| Common heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens) is a fragrant, woody perennial, native to South America. It was introduced into greenhouse culture in Europe in 1757 after travellers discovered it in Peru. Hence, it's sometimes listed and sold as H. peruvianum.|
By the nineteenth century, heliotrope was used extensively for bedding plants and as standards. It was nicknamed the "cherry pie plant" because its fragrance supposedly resembles the aroma of a freshly baked cherry pie. A few species are so fragrant that they are grown in Europe to make perfume.
A member of the borage family, common heliotrope is one of about 250 Heliotropium species, but it is the only one widely grown in gardens. All are tropical or subtropical shrubs or subshrubs (a somewhat woody plant sometimes grown and used as a shrub or perