaacob, K.B. (1980) The essential oil industry and its potential role in the develop-
ment of Malaysia. In: Proc. 8th Int. Cong. Ess. Oils. Grasse, France, pp.
lauraceae 213

Zhu, L., Ding, D. and Lawrence, B.M. (1994) The Cinnamomum species in China.
Perjiuum. Flavour. 19(4), 17-22.
The order Magnoliales contains several major families including the Myr-
isticaceae of 18 genera, Myristica L. being the largest with 70-75 species.
Two others, Pycnanthus Warb. and Virola Aubl., contain species of eco-
nomic importance; P. angolensis Warb. a tropical hardwood exported from
West Africa as ilomba, and V. surinamensis Warb. and related species
exported from South America as virola.
The Myristica are normally evergreen trees of tropical lowland rain forests
from India and Sri Lanka eastwards through South East Asia to Taiwan, the
Pacific islands and Australia. Papua New Guinea is considered to be centre
of origin and distribution of the genus with some 40 known species, 34 of
which are endemic. A number of Myristica species are cultivated on a minor
scale, but only M . fragrans Houtt., nutmeg, is grown commercially. Seeds of
many species are locally utilized, and it is possible some could be marketed
for their individual characteristics if regularly available in sufficient quantity,
since there is now considerable consumer demand for a greater range of
natural flavourings. Seed and arils from fruit of M . succadanea Blume.,
cultivated in hill regions of the Molucca Islands, are sold and exported as
nutmeg and mace, while seeds and arils from the Papua nutmeg M . argentea
Warb., and the Bombay or false nutmeg M . malabarica Lam., are used as
adulterants of genuine nutmeg products. The Papua nutmeg has a peculiar
odour and rank flavour, but the Bombay nutmeg has little odour or taste.
Myristica canarica Bedd., which grows wild in western India, has seed with a
very high fat content and, when crushed and inserted in hollow bamboo, is
used as candles. Seed of M . laurifolia Warb., wild in India and Sri Lanka, and
M . elliptica Wall. in Malaysia, are locally used as nutmeg substitutes.
Myristica muelleri, which is native to northern Australia, bears a nutmeg-
flavoured fruit used as a substitute by early European settlers. Myristica
castaneaefolia Grey which grows wild in Fiji and other Pacific Islands is
locally used to treat diarrhoea.
A relative in the Annonaceae, Monodora myristica Dunal., the calabash or
African nutmeg native to west and east Africa, has seeds which resemble

Myristicaceae 215

nutmeg in odour and flavour. The seed is collected for sale in local markets,
especially in Nigeria, and substantial amounts are involved nationally
(Onyenekwe and Ogbadu, 1993). A member of the Lauraceae, Cyptocaya
moschata Nees.& Mart. the Brazil nutmeg, is similarly used in South Amer-
ica. The so-called clove-nutmeg is obtained from Ravensara aromatica
Gmel.; the Californian nutmeg is Torreya californica Torr. Use of the term
nutmeg without qualification in the text refers to M . fragrans and its


Nutmeg is considered native to Banda and Amboina islands in the MO-

luccas, Indonesia, and is seldom found as a truly wild plant but, because of
its popularity as a spice, it has been planted wherever conditions are suitable.
Nutmeg is commercially cultivated in very few countries, Indonesia and the
Caribbean island of Grenada being the most important with lesser amounts
from Sri Lanka. According to the Directorate General of Plantations, the
area under nutmeg in Indonesia was 67,000 ha in 1994 producing 14,000 t
of nutmegs, and the Central Bureau of Statistics stated that exports of
nutmeg and mace for the years 1989 to 1994 were, in tonnes (mace in
brackets): 2470 (465), 6392 (1050), 7335 (1549), 4658 (1180), 7500
(1150), 7900 (1400).
The use of nutmeg as a food flavouring or medicine has a long history in
its original home, and probably also in China, but there are few early
references which positively identify the spice. It was recorded in the Sanskrit
Susruta Samhita about AD 600 as jaiphal, and probably arrived by trade from
Hindu colonists of Java. Nutmeg was unknown to the Greeks or Romans,
and the first authentic European record is by Actius of Constantinople in
about AD 540. Nutmeg is not mentioned in the Christian bible, nor the
Periplus of The Erythrean Sea probably written about AD 200, although
many other spices carried to the region are discussed therein. Arab traders
brought it to Europe from the Moluccas via Java and India and, as with other
spices, the Arabs hid the true source to avoid competition; however it was an
Arab, Kazwini, who is regarded as first to publish the Moluccas as source of
nutmeg in AD 1300.
By the twelfth century it was well known in Europe and in 119 1, when
Emperor Henry V1 entered Rome for his coronation, the streets were
fumigated with nutmegs and other strewing aromatics. In the thirteenth
century, mace was selling in England for 4s 7d per lb, equal to one sheep or
half a cow. It was the search for a route to the spice islands which resulted in
Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498 and by 15 12 the Portuguese had
reached the Moluccas, source of the nutmeg trade which they were to
216 Chapter 7

dominate for nearly a century. The Portuguese were replaced in the sev-
enteenth century by the Dutch, who in turn monopolized the trade for
another 200 years.
The Dutch endeavoured to limit nutmeg production to Banda and
Amboina by forcible destruction of all other trees and by 1650 this was
generally effected. Many writers commented that the scheme was thwarted
by fruit pigeons which swallowed seeds and voided them on neighbouring
islands, but the original source of this statement was not identified and the
reports discredited. Fruit pigeons are, however a major dispersal agent for
Virola surinamensis; birds swallow whole ripe seeds, digest the aril and void
the seed at a distance from the parent tree (Howe and Kerckhove, 1980). In
addition to limiting production in the Moluccas, the Dutch East India
Company in 1735 burnt 570,000 kg of surplus nutmegs in Amsterdam to
successfully maintain a high price. Supplies of mace were also deliberately
restricted, and the 1806 London price was 85-90 shillings per pound plus
import duty of 7s Id per pound.
The first attempt to break the Dutch monopoly was by the French on
Mauritius, then Ile de France, when Pierre Poivre obtained 32 nutmeg
plants in the Far East and arrived at Port Louis in December 1753 with only
five survivors. Later, Provost in the ship 1’Etoile du Matin was able to collect
quantities of nutmeg seeds and seedlings and a smaller number of clove
seedlings on the island of Begy. He returned to Ile de France where their
arrival has been graphically described (Ly-Tio-Fane, 1958). Despite an
export ban, plants from his expedition were taken to the Seychelles, Reunion
(Ile de Bourbon) and Cayenne. A later governor, Cere, discovered nutmeg
was unisexual. According to a contemporary writer ‘The first French nut-
meg was picked in December 1778 in the presence of a distinguished
assembly and Cere afterwards gave a magnificent reception to celebrate the
event’. Nutmeg was introduced to Zanzibar in 1818 from Mauritius or
Reunion but, although trees thrived, nutmeg never became as important as
During the British occupation of the Moluccas (1 796-1 802), the Hon-
ourable East India Company sent their botanist, Christopher Smith to
collect seedlings of nutmeg and clove to establish the spice in Penang and
other countries under British control. Smith trained at Kew and had sailed
with Bligh on the Providence. By 1798 there were 600 nutmeg and some
clove trees growing in Penang; two years later 5000 nutmeg plants and
15,000 cloves arrived, more in following years, until by 1802 Smith had sent
71,265 nutmeg and 55,265 clove plants to Penang. The first Penang tree
fruited in 1802 but, in general, trees were not well tended and in 1805 the
company sold their spice gardens, then containing 51,000 nutmeg and 1600
clove trees. Penang nutmeg and mace were considered superior to Mo-
luccan products, a reputation maintained until the industry declined. Sir
Stamford Raffles, who founded Singapore in 18 19, supported local nutmeg
Myristicaceae 217

