Flowering yellow ginger

Yellow ginger grows wild in Hawaii; the equivalent of wild daisies on the Mainland. The delicate yellow flowers last only a week or so and billow an exotic scent. I smell this unmistakable aroma coming from my yard here in San Diego, an ocean away from where I expect to find it. I locate the plants and pull a blossom.

Flowering yellow ginger

I breathe in deeply, maybe a little too deeply because I lilt off balance. It has a heady aroma, indeed. I steady myself against a patio chair, and then sit down. I would hate to try to explain sniffing flowers as the reason for a concussion.

The fragrance contains several layers: a top, floaty layer that’s softly sour, like a lime rind raked with a fingernail; a middle layer that’s sweet as sticky taffy; and a bottom layer of exotic spices selected carefully from a market specializing in the sublime.

As I hold and sniff the blossom, it begins to wilt. Delicate flowers do that when pressed against human skin in the sunshine. Wilting changes its aromas entirely. No longer complex and layered, the aroma turns chaotic and then melancholy–a carnival near closing time that shuts down early because it starts to rain.

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  1. I love the description of the layers of the odor.

  2. you know me and my (inherited from claudia)plant knowlege. I looked this us in “Tropica” the bible of plants; The ginger you describe is the yellow ginger (Hedychium flavum, india). The “Kahili ginger”(hedychium gardnerianum, No. india) has the orange center and grows in a large spiral.


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