Osmanthus – Heaven on Earth

I walked past the osmanthus bush in the back lane today. It’s in bloom, in a warm Sydney autumn. I don’t know how I can endeavour to explain to you how beautifully mesmerising the scent of this plant is – but I’ll try.


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Osmanthus fragrans

Osmanthus fragrans


Here it is! Osmanthus fragrans, part of the Oleacae family. What else belongs in this family? Oleander, olives and jasmine.

As a small white flower (depending on the species the flowers can also be orange), just like jasmine, it’s hard to believe the intoxicating scent is so powerful. But it is.

Imagine jasmine, gardenia, frangipani all rolled into one, then add apricots, the secrets of the universe and unicorns, and you may come slightly closer toward this deep exotic floral perfume.


The leaf

The leaf


“Osmanthus fragrans flowers are also known as gui hua. These tiny dried yellow blossoms are among China’s most heady and intoxicating flower blossom fragrances. China’s great flower-scented teas were developed during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Osmanthus, jasmine, rose, orchid, lotus, gardenia and wintersweet were all used to delicately scent batches of tea.”

Jann Erik Nilsson



Flower in broad daylight

Flower in broad daylight


“Osmanthus fragrans is associated with a number of Lunar legends in China, which makes it symbolic at the time of the Chinese Moon Festival which is held in September under the symbol of Osmanthus Flower and is also called Osmanthus Festival.

In the warmer parts of China, the plant continues to bloom non-stop throughout the winter to spring. During the nights of the peak season for the flower, Chinese families used to gather in their yards to eat moon cakes, while the grandmother of the family told traditional stories about the Moon, the sweet Osmanthus and the figures of Chinese legends.

According to those legends, there live on the Moon the Fairy Chang E and a Jade Rabbit which is Chang E’s pet, a Giant named Wu Gang and a huge Osmanthus Tree (Osmonth).”

Jann Erik Nilsson



The bush in the back lane

The bush in the back lane


Osmanthus is a native of Asia, particularly China and Japan, and is even the mascot tree for some cities in both these countries. Having said that, this pic above was taken in the back lane today. The end of Autumn and 27 degrees. Hello global warming!

I have walked this lane for the past 10 years, never knowing what the beautiful scent was. I am embarrassed to tell you abut a year ago, I had to ask a natural perfumery group the question – “what is this plant?” As soon as I found out, I realised I had detected the scent many times before in various locations. I had always thought it was coming from this palm ……


The palm

The palm


Osmanthus is sold as an absolute and it’s often expensive. I’ve seen it advertised from as much as $32 for 1ml, $121 for 1gm, and as little as $22 for 10 mls. This is definitely an oil I’d encourage you to try.

So there you have it – from scented Ming Dynasty teas to lunar legends, this flower is beloved of the world. If I’ve helped one person discover this wonderful tree and perfume, it’s a job well done I reckon.


Thanks again lovely readers. Do you have a favourite scented plant?

copyright 2016

2 thoughts on “Osmanthus – Heaven on Earth

  1. Oh Suzanne, what a lovely post and photos. You described the smell so perfectly that I was actually able to smell it for a split second and that rarely happens. It is Spring time here, where I live and I just cannot wait until the lilacs are in bloom. The original, old fashioned, light purple ones are one of my top favourite scents. Unfortunately, they do not last long at all in the season and if it rains too much, well, forget it – they will all fade away. Also love the fragrance of jasmine, old fashioned roses, honeysuckle and lily of the valley, but for some reason , they are hard to find here. I wonder if there is a connection of favourite scents with a favourite time/ era we once lived before this particular journey we are on at the moment….I am thinking I must have really enjoyed the Victorian age….

  2. Thanks as always Annie. Yes the scented delights of nature are truly wonderful. I wish it was just coming into spring for me now rather than just heading into winter. Having said that its been unseasonably warm due to global warming. Maybe you could do a photo essay as one of my Everyday Aroma Heroes? I’ll
    Leave it with you no pressure x

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