planting but trees did not thrive. Most trees in Penang and Singapore were
destroyed by disease between 1859-1886, and although cultivation in
Penang was later revived, commercial production virtually ceased early this
century (Burkhill, 1966).
Introduced into Sri Lanka in 1804, nutmeg flourished and continues to do
so as a minor crop. Nutmeg was taken to the Caribbean island of St Vincent
in 1802, probably from Kew, and was among the first plants transferred to
Port-of-Spain Botanic Gardens, Trinidad, in 1824. Planted on Grenada in
1843, the first crop large enough to influence the world market was exported
in the mid-l860s, and Grenada continues to be a leading producer of
nutmeg and mace. Mace is more expensive than nutmeg and there exist
much-quoted anecdotes concerning British and Dutch colonial officials in
Europe, who unaware that both spices come from the same tree, requested
growers in Indonesia and Grenada to reduce nutmeg and increase mace
Nutmegs have long been used in herbal remedies, in medicine, and
preserved in syrup were formerly a delicacy in Europe, but became un-
popular when their toxic effects were generally appreciated. Nutmegs have
long been used as a narcotic but the first recorded hallucinogenic effect was
by Lobelius in 1576, who in his Plantarurn seu Stiripium Historia described a
pregnant English lady who ‘became deliriously inebriated after eating 10-1 2
nutmegs’ apparently to induce an abortion. The physiologist J.E. Purkinje in
1829 ate three nutmegs and described the effects as similar to Cannabis
intoxication, including disorientation, hallucinations and later a deep sleep.
Subsequently a number of descriptions of nutmeg-induced poisoning, delir-
ium or hallucinations were published. The response to nutmeg intoxication
is extremely varied, some individuals experience a profound distortion of
time and space and have visual hallucinations, and freshly grated nutmeg
produces the most profound intoxication (Weil, 1965). When these effects
were first noted and how used is uncertain, none suggest a religious motive.
A Materia Medica published in Bombay in 1883 stated the Hindus of West
India take Myristica as an intoxicant, while an Ayurvedic name for nutmeg is
made shaundu, narcotic fruit. Nutmeg powder is mixed with betel nut and
snuff in certain parts of southern India, and in Indonesia powdered nutmeg
is also used as a snuff. On Zanzibar and Pemba the author found local
women chewed nutmegs (kungumanga) as an alternative to smoking the
local bhang (marijuana), with almost the same effects.
The aromatic ethers are the most likely source of hallucinations from
either M . fragrans or M . malabarica, but the mode of action remains obscure.
Myristicin constitutes about 4% of nutmeg oil, and 25% of this fraction is
elemicin, which degrades to two potent hallucinogens, TMA (trimethoxy
amphetamine) and MMDA (3-methoxy-4, 5-methylenodioxy ampheta-
mine) by becoming ammoniated in the body. Crude nutmeg and myristicine
(a synthetic) both produce a degree of monoamine oxidase inhibition in vivo
218 Chapter 7

and in vitro. While in vitro studies showed conversion of nutmeg oil to

amphetamines, it has not yet been shown to occur in vivo (Emboden, 1979).
Although nutmeg is seldom deliberately used as a narcotic, bark extract from
the closely related Virola spp. is widely used in the Amazon region to
produce a hallucinatory snuff, used by local shamans to induce a religious

Myristica fragrans Houtt. (syn. M . oficinalis L.f.; M . moschata Thunb.; M .
aromatica Swartz; M . amboinensis Gand.) Basic chromosome number of the
genus is x = 7, and nutmeg 2n = 42. There are no recognized varieties of M .
fragrans, but many local cultivars. The English nutmeg is from the Latin
muscus, via French mugue and medieval English notemuge; mace from
maccis. Spanish neuz moscada;Portuguese noz moscado, mace macca or clava;
Dutch notemuskaat, mace foelie; Malay buah pala; India jaiphal generally,
Tamil sadhi-kai; Sri Lanka sadhika; Indonesian pala, with local suffixes; bali,
mada, etc.
Nutmeg is a spreading dioecious evergreen tree to 15 m with dark green
leaves, yellow flowers without petals and large yellowish fruit (Fig. 7.1). All
parts of the tree are aromatic. The roots are generally extensive, superficial,
often partially exposed, and on light soils trees are often unstable. The trees
are normally 10-15 my but to 25 m, with one main trunk to 30 cm DBH.
The bark is greyish-black, becoming darker and fissured longitudinally with
age; when slashed it exudes a watery sap. An essential oil containing no
aldehydes can be obtained by steam distilling the bark to yield 0.15%.
Branching is extensive beginning almost at the butt; the twigs are slender,
glabrous, greyish-brown, and carry a large number of leaves which form a
dense canopy.
The leaves are alternate, glabrous, and exstipulate, on a 1 cm petiole.
They measure 5-1 5 X 2-7 cm and are elliptic or oblong-lanceolate, with the
base acute and the tip acuminate. They are coriaceous, shiny, medium to
dark green above and light green or subglaucous below. The blade has 8-1 1
pairs of slender nerves curving out to the edge with indistinct anastomosis;
reticulations are usually invisible above, but distinct beneath, forming a lax
network. The leaves are aromatic and steam distilling produces an oil similar
to weak nutmeg oil, of little commercial importance. The characteristics of
an Indonesian leaf oil were (all at 25°C); specific gravity 0.860-0.865;
optical rotation - 1' to + 4 O ; refractive index 1.471-1.473; acid number
0.29-0.80; ester number 1.1-5.1; after acetylation 16.2-30.1; solubility in
90% alcohol 1: 1; yield 1.3-1.4% (Rusli and Murdjanah, 1977). Distillation
time affects oil characteristics; for example specific gravity changed from
0.8606 to 0.8630 after 3 and 9 hours respectively. Where it is profitable to
distil leaf oil, fallen leaves are collected, as in Indonesia, where individual
Myristicaceae 219

trees shed 0.7 kg dry leaves weekly yielding 1.5-3.0% oil. Dried leaves
contained 10% myristicin and 80% alpha-pinene (Meyer, 194 1).
The tree is typically dioecious, a proportion bear male and female flowers,
more rarely hermaphrodite flowers, but mature male trees occasionally
produce female flowers and may eventually become female. There is no
satisfactory method of determining tree sex until flowering, but it has been
claimed nutmeg seedlings can be sexed with reasonable accuracy by a
colorimetric test using ammonium molybdate as a reagent (Phadnis and
Choudhari, 197 l), or by the shape of oxalate crystals in leaves (Nayar et al.,
Male and female inflorescences are similar; glabrous, axillary, and carry-
ing 1-10 flowers in umbellate cymes. The main axis measures 1.0-1.5 cm
and is not branched or rarely branched more than twice. The pedicels are
pale green, 1.O-1.5 cm, with a minute caducous bracteole a t the flower base.
The flowers are fragrant, creamy-yellow, waxy, fleshy and glabrous (Fig.
7.2). The calyx is bell-shaped, nectiferous at the base, with reflexed triangu-
lar lobes. Petals are absent. T h e male flowers are smaller than the female; the
androecium to 7 mm, glabrous, stalk 2 mm, apex acute, 8-10 stamens with
anthers adnate to a central column and attached to each other by their sides.
Female flowers are up to 1 cm, with the ovary sessile, puberulous, superior,
one-celled, to 7 mm, and surmounted by a very short, white, two-lipped

Fig. 7.1. Myristica fragrans, nutmeg. A, Flowering shoot of male tree; B, male flower with part of calyx
removed; C, female flower with part of calyx removed; D. female flower in longitudinal section; E, shoot
with dehiscing fruit; F, seed surrounded by aril; G, seed in longitudinal section. (Purseglove eta/.,
1981 .)
220 Chapter 7

stigma: anthesis occurs in the early morning from 3-5 a.m. T h e floral
biology and histology of flowers has been studied in detail (Armstrong and
Drummond, 1986). An essential oil of no commercial importance can be
extracted from flowers. Trees may flower throughout the year, but there are
normally two peaks; July and October in Kerala, India. Insects are the
primary pollinators and excluding them from a female tree prevented
pollination and fruit set on Grenada (Cruickshank, 1973); in India, small
beetles were particularly important (Armstrong and Drummond, 1986) and
in some areas a specific insect may be pre-eminent, Formicomus braminus in
T h e fruit is a yellow fleshy drupe resembling a large apricot, usually
pendulous, broadly pyriform, smooth, 6-9 cm, with a circumferential longi-
tudinal ridge and persistent remains of the stigma, and containing one seed
(Fig. 7.3). When ripe the succulent, aromatic pericarp, about 1.3 cm thick,
splits along the suture to expose the purplish-brown lustrous seed (nutmeg)
enveloped in a crimson, fleshy, lacinated membrane, the aril (mace) (see
Fig. 7.4). The pericarp, or pod, is used in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singa-
pore for jellies and preserves. Also in Malaysia piles of rotting pods provide
excellent material to grow the very popular mushroom kulutpala, and pods
are in great demand for this purpose. The seed is ovoid or ellipsoidal,
2.0-4.0 X 1.5-2.5 cm, with considerable variation in shape and size between
individual trees. Trees bearing different types of fruit in the Moluccas are

Fig. 7.2. Nutmeg flower.

