Magnolias are a hardy perennial that grows up to 20 feet tall and is most commonly seen as a single plant in the front yard. It is said to be of Spanish origin, but it also has a rather distinguished history as one of the plants used in perfume production.
Photos of magnolias:
In the 17th century, magnolia plants were considered by many to be aphrodisiacs, and they were sought after both for their exotic beauty (though they were far from rare) and for their ability to increase the libido of men.
Magnolia flowers were first cultivated in China about 1,000 years ago and subsequently introduced into Japan around 200 years ago. The fragrances produced from these flowers are called “shoyu” or “soak water” (the Japanese word meaning “flowers soaked in water”). This name was given because the odor of shoyu flowers was reminiscent of the smell of syrup baths. Shoyu flowers contain essential oils which are extracted using steam, which yields an aromatic scent reminiscent of vanilla and almond (in both sweet and savory scents).
Magnolias have been used since ancient times with other perfumes as well such as jasmine flower and orange flower petals (which was once sold as “peach blossoms”).