The extremely fragrant Telosma cordata goes by many names such as Chinese Violet, Tonkin Creeper, Cowslip Creeper, Pakalana Vine and 夜来香 (roughly translated from the three Chinese characters as fragrance comes during the night). A member of the Asclepiadacea (milkweed) family,  the Telosma cordata is grown in many parts of tropical Asia not just for it’s alluring fragrance but also for culinary purposes as well!

The flowers of the Telosma cordata are greenish yellow in colour and comes in clusters.  Although not particularly stunning in terms of colour, the flowers more than make up for it in fragrance, a mixture of green and aloe notes which is extremely strong during warm and humid nights.  The main active compounds in the flower’s fragrance were found to be geraniol (found in roses) and ß-ionone (found in violets).  I was told that the essential oil from the Telosma cordata is used in the creation of the world famous perfume, Chanel No.5, thus sharing the mantle with another famous ‘perfume plant’, Cananga Odorata a.k.a Ylang Ylang!

There is an ancient Chinese story which tells of  a troop of fearless warriors who seized an enemy’s castle.  At dusk, a hypnotic fragrance came wafting through the air, dissipating the aggressive feelings of the warriors as they inhaled the aroma. By the next morning, the warriors were so subdued that they were forced to abandon the castle and retreat.

This fragrance came from none other than the Telosma cordata! 🙂

Now for the culinary part!  The flowers of the Telosma cordata are typically fried with eggs in the form of omelettes or boiled in soup which can be found in several South East Asian recipes.  The cut flowers are usually sold in  markets wrapped in banana leaves.  The flowers are not only fragrant but nutritious too as they are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins A and C.

The Telosma cordata is a climber and loves the sun so do prepare a sunny spot with lots of space for it to climb and it will reward you with it’s wonderful perfume for years to come!

Propagation of the Telosma cordata is usually by softwood stem cuttings or simple layering.

Telosma cordata

Telosma cordata