Myristicaceae 22 1

distinguished by a suffix; pala bali has large globoid fruit, pala tidore has pear-
shaped fruits (Nitta, 1993).
The seed surface is furrowed, longitudinally wrinkled, the raphe groove
extending from basal scar to apical depression; it is relatively soft when fresh,
becoming hard with age or drying, and is easily cut or scraped. A cut surface
shows the pale brown endosperm marked by many veins containing the
essential oil. When the seed is halved longitudinally, remains of the small
embryo are visible. A detailed description of the morphology and histology
of seed and aril has been published (Parry, 1962). Cut seed has a character-
istic aromatic scent and a warm slightly bitter taste. Dried seed is the nutmeg
of the international spice trade, dried aril is the spice mace, and a detailed
description of the preparation of both has been published (Purseglove et al.,
Nutmegs usually contain, in per cent: water 9, carbohydrate 30, protein 7 ,
fixed oil 33, essential oil 4.5. Analyses of Indian nutmegs gave average
values, in per cent: moisture 14.3, protein 7.5, ether extract 36.4, carbohy-
drate 28.5, fibre 11.6, mineral matter 1.7, calcium 0.12, phosphorus 0.24,

Fig. 7.3.Nutmeg fruit

222 Chapter 7

Fig. 7.4. Nutmeg. L to R: dried and wet nutmeg; aril; nutmeg enclosed in aril

iron 4.6 mgilOOg (Gopalan et al., 1971). A semi-solid yellowish-red butter

can be obtained by pressing with a yield of 24-30'30, containing trimyristin to
75% and 13% essential oil. Individual nutmegs vary considerably in volatile
oil composition; when six Indonesian nutmegs were extracted, methyl
eugenol was 0.3-18.0% of volatiles; myristicin 0.2-15.0% and myristic acid
from 0-11'30 (Sandford and Heinz, 1971), with no correlation between
external appearance and volatiles content. The variation in composition
between individual nutmegs from one region is frequently greater than the
average variation between regions, indicating an almost unlimited reservoir
of material for selection or breeding purposes.
Mace contains about 22% fixed and 10% essential oil, although these
levels are very variable plus, in per cent, moisture 16, carbohydrates 48,
phosphorus 0.1, iron 12.6 mg/lOO g. Analysis of Indian mace gave 21.6%
ether extract with chloroform-soluble lipids accounting for 88% by weight,
consisting of, in per cent, neutral lipids 60, glycolipids 27 and phospholipids
13; neutral lipids were mainly glycerides, free fatty esters and hydrocarbons,
with free sterols 1.7% and sterol esters 0.9% respectively; the main fatty
acids were palmitic and oleic (Prakashchandra and Chandrasekharappa,
1984). The red pigment in mace, so important in influencing its commercial
value as a spice, has been determined as lycopene, identical with the red
colourant in tomato (Gopalkrishnan et al., 1979).
The main characteristics of nutmeg and mace oils are shown in Tables 7.1
and 7.2, and West Indian oils are considered of finer quality than Indonesian
(East Indian). The main constituents of nutmeg oil are, in per cent: ten
monoterpene hydrocarbons 60-90, six oxygenated monoterpenes 5-1 5 and
Myristicaceae 223

Table 7.1, Physical characteristics of nutmeg oils.

West Indiana Indonesiana Sri Lankanb

Specific gravity 0.860-0.880 0.885-0.915 0.835-0.903
Refractive index 1.472-1.476 1.475-1.488 1.463-1.482
Optical rotation t 2 5 " to t 4 0 " t8" to 25O t21"o t42O
Solubility (viv % alcohol) 1:4 (90%) 1 :3 (90%)
Source: a BSS (at 20°C); Sarath-Kumana, 1985 (at 30°C).

five aromatic ethers 2-20; main constituents of mace oil are, per cent:
monoterpene hydrocarbons 75-95, oxygenated monoterpenes and sesqui-
terpenes 4-18, aromatic ethers 0-6. Oil composition is further discussed in
the section on products and specifications.
A number of commercially accepted grades of nutmeg are recognized, and
those currently exported by the two major producers, Indonesia and Gre-
nada, are summarized as they will occur in the text. In both countries sound
nutmegs are graded as 80s or 11OS, according to size in numbers per pound;
mixtures of sizes are exported as sound unsorted. Sound nutmegs are used
mainly for grinding and to a lesser extent for oleoresin extraction in import-
ing countries. Substandard nutmegs of two types are exported from In-
donesia, sound shrivelled and BWP (broken, wormy and punky). In Gre-
nada, floats from the water-flotation process plus badly bruised and broken
pieces of sound nutmegs are combined in a defectives grade, similar to
Indonesian BWP but generally of higher quality. Indonesian sound shriv-
elled nutmegs contain a higher percentage of volatile oil than mature sound
nutmegs and are used for grinding, oleoresin extraction and oil distillation in
importing countries. West Indian defectives and Indonesian BWP grades
are seldom distilled, since both normally yield below 8% oil. Indonesia
exports two distilling grades; the poorest BIA or ETEZ has a volatile oil
content of 8-10%; the BSL or AZWI grade contains less shell material with
12-13% volatile-oil content. Grenada exports a distillation grade to the
USA consisting solely of floats. Two types of poorest quality Indonesian

