Field of Science

Friday Fabulous Flower - White butterfly ginger

It's been quite awhile since the last FFF. This plant may have been featured before, but so what?  TPP knew the second he entered the greenhouse that this plant was in flower because of its fragrance, a very perfumed, somewhat heavy fragrance, but quite lovely and one of the best smelling flowers in our collection.  The butterfly ginger (Hedychium coronarium) stands about 1.5 m tall so you don't have to stoop over to look at or smell the flowers. Wish we could introduce the scratch your monitor screen and smell technology. Students in economic botany extract the fragrance by harvesting the new flowers each morning, slicing them lengthwise, and placing them cut side down on a layer of highly purified vegetable fat (i.e., Crisco) in a shallow covered dish (i.e. Petri). After several days the fat becomes impregnated with the fragrance because like many fragrance molecules they are lipid soluble so they dissolve into the fat to be released upon mild heating like rubbing between you fingers or on your skin behind your ear. You can do this with any fragrant flower as a nice kid/garden activity. The process is called enfleurage, a really old perfume technique.

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