Wednesday, November 01, 2006


The scent is so strong when it hits, you feel like you have walked into a wall. It invades your nostrils with determined power and pours into your lungs like a warm molasses. Feeling heavier than air it surrounds you. Your ears tingle and try to embrace the aroma. Your head darts about looking for the source of this overpowering intoxicant.

The rains from two weeks ago must have triggered this mass bloom of Murraya paniculata called Mock Orange here in Hawaii. Every where I look, formerly demure green shrubs and hedges are covered in masses of white blooms.

In my mind their bloom has always been sparse and sporadic, nice when it happened here and there, but brief and uneventful. This week there has been a coordinated effort by every Mock Orange in Kihei. The dense green shrubs are all in sinc and blooming with an unusual vigor.

This is an aroma that makes you stop what you are doing and swirl it around like a wine connoisseur breathing in the bouquet of a fine vintage wine.

Imagine a light sweet jasmine mixed with the complex bulk of gardenia, add in the fruity scent of an orange grove and top it off with a hint of cinnamon and you end up with the dense triple sugary effect of Mock Orange in bloom. Then set an entire town of it in bloom at once in still humid air from the next round of rain that approaches.

Breathe in deep. This is the Hawaiian night air on steroids.


Annie in Austin said...

It sounds heavenly, Christopher. I've never heard of this shrub before, so looked it up to find it's from Malaysia and grows in Florida - was this something you knew before you lived in Hawaii?

Right now there's some scent from the white Ginger/Hedychium coronarium and Tea Olive/Osmanthus when we pass near them, but that's a couple of plants, not a whole town.

In Illinois we knew a city park devoted to tulips and lilacs - their scent is lighter, but walking in the park in the evening when the lilacs were open was also an intoxicating experience.


Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I learned Mock Orange in college in a plant ID class, but it was a south Florida plant and did not grow up north in Gainesville.

chuck b. said...

I hope my mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii) will smell good next year. I guess it was too small to flower this year.

I've been trying to bring more scent in my garden. Do you think I'll regret planting Cestrum nocturnum?

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Cestrum nocturnum, Nite Blooming Jasmine is a rangy kind of unattractive pale green shrub and the flowers are not showy at all. It grows quickly, is easy to grow and you can prune the crap out of it. The scent is intense, but a notch down from the Murraya. If you like the scent there is no reason not to grow it. Just don't make it a focal point in the garden. Use it as a backdrop or tucked away some where.

Annie in Austin said...

Chuckb, I bought a foot-tall, one-gallon size night-blooming jasmine in March, which has grown to a small shrub. It was tucked around the corner, because as Christopher says, it's not attractive. My plant didn't bloom much, and I had to go close to get the sort of vintage store, talcum-dusting powder scent.
This was totally opposite of everything I'd read - maybe a function of our heat & dryness this summer? It's only marginal here, anyway.


Eric said...

I love mock orange blossoms. They're one of my favorite Honolulu smells.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Hello Eric. It is nice to see another Hawaii blogger. I have done a few lazy searches for others in Hawaii and there didn't seem to be much out there. Nice of you to drop by and say hello.

I'm glad the Mock Orange bloom only lasts for a few days. I find it very over powering.

Eric said...

If you're looking for Hawaiʻi bloggers, you'll find plenty at And if you're looking for an online Hawaiʻi forum to talk story in, HawaiiStories has a sister site,, that's pretty lively.