Table 7.2. Physical characteristics of mace oil and oleoresin,

Caribbean oil Indonesian oil Oleoresin

~~~ ~ ~ ~ ~~~ ~ ~

Specific gravity (25")0.854-0.880 0.880-0.930 0.955-1.005

Refractive index (20°)1.469-1 ,480 1.474-1.488 1.469-1.500 (of oil)
Optical rotation t2O0 to t45O t2"to t 3 0 " -2" to 45" (of oil)
Solubility (viv % alcohol) 1:4(90%) 1:3 (90%) ng
Volatile oil ng "g 20-50 ml/lOO g
ng, not given.
Source: EOA specifications.
224 Chapter 7

nutmegs are distilled locally and are rarely seen in international trade: an
assortment of broken and decayed fragments, and Padang originating
mainly from this region of Sumatra.
Indonesian dried mace is exported as either whole or broken blades;
Grenadian cured mace as whole pale mace, No. 1 broken mace, No. 2
broken mace, unassorted and pickings. The No. 2 broken grade consists of
material which does not acquire the desired pale colour and is generally
shipped in bags. Whole pale mace and No. 1 broken mace are packed in
cases for export.

Nutmeg is native to the wet tropics and trees thrive with a high well-
distributed rainfall and moderately high temperature with little seasonal
variation. An annual rainfall of 2200-3700 mm is considered the optimum
for high fruit yield, but trees grow and fruit well at 1500-2500 mm with good
management; below 1500 mm where irrigation is available. In regions with
a pronounced dry season, as on Grenada where there can be 2-3 months
without rain, fruiting is more seasonal than in Indonesia. A temperature of
2 5 3 5 ° C is the optimum and, although mature trees are little affected by
lower and higher temperatures for short periods, flowering can be adversely
affected by temperatures above 35"C, or a hot dry wind. Frost will cause
extensive damage at any stage and normally precludes commercial produc-
tion; thus irrigated cultivation at higher altitudes in the dry tropics has not
been successful. The superficial root system makes trees very susceptible to
wind damage unless protected by shelterbelts. The devastating effect of
cyclone Janet in December 1955 on nutmeg plantations in Grenada has
been well documented; similar effects on a smaller scale have been noted
from other cyclone-prone regions.
Nutmeg thrives under an insular maritime climate and is seldom grown on
a commercial scale above 500 m with individual trees and small plots at
much higher elevations, but there is little information on yield, since most
are grown to supply domestic needs. Sunny sheltered hill valleys often
provide ideal sites. An open situation is preferred for mature trees, but
shading seedlings promotes rapid growth, prevents sun-scorch, and young
trees are often interplanted with fast growing species such as bananas. In
more exposed situations, intermittent shade and wind protection can be
provided by lines of trees such as Albizzia spp. or Eythrina spp.

Soils and fertilizers

Trees flourish on the rich volcanic soils of Banda and Amboina, and could
be the reason why Grenada has become a highly successful nutmeg pro-
ducer, since its soils are similar. Fertile soils with some clay content,
reasonably deep, and free-draining or artificially drained are suitable, since
Myristicaceae 225

nutmeg cannot tolerate waterlogging even for short periods, especially when
young, It grows well in hill valleys but seldom flourishes on river flats. A
neutral to slightly acid soil p H 6.5-7.5 is preferable, but nutmeg will tolerate
more acid soils provided these are well managed; saline and alkaline soils are
T o produce high fruit yield, nutmeg trees require a high level of natural
soil fertility as occurs in Indonesia and Grenada, since most plantations have
a relatively low level of management and a systematic fertilizer programme is
the exception. Whatever organic manure or plant residue locally available is
spread around trees and mulching with grass, straw or similar material is
common when seedlings are first planted out. Well-rotted plant residues,
animal wastes or residue from fish processing are usually placed in the pits
into which seedlings are transplanted. More efficient producers also place
these materials in a trench round larger seedlings and young trees during
growth and before the spreading root system precludes its use. Once trees
have an established root system, the material should be spread within the
canopy diameter; in India annual application of 2.5 kg cattle manure or
40-50 kg plant residue per tree is recommended, and young trees so treated
grow faster, are larger and tend to flower earlier than unfertilized trees. T h e
application of chemical fertilizers on a regular basis is uncommon although
their use is generally beneficial, but as nutmeg is usually grown on fairly
fertile soil, it is essential the nutrient status is accurately determined before
fertilizers are applied.
Little information is available on the effect of individual plant nutrients on
tree growth, fruit yield, seed size or composition. Reports indicate a sub-
stantial response to manure and fertilizers, but there are few data from
formal trials. The official recommendation per tree in Kerala State is 20 g N,
18 g P, 50 g K in the planting hole, increasing gradually each year until at 15
years the rate reaches 500 g N, 200 g P and 1000 g K per tree. How many
growers actually apply these levels is unknown, but trees receiving any
fertilizer are obvious by their greater size and higher yield. A 13:8:24 N P K
mixture at 25 giseedling increasing to 2.5 kgitree at 10 years was suggested
by the Grenada Agricultural Department as a general guide to producers,
but only progressive growers use any fertilizer.

Nutmeg trees were initially planted in cleared areas in forests or jungles, but
the opportunity for so doing has been drastically reduced. When planted in
the virgin soil of these clearings, trees grew virtually untended except for
periodic slashing of grass and weed growth. Today most nutmeg trees are
planted to replace those which have died, and this is reflected in the
following remarks. Nutmegs are generally grown from seed sown in specially
prepared seedbeds or containers. Seed nutmegs should be sound and fresh,
with the testa intact and aril removed; those from immature fruits, or over
226 Chapter 7

3-5 days old seldom germinate. Seeds kept in wet moss or polythene bags
remain viable for 15 days in India, but storing seed for more than a day or
two is not recommended. Seed is still widely used to produce seedlings, but
is time-consuming since nutmegs are male and female and sex cannot be
determined until flowering.
Seed should be sown 2.5-5.0 cm deep, 30 cm apart in beds; germination
is slow, between 45 and 80 days and, despite widespread belief to the
contrary, there is no difference in speed of emergence between males and
females. Seedlings are ready for planting out after 6 months or at 15 cm high;
although seedlings aged 18-24 months and 30 cm high made better growth
than smaller seedlings in southern India. Care is essential when removing
seedlings to ensure the long tap-root is not damaged. Seedlings in banana
leaf or modern biodegradable pots can be sown intact into planting holes
without root disturbance; polythene tubes should be carefully removed.
Vegetative production from female trees is preferable, and parents should
be selected for high fruit yield, resistance to a local disease or a similar
desired characteristic. Approach-grafting and marcotting are well known
techniques and easily applied by growers. Clonal propagation and tissue-
culture methods have been developed which enable large numbers of
plantlets from selected trees to be produced, but these techniques are
relatively expensive and most trees are still grown from seed.
In well established nutmeg plantations, seedlings found growing near
parent trees can be transplanted; that they are growing near a female tree
does not guarantee they will be female. Seedlings grown from seed will be
half male, and as only 10% are sufficient to ensure pollination, excess males
may be removed, or their sex changed by grafting with scions from female
trees. Spacing should be at least 9 m apart on the square and closer spacing
invariably reduces yield. Vegetatively propagated plants are placed one per
hole, but three seed-grown seedlings are planted 90 cm apart on the triangle,
and later thinned to one female, with a male left for every ten female trees:
carried out when plants flower in 5-7 years. Young plants in exposed
situations require shade, preferably established the previous season; bananas
are ideal, give shade, mulch and an income to offset establishment cost. In
Indonesia, Canariurn commune L., the kanari or Java almond is deliberately
planted to provide shade and a wind break as it bears an edible fruit, the pili
nut which also produces a cooking oil.
Plantations, once established, usually require little attention from grow-
ers, who slash weeds and carefully clear an area round young trees to reduce
insect damage. The dense canopy of mature trees normally suppresses weed
growth, but under-tree vegetation should be kept low to enable fallen fruit to
be seen easily. Small livestock often graze under trees, but goats and cattle
should be excluded since both cause extensive damage. Herbicides are used
where profitable, and directed sprays of glyphosate and simazine are recom-
mended in young plantations, but applying many common herbicides under
Myristicaceae 227

mature trees is hazardous, since they can be absorbed by or damage the

superficial roots.
Trees raised from seed begin to bear at 5-9 years but vegetatively propa-
gated plants at 4-7 years. Fruit ripens 6-9 months after flowering, which
continues throughout the year, but normally has two peaks. Trees reach
maximum production in 15-20 years and can continue at this level for
decades. Fruiting trees around 80 years old are common in Indonesia, but
the life of most cultivated trees is usually determined by other than genetic
factors; disease, mismanagement and natural disasters. A study on the
economics of nutmeg cultivation in the main producing state of Kerala,
India, indicated that trees remained profitable for some 60 years (Ipe and
Varghese, 1990).

Fruit is ripe only when it has split, and is picked or allowed to fall and
collected daily; the latter is more economical but, in the Caribbean, picking
is becoming general. However pickers paid by weight tend to be unselective
and can also damage trees by climbing among branches. In Malaysia and
Indonesia, high fruit is picked using long poles fitted with cutters and a
basket. After harvesting, the nutmeg in its shell with the surrounding mace is
separated from the pericarp. Mace is later detached and carefully flattened
by hand or between boards to avoid breakage, which downgrades quality.
Mace is usually sun-dried on large trays or mats, and 2-4 hours is normally
sufficient in Indonesia and Grenada, mace retaining its original scarlet
Indonesian mace is usually exported in the red form, changing to reddish-
orange by the time it reaches the consumer. Grenadian mace is stored in
darkness up to 4 months, gradually becoming brittle, horny and pale orange-
