Linaloe Tree is an essential oil yielding tree originating in South-West Mexico, in the states of Guerrero, Morelos and Puebla. Long ago introduced into India, it is cultivated there for its essential oil, mainly around Bangalore.
It is a small tree, typically 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) tall with wide-spreading horizontal branches coming off of a short trunk, forming a densely branched rounded crown. The bark is grey and smooth and the stems soft-wooded and succulent, with the ability to able to store water. This allows the tree to survive through a long dry season.
The leaves are up to 20 cm (8 in) long and are made up of six to fourteen leaflets arranged in pairs along the length and with an extra leaflet at the tip. Individual leaflets are oval with a pointed tip, 4 to 8 cm (1.6 to 3.1 in) long, dull blue-green, deeply toothed on the margins and give off a sweet aroma when crushed. They fall off the tree in the dry season, leaving the branches bare and exposed until the rainy season, when the new leaves emerge.
At the transition from the dry to the rainy season, which coincides with spring to early summer in its native range, small green-white flowers bloom in loose clusters on the newly leafed branches, with female and male flowers on separate trees. The flowers on female trees are soon followed by small, green, egg-shaped fruit that turn red or red-brown when ripe then fall to the ground.
Both the wood and mature fruit yield on steam distillation a colourless or pale yellow essential oil traded as 'Linaloe Wood Oil' and 'Linaloe Berry Oil'. They have a similar composition with an agreeable balsamic, slightly rose-like aroma used to scent perfumes, lotions, soaps and cosmetics as well as flavour foods such as baked goods, chilled dairy desserts and beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The berry oil is said to be superior to the wood oil, with a longer lasting aroma.
In Mexico the oil is distilled from the wood of wild trees that are at least twenty years old, with the best oil coming from much older trees, whereas in India the oil is distilled only from the husk of mature fruit, leaving the tree unharmed.
In India, the mature fruit are hand-picked from the tree or are collected after they have fallen to the ground. They are then shade-dried and de-husked, with production roughly at 250 kilograms of dried husks per hectare. With an average oil content of 10% the yield is about 25 kilograms of oil on distillation, the equivalent of 22 pounds of oil to the acre.
Grows naturally in sub-humid subtropical and tropical mid-elevation climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 13 to 21 °C, annual highs of 27 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 500 to 1200 mm and a dry season of 5 to 8 months.
New plants are usually grown from cuttings or by air-layering (circumposing) because the seed has a low germination rate and plants produced vegetatively start to fruit much earlier than seedlings do. It performs best on free-draining loam, sand and gravelly or limestone soils of a slightly acid to alkaline nature, generally with a pH of 6.5 to 8.5 and on sites with full to partial sun exposure.
With its poor seed germination rate, it is unlikely to emerge as a problem weed or invasive species and there does not appear to be any records of its escape or naturalisation, despite its cultivation outside its native range.
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