yellow; it sells at a premium to Indonesian mace. After removal of the mace,
nutmegs are dried in their shells on large wooden trays, and turned daily by
stirring with wooden paddles to prevent fermentation and promote even
drying. Sun-drying for about one week is usual in Indonesia, or in special
buildings heated by slow fires to prevent shells cracking and melting the fat
which forms a large part of the kernel. O n Grenada, nuts are air-dried for
about 8 weeks in special buildings, losing about 25% by weight. Natural
drying is lengthy and tedious, and artificial forced-air bed-drying reduced
the time to 23 days using cold air, and to 7 days using air heated to 37"C,
without affecting quality (McGraw and Sankat, 1984). Practically all of
Granada's nutmegs and an increasing proportion of Indonesian are now
mechanically shelled.
Fruit yield per tree is very variable as is the average size of nutmegs, while
standard of management also has a considerable effect on yield, especially
adequate pest and disease control. Thus inter-regional comparisons are of
little value, and the following yield figures are given as a general guide. A
228 Chapter 7

mature tree in full bearing in India yields 750-2000 fruits annually, but up to
10,000 from one 25 years old. T h e Sri Lankan average is higher at
2000-4000 per year, with an individual tree yield of 12,000 fruit. In
Grenada, the annual average was 1500 fruit per tree, but in recently
established groves from vegetatively grown seedlings is almost double. The
yield of mace varies similarly, but from sound healthy nutmegs averages
15-20% by weight.

When sound nutmegs are distilled, the fixed oil tends to retain some volatile
oil reducing the yield. Defective nutmegs either shrivelled or infested with
weevil larvae, which consume most of the fixed oil, have higher yields; they
also cost less! Nutmegs should be comminuted to a coarse powder then
transferred immediately to the still since, once ground, there is a rapid and
substantial loss of volatiles. Distillation should be with low-pressure live
steam and cohobation may be necessary. About 80% of oil distils within two,
the remainder within ten hours. High-pressure or superheated steam should
not be used, as it carries over small quantities of myristic acid from the fixed
oil. High-quality oils are produced on Grenada from defective nutmegs; a
single preliminary crushing in a roller mill was followed by water distillation
preferably without cohobation; steam distilling also yielded satisfactory oils.
By contrast, water-and-steam distillation with cohobation was not as satis-
factory; yield was variable and quality below that of water-distilled oils.
Distilling for 6-12 hours with a 45 kg charge of crushed nutmegs at a rate of
9-1 0 litres of condensate per hour was the optimum (Coward et al., 1972). In
general, oil yield should be 6-12% by weight, and average at least 8%.
Nutmeg and mace oleoresins are prepared by extracting comminuted
spices with organic solvents. Commercial oleoresins vary in their essential oil
and fatty oil content depending on the solvent; benzene extraction yields
3 1-37% oleoresin containing a substantial amount of odourless and flavour-
less material, mainly trimyristin, removed by washing with cold ethanol in
which the fat is almost insoluble. Extraction of nutmeg directly with cold
ethanol provides 18-26% crude oleoresin; on chilling, filtering and evapor-
ating ethanol under slight vacuum, the yield is reduced to 10-12%. Mace
extracted with petroleum ether yields 27-32% oleoresin containing 8-22%
volatile oil. Hot-ethanol extracts yield 22-27% crude oleoresin; after pro-
cessing 10-1 3%.
Nutmeg contains 2 5 4 0 % fixed oil obtained by expressing crushed nuts
between heated plates in the presence of steam, or by solvent extraction. The
product, concrete, expressed oil or nutmeg butter is a highly aromatic,
orange-coloured fat, with the consistency of butter at ambient temperature;
consisting mainly of trimyristin and a high proportion of volatile oil difficult
to separate by steam distilling.
Myristicaceae 229

Pests and diseases

The principal economic pests of nutmeg attack fruit and seed, although a
particular insect may cause major tree damage in a specific region or season.
Chemical control is infrequent for two main reasons: (i) the cost of the
chemical and its application, since most nutmegs are produced by small
growers who do not have the cash resources to carry out a regular spraying
programme, or whose level of tree management is so low that pest control is
irrelevant; and (ii) the degree of economic damage (with one major excep-
tion later noted) is usually too low to warrant control. Also affecting the
overall use of pesticides is the small number of trees owned by individuals;
thus a high degree of cooperation is necessary to ensure that pest control is
effective, and is usually lacking.
A most serious pest is Phloeosinus ribatus, a small, dark brown weevil 3 m m
long, which bores through bark and cambium, and attacks both above and
below ground plant parts. Numbers breed-up very rapidly and can quickly
cause dieback and death. This insect is blamed for the virtual collapse of
nutmeg production in Singapore and Penang in the 1860s. Other damaging
scolytid borers (ambrosia beetles) are Xyleborus fomicatus and X . nzyristicae;
the former a well-known pest of many plantation crops including tea.
Stephanoderes moschatae and Dac yphalus sumatranus are less often recorded,
but can be very damaging in specific localities. Larvae of these borers are the
worms which attack the nutmeg itself, resulting in the wormy nutmegs used
for nutmeg butter and oil.
The larvae of a number of polyphagous tropical moths cause defoliation,
but frequently become heavily parasitized once numbers increase. A scale,
Coccus expansium, attacks leaves and young shoots in India and South East
Asia, but there are no details of the degree of damage. Coccus spp. are widely
distributed in the tropics, are pests of many tree crops and may occur more
widely on nutmeg than has been reported. Superficial tree and seedlings
roots can be attacked by the larvae of several moths including Agrotis spp.,
termites and nematodes including the polyphagous Meloidogyne javanica.
Stored nutmegs are readily attacked by the usual pests of stored edible
products; Araecerus fasciculatus, the coffee bean weevil, is considered by far
the most damaging in nutmeg growing regions of Asia and the Pacific
The total damage caused by disease is much greater than caused by
insects, but the same remarks regarding chemical control apply. Probably
the most obvious are fruit rots which either cause shrivelling, rotting or
premature fruit fall. I n India, Diplodia natalensis attacks and destroys half-
ripe fruits, and a related Diplodia spp. in Malaysia and Indonesia. In South
East Asia, premature fruit fall was associated with Coyneunz mytisticae, but
the causal organism was not determined. In India, Gloeosporium spp. and
Fusarium spp. were isolated from rotten fruits, but again it was not deter-
mined if they were the cause. In Kerala, fruit rots are a major source of fruit
230 Chapter 7

loss. A thread-blight due to Corticiunz stevensii occurs in the Caribbean, very

damaging in a particular season. A serious disease where it occurs is wilt
caused by Rosellinia spp. which also attacks roots of many tropical trees; R.
pep0 is common in the Caribbean, especially on Grenada and Trinidad.
Leaves of badly infected trees wilt, turn brown, fall and the tree eventually
dies; the fruits appear wrinkled and desiccated.
Root-rots due to Fornes spp. commonly occur from Asia eastwards; F.
Pzoxius and F. lamaoensis are most often recorded as causing severe damage,
and sometimes death of trees. Greasy spot, recorded mainly in the Car-
ibbean, raises dark-brown greasy lesions on leaves, although several organ-
isms may be responsible. Diseases with similar but less greasy lesions have
been described from Asia and Indonesia, but apparently remain unidenti-
fied. Mace scab reported from Grenada is not considered to be due to a
pathogen but is physiological and recognized by accumulation of calcium
oxalate. Stored nutmegs and mace can be attacked by a number of patho-
gens, easily controlled by adequate and supervised storage.

Products and specifications

Nutmeg oil production is dominated by Indonesia, with smaller and irregu-
lar supplies from Grenada, St Vincent and Sri Lanka. A small quantity of oil
is distilled from imported nutmegs in North American and Western Euro-
pean consuming centres to satisfy demand for a very high quality product.
Nutmeg and mace oleoresins obtained by solvent extraction are also pre-
pared mainly in North America and Western Europe. Butters are normally
produced by individual manufacturers. T h e commercially more important
nutmeg oil has been more intensively studied than mace oil, but the two oils
produced in the same geographical area are usually very similar in properties
and generally organoleptically interchangeable. Both oils have insecticidal,
microbiological and antifungal activity, and this is increasingly discussed in
the literature. A detailed comparison of oil yield and composition of nutmeg
and mace oils from individual trees on Grenada showed both were similar in
quality but differed in composition.
Nutmeg oil is a pale-yellow to almost water-white mobile liquid; its odour
being fresh, warm-spicy and aromatic with a rich, sweet-spicy bodynote;
freshly distilled oil tends to have a rubbery topnote which disappears with
age. T h e major components are, in per cent: monoterpene hydrocarbons
61-88; oxygenated monoterpenes 5-15; aromatic ethers 2-18. T h e main
constituents of the monoterpene hydrocarbon fraction are alpha- and beta-
pinene and sabinene; myristicin of the aromatic-ether fraction (Table 7.3).
Traces of myristic acid found in oil probably arise from hydrolysis of its
glyceryl ester, the major component of nutmeg fat during distillation, and
carried over into the oil; p-cymene, p-methyl-isopropenyl benzene, cycla-
men aldehyde and cumene are probably artefacts. Commercial steam-
distilled oils also tend to differ from natural oil present in spice or oleoresin
Myristicaceae 23 1

extracts by containing a higher proportion of monoterpenes, particularly

alpha- and beta-pinene and sabinene, owing to incomplete distillation of the
oxygenated components.
The organoleptic properties of nutmeg oil are influenced by composition;
West Indian oils are low in alpha-pinene, safrole and myristicin, with a
higher sabinene content; conversely East Indian oils are higher in myristicin,
up to 13.5% compared with below 1% in West Indian oils. The greater
proportion of myristicin and safrole in East Indian oils and the different
monoterpene component ratio probably gives the stronger nutmeg flavour.
Oil from other countries generally resembles one or other of the two main
types, due probably to source of the original introduction. It is interesting
however, that Sri Lankan oil resembles West rather than East Indian oil,
with a sabinene content of 30-50% and mean myristicin and elemicin

Table 7.3.Some constituents of East Indian nutmeg oil

~~~ ~ ~

polar non-polar
Alpha-thujene a 2.2
Alpha-pinene 22.6 22.8
Camphene 0.3 0.3
Beta-pinene 15.4 15.7
Sabinene 18.5 18.6
Myrcene t delta-3-carene 3.2 a
Alpha-phellandrene 0.9 2.4
Alpha-terpinene 3.5 3.4
Limonene 3.9 3.7
Beta-phellandrene 2.4 a
Gamma-terpinene 5.1 5.1
pCymene 1.I a
Terpinolene 2.4 1.7(b)
Alpha-copaene 0.2 0.2
Linalool 0.4 a
Terpinen-4-01 8.0 7.7
Alpha-terpineol 1 .o 1.o
Safrole 2.0 2.1
4-Pentylanisole a 0.3
Eugenol a 0.2
lsoeugenol a 0.2
Alpha-bergamotene a 0.1
Myristicin 6.9 5.3
Delta-cadinene a 0.3
Total 97.8 93.3
a, not separated; b, including linalool.
Source: Based on RIC (1984).
232 Chapter 7

contents of 2.3 and 1.2% respectively (Sarath-Kumara et al., 1985). Nut-

meg oils can be adulterated with natural products high in monoterpenes,
myristicin or synthetic materials, but there is little value in so doing. T h e
main use for nutmeg oil is as flavouring in a wide range of processed edible
products, ketchups and soft drinks, but the monoterpenes have a pro-
nounced tendency to polymerize and produce undesirable off-notes when
heated, and terpeneless oils are preferred for flavouring many food products,
including canned foods.
Terpeneless oil is normally produced by counter-current solvent extrac-
tion to avoid heating, for the reason previously noted. The oil is used in
pharmaceutical products to alleviate bronchial troubles, in domestic aerosol
sprays and increasingly in male toiletries including after-shave lotions.
Nutmeg extract from sound nutmegs is a dark orange, viscous mass, with a
warm spicy, strongly aromatic odour, and the burning, spicy taste of nut-
meg. It can be used directly in special formulations or alcohol-washed to
remove the suspended solids, mainly glycerol myristate. The extract is
seldom available and usually prepared by end users.
Mace oil is a colourless to pale yellow liquid which partly resinifies and
develops a turpentine-like odour upon exposure to air. It is very similar in its
characteristics and organoleptic properties to nutmeg oil, but produced in
very small quantities. The main use for mace oil is as a flavouring in liquid
products such as sauces, pickles, etc. and it is generally a direct substitute for
nutmeg oil. Cured Grenadian mace oil contains, in per cent: monoterpene
hydrocarbons 75-94, oxygenated monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes
4.7-17.6, aromatic ethers 0-5.9; nutmeg oil 85-93, 6.6-12, 0-3.5% re-
spectively. T h e composition of the monoterpene hydrocarbon and oxy-
genated monoterpene fractions are broadly comparable in the two oils from
the same tree, the main difference being that aromatic ethers were slightly
higher in the cured mace oil.
Nutmeg and mace oleoresins are prepared by extracting with organic
solvents and contain steam-volatile oil, fixed oil and other extractives soluble
in the chosen solvent. A high fixed-oil content is obtained with hydrocarbon
solvents; a lower fixed-oil and resin content with polar solvents alcohol and
acetone. T h e lower fixed-oil content of mace, compared with nutmeg,
produces oleoresins containing less odourless material. Nutmeg and mace
oleoresins are considered to possess a more true odour and flavour than
corresponding steam-distilled oils. Although the organoleptic properties of
nutmeg and mace are similar, end users consider mace oleoresin has a finer,
more rounded and fresh-fruity character.
Oleoresins extracted by non-polar solvents with a relatively high fat
content are preferred in flavouring foods, since they have greater tenacity
and heat stability; perfumers prefer oleoresins extracted with solvents such
as ethanol. Nutmeg oleoresin is a pale to golden yellow viscous liquid which
is clear and oily or opaque and waxy, becoming clear on warming to 5OoC.
Myristicaceae 233

Commercial nutmeg oleoresins are graded on volatile oil content (ml/lOO g)

as 25-30, 55-60, 80 and 80-90. Mace oleoresin is an amber to reddish-
amber clear liquid, and graded on volatile oil content (mli100 g) as 8-24,
40-45, 50 and 50-56. Mace contains little fatty oil or other odourless,
flavourless substances soluble in hot ethanol, and mace oleoresin so pre-
pared is one of the most concentrated forms of the nutmeg-mace flavour.
Nutmeg butter obtained by extracting or expressing sound nutmegs, is an
orange-red to reddish-brown soft solid, with the distinct odour and taste of
nutmeg. It has a melting point of 45-51°C, is partly soluble in cold, almost
completely in hot alcohol, and is freely soluble in ether and chloroform. Its
specific gravity is 0.9950-0.9990, saponification number 172-179, iodine
number 40-52, and acid number 17-23. A saponification value of 196 and
acid value of 9.0 have been recorded (Gopalam and Zacharia, 1989). Mace
butter is similarly obtained but contains 40% saturated and 60% un-
saturated fats compared to 10% and 90% in nutmeg. Mace butter is
produced by end users. Butters can replace their respective oils in many
applications, but use is restricted as oils and oleoresins are favoured by


Armstrong, J.E. and Drummond, B.A. (1986) Floral biology of Myn'stica fragrans.
Biotropica 18(1), 32-38.
Burkhill, I.H. (1966) The Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. Govt. Printer,
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Coward, L.D.G., Mathews, W.S.A. and Nabney, J. (1972) Investigation of the
production of essential oil using a transportable still unit. Proc. 5th Znt. Cong. Ess.
Oils 1971. Amos de Acad, Brazil de Ciencias 44, 126-132.
Cruickshank, A.M. (1973) Some aspects of the nutmeg investigation programme in
Grenada. In: Proc. Cong. on Spices April 1972. pp. 105-1 11. Tropical Products
Institute, London, UK.
Emboden, W. (1979) Narcotic Plants. Macmillan Pub., New York, USA.
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Landbouwhoge School, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Gopalam, A. and Zaccharia, T.J. (1989) Lipophilic products of extractable fat of
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T h e Myrtaceae consists of some 75 genera and nearly 3000 species of mainly
tropical evergreen trees and shrubs. T h e chief centres of distribution are the
American and Asian tropics and Australia. A major revision placed many of
the Asiatic Eugenia L. in the genus Syzygium Gaertn., which contains about
500 species mainly in the Asian tropics, and the most important spice and
essential oil source is clove, S. aromaticum L. T h e genus Eucalyptus L’Herit.
is also large, containing about 700 species almost entirely native to Australia;
many produce an essential oil but few are commercially exploited. The
genus Melaleuca L. has some 200 species also mainly native to Australia, but
only half a dozen have been exploited for their essential oil. T h e genus
Leptospermum Forst. contains about 80 species mainly native to Australia;
one is cultivated for its essential oil. The genus Pimenta Lindl. contains 18
species native to tropical America and the Caribbean region; two produce a
commercially important essential oil. The genus Myrtus L. contains about
100 species mainly native to South America, but only M . communis L.
produces a commercial oil.

The Arabs knew clove as karanful, believed to be the origin of the Greek
Kayophyllon. T h e modern English name of clove is from the French clou
meaning nail, probably derived from the Latin clavus, while the original
Chinese name translates as sweet-smelling nails. T o avoid unnecessary
wordage, clove will be used to designate clove tree, harvested buds and the
spice, the context ensuring no confusion.
The clove is indigenous to the Moluccas (the Spice Islands) now part of
the Republic of Indonesia, but apparently the buds were little used as a spice
or flavouring. The first recorded use was in the Chinese Han period BC
220-206, when courtiers sweetened their breath with clove buds in the

236 Chapter 8

Emperor’s presence. The Chinese probably extended cultivation or knowl-

edge of clove to regions under their influence, as the Chinese name theng-hia
has been incorporated into many languages; in Java and Malaysia as cheng-
kek and in Persia as nzakhak.When clove first reached India is uncertain, but
was probably little earlier than the fourth or fifth century. In Sanskrit clove is
lavanga, the origin of most local names although in Tamil lavanga means
cinnamon bark! The various types, qualities and price of cloves are discussed
in the Ain-i-Akbari written in Agra in 1590. Cloves were then obviously well
known, although there is no mention of clove cultivation in the seventeenth
century by Rheede in his Hortus Malabaricus. A major traditional Indian use
is as an ingredient of the betel chewing quid pan pati (q.v.).
Cloves were regularly imported into Alexandria, Egypt, in the second
century, and in the fourth century were traded around the Mediterranean;
the Emperor Constantine presented the equivalent of 70 kg of cloves to St
Silvester, Bishop of Rome (AD 3 14-335). By the eighth century cloves were
known throughout Europe probably via entrepots on the Red Sea coast. T h e
Alexandrian, Cosmos Indicopleustes, who visited India and Ceylon, de-
scribed the clove trade in Topographia Chrktiana (about AD 548). Jewish
traders, Radanites, who kept the trade routes open between East and West in
the eighth to tenth centuries, brought cloves to Spain, France and elsewhere
in Western Europe. The Frankish king, in AD 716, authorized delivery of
spices including 1 kg of cloves to the monastery of Corbie in Normandy.
Ibrahim Ibn Yaacub, the Moorish physician and merchant, reported in AD
973 that cloves could be purchased in Mainz, while in England the Countess
of Leicester recorded she ‘paid 10-12 shillings per pound for cloves’ in AD
Venice was the leading European source of cloves and other spices in the
13th century and became tremendously rich. Trade was via the Arabs, who
for centuries had a virtual monopoly of the sea-borne spice trade until it was
broken by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century. T h e origin of cloves
became known in Europe following publication by Marco Polo in AD 1298 of
his famous journeys; a book which later resulted in Spanish and Portuguese
searches for the spice islands, and brought Vasco de Gama to India in AD
1498. In less than 20 years the Portuguese had occupied the Moluccas and
trade in cloves and nutmegs became a royal monopoly for a century. A tree
reportedly from the Portuguese period and said by the locals to be at least
350 years old survives on Ternate Island; it is of enormous size for a clove
and still bearing.
The Dutch subsequently broke the Portuguese monopoly instituting one
of their own, which they locally maintained with the utmost ruthlessness.
Under a proclamation issued in 162 1 they destroyed all clove trees except on
Amboina and adjacent islands. This short-sighted policy virtually ensured
clove trees were planted in other countries to circumvent the Dutch monop-
oly, and led finally to the pre-eminence of Zanzibar and Madagascar in the
Myrtaceae 237

clove trade. Based on Batavia, now Jakarta, the Dutch clove trade is
described in detail by Rumphius (HerbariumAmboinense, 1750). The whole-
sale destruction of wild and cultivated trees by the Dutch resulted in a great
loss of genetic diversity, a lack noted by Rumphius in 1741, when he
described only three types of trees differing mainly in size and colour of ripe
cloves; he also stated that the locals believed that cultivated cloves, if left
untended, reverted to the wild type. On Amboina island, in a protected
enclosure, is a tree believed to be at least 300 years old, reputedly planted by
locals in an attempt to evade the Dutch monopoly. Indonesia is once again
the world’s largest producer and consumer of cloves, mainly used in kretek
cigarettes. Clove production rose slowly but steadily in the decade
1952-1962 from 3000 t to 7000 t, but following the 1964 revolution on
Zanzibar (later noted), clove production in Indonesia rapidly increased and
by 1972 was 15,000 t, reaching 25,000 t in 1982, according to figures
released by the government Statistical Bureau (Biro Pusat Statisik, Dja-
karta), Domestic clove production was subsequently related directly to the
use of clove powder in kretek cigarettes, reaching 30,000 t in 1992; since
then there has been a substantial internal surplus of cloves. Reviews of the
trade in cloves and clove derivatives to 1970 is contained in Willems (1 97 1)
and to 1973 in Adamson and Robbins (1975).
Clove and nutmeg were introduced into Mauritius in 1770 from seeds
smuggled out of the Moluccas for Governor Pierre Poivre and the first crop
of cloves was picked in 1776. Seedlings were later distributed to other Indian
Ocean islands under French administration, including the Seychelles and
Reunion. Few original seedlings survived and it is locally recorded that one
tree on Reunion supplied seed from which are descended practically all trees
on Reunion and Madagascar. Cloves were found growing on Papua New
Guinea in the 1770s and were probably also introduced to neighbouring
islands (Sonnerat, Voyage en Nouvelle Guide, 1776).
Clove was first planted in Malaysia in 1786 but was not successful. Trees
from a second introduction in 1880 flourished and a small but thriving
population remains in the Penang region. Seeds from Reunion were planted
on Sainte Marie Island off the Madagascar coast in 1827, thrived and
produced about 15 t of cloves by 1880. Plantings expanded after 1885,
cultivation was extended to mainland Madagascar in 1890, and that country
is now a major producer of cloves and exporter of clove leaf oil.
Possibly the most important introduction of cloves to any country was to
Zanzibar early in the nineteenth century. The most reliable account tells
how a local Arab, Harameli bin Saleh, banished by the Sultan for murder,
took service with a French officer and obtained clove seeds in Reunion.
These he presented to the Sultan, Sayyid Said Bin Sultan, and obtained his
pardon. The first plants were grown near the royal palace of Mtoni, 6 k m
north of Zanzibar town. The Sultan realized the economic potential of the
238 Chapter 8

crop and forced local landowners to plant cloves under threat of confisca-
tion. Substantial areas were planted on Zanzibar and Pemba, helped by the
large number of slaves (Fig. 8.1). The 1872 cyclone caused widespread
destruction of trees on Zanzibar, but did not affect Pemba. The Sultan of the
day, Sayyid Barghash bin Said, enforced replanting on Zanzibar while high
prices encouraged additional planting on Pemba. Zanzibar (now part of
Tanzania) later became the world’s largest exporter of cloves but, following
the revolution of 1964, production slumped. Land was nationalized, planta-
tions were split into uneconomical 1.5 ha plots and the government paid
growers only 4% of the export price. This was below the cost of production,
there was no incentive to maintain healthy trees or replant, and the majority
are over 60 years old. Production fell to less than 1000 t, rising slowly to
3000 t i n 1995-1996, well below the pre-1964 average of 9000 t, and far less
than the annual 20,000 t of the decades to 1960. New plantations estab-
lished on the Tanzanian mainland near Tanga are now in bearing. Relative
newcomers to the clove trade are Sri Lanka and Brazil but, with the world
surplus of cloves likely to continue for the foreseeable future, both are
unlikely to expand production beyond domestic demand.
When clove oil was first produced is uncertain, and initial mention of an
elixir of cloves was for the treatment of toothache, probably a direct result of
sucking dried cloves which not only sweetened the breath but acted as a
palliative. An extract was used as a prophylactic against skin and respiratory
diseases in the Middle Ages. The major constituent of clove oil was first
described by Liebig in 1836, as nelkensaure or acid of cloves, subsequently
eugenic acid, and in 1875 as eugenol by Johann Karl Tiemann of Berlin,
who used it to produce synthetic vanillin U. Chem. Soc. 1900, 600).
Several other unrelated species produce either fruit or an essential oil
popularly called cloves or clove oil, and two are well-known members of the
Lauraceae. Ravensara aromatica Gmel, the Madagascar clove-nutmeg, is a
medium-sized tree to 12 m, with small leathery leaves and small round
aromatic fruit whose taste resembles a mixture of clove and nutmeg; oil
distilled from its leaves is commonly an adulterant of true clove leaf oil.
Dicypellium cayophyllaturn (Mart.) Nees, the Brazil clove, bears highly
aromatic flower buds very popular locally for flavouring, which are harvested
and dried in a similar manner to cloves. Oil is distilled from wood and bark,
known as clove-cassia or clove-bark oil and exported to Europe, especially

Syzygium aromaticurn (L.) Merr. & Perry (syn. Eugenia arornatica Kuntze; E.
ca yophyllata Thunb.; E. calyophyllus (Sprengel) Bull. & Harr.; Cayophyllus
aromaticus L.). The genus Syzygium Gaertn. includes some 500 species
native to the Asiatic and African tropics and Australia. In addition to
essential oils and spices, some members of the Myrtaceae are cultivated for
Myflaceae 239

their fruit including the popular guava Psidium guajava L. The clove tree was
long known as Eugenia aromatica or E. caryophyllata, but revision of the large
Eugenia genus, as noted, resulted in clove being reclassified (Schmid,
The clove’s nearest relative is the wild clove common on the forested
lower slopes of the Moluccas and Papua New Guinea, which differs from
cultivated clove in having larger, less aromatic leaves and flower buds. Also,
the essential oil content is lower and the oil has different characteristics. A
potentially valuable feature of these wild species is resistance to Matibudjang

Fig. 8.1. Harvesting cloves, Zanzibar, c. 1860.

240 Chapter 8

disease (q.v.). Hybrids between wild and cultivated cloves are fertile but
have not been studied cytologically, and it is not certain whether the wild
clove should be treated as conspecific or as a separate species, E. obtusijolia
Roxb. Thus it is interesting to note the findings of Dr Meijer in Indonesia,
who over many years collected buds from wild trees and analysed their oil
(Meijer and Schmid, 1948). These oils lacked eugenol but did contain
eugenone, eugenin, isoeugenitin and isoeugenital, with an odour quite
different to oil from cultivated cloves. They also speculated on whether
cultivated clove evolved by selection to the present type, or if there were
initially two quite different wild types. No true cultivars of clove are recog-
nized in Zanzibar and Madagascar since almost all existing trees are descen-
dants of the original limited introductions; there is thus little genetic variabil-
ity or opportunity for selection. Greater variability exists in cloves’ native
Moluccas and probably also elsewhere among wild and cultivated types.
Cultivated clove is an evergreen tree to 15 m, generally conical when
young becoming more cylindrical with age, and bearing glossy green leaves,
fragrant red flowers and purple fruits. It is long-lived and recorded as
remaining productive for 150 years. The seedling has a pronounced but
short tap-root, which is quickly replaced by two or three primary sinkers. In
the first year, a mass of fibrous roots spreads out from the tap-root to a radius
of 30-50 cm and a depth of 25 cm; during the second year these fibrous roots
thicken to become main horizontal laterals. The roots finally extend to a
radius approximately equal to tree height and, when roots of neighbouring
trees overlap, natural grafting can occur. The trunk, to 30 cm DRH, often
forks near the base into two or three erect branches, a habit sometimes
simulated by planting two or three seedlings close together. The bark is grey,
smooth to rough depending on age, and slash on a healthy tree is white to
The wood is very hard, and from a tree which has died from natural causes
is ash-grey; from a tree which died from sudden death it is yellow, while
infection from die-back produces a reddish-brown discoloration. The main
branches are nearly upright with few side branches, giving a cylindrical
appearance to mature trees. Smaller branches and twigs are also ascending,
terete, very brittle and greyish-white. During harvesting in Zanzibar, pickers
frequently climb trees, damaging these brittle branches and leaving open
wounds, allowing entry to the pathogen causing ‘die-back’ (see section on
pests and diseases).
The leaves are simple, opposite, coriaceous, exstipulate, glabrous and
aromatic. The lamina are lanceolate or narrowly elliptic, sometimes nar-
rowly obovate, 7-1 3 X 3-4 cm, gland-dotted, densely and obscurely pinna-
tinerved. The apex is shortly or broadly bluntly acuminate, the base cuneate
and the margin wavy and recurved. The petiole is slender, 2-3 cm, some-
what swollen, the base pinkish and the leaf blade partly decurrent in the
Myrtaceae 24 1

upper portion. New bright pink leaves appear in flushes; the upper surface
later becomes glossy dark green, the lower dull and paler. Crushed leaves
emit the characteristic clove scent and, as the volatile oil also evaporates,
clove plantations after rain are permeated with the rather cloying odour.
The inflorescence is a terminal, corymbose, trichotomous panicle, shortly
pedunculate, branched from the base, shorter than the leaves and very
variable in number of flowers; from three on a simple three-forked peduncle
to 50 or more on multiple peduncles (Fig. 8.2.). The angled peduncles and
shorter 5 mm pedicels constitute the clove stems of commerce. The bracts
and bracteoles are narrow, acute, to 2-3 mm, and are quickly shed. The
flower is hermaphroditic with a fleshy hypanthium surmounted by sepals;
the hypanthium is 1.O-1.5 cm, cylindrical, angled, green in the young bud
but flushed pink at anthesis, becoming deep reddish after stamens fall. The
four calyx lobes are fleshy, triangular, slightly incurved, 3-4 mm, and easily
observed in the spice. The inflorescences are harvested when the buds have
reached full size but before they open, thus the petals together with the
enclosed stamens form the head of the dried clove. The four petals are
imbricate, tinged red, rounded, 6 mm diameter, falling as a hemispherical
calyptra as the flowers open. The stamens are numerous, the anthers are pale
yellow and ovate; the style is very stout to 3-4 mm, with the base swollen,
and pale green. The two-celled, multi-ovulate, inferior ovary is embedded in
the top of the hypanthium. The morphology and histology of clove flower
and bud has been described (Parry, 1962).
The fragrant flowers are attractive to and regularly visited by bees and
other insects which are probably the main pollinating agents. Controlled
cross-breeding is also possible (Nair et al., 1974). In Indonesia clove is
locally considered to be self-pollinated but bagged inflorescences in Zanzi-
bar never produced viable seed (Zanzibar Department of Agriculture,
1949-1965). Flowers covered with polythene bags in Sri Lanka set 30%
seed, a percentage not significantly increased by artificial pollination (Sri-
tharan and Bavappa, 1981). Few flowers develop fully to form fruit, the
greater number fall and can be gleaned and processed into an inferior spice.
The effect of growth regulators on clove has been little studied; a Zanzibar
unreplicated trial using NAA applied in December caused a yield increase
the following December (Zanzibar Department of Agriculture, 1949-1 965).
There are two flowering seasons on Zanzibar, July-September and
November-January; in Madagascar, the main flowering is July-August; in
India, September-October in the plains, December-January in the hills; in
Indonesia, October-February depending on the area. Bud initials appear
about 6 months before they are ready to be harvested, and six stages with
local names are recognized in Zanzibar. It is thus possible to make a
reasonable crop estimate some time before harvest. A profuse flowering
leading to a bumper crop occurs every 4 years in Zanzibar and Indonesia.
242 Chapter 8

Fig. 8.2. Syzygiurn aromaticurn, clove. A, Flowering branch: 6, bud in longitudinal section: C, flower in
longitudinal section; D, fruit; E,fruit in longitudinal section; F, dried clove. (Purseglove et al., 1981.)
Myrlaceae 243

Clove oil is normally obtained from dried buds and published analyses
relate to this oil type. Oil from fresh buds at different stages of maturity
varies considerably in physical characteristics, composition and odour. Data
from India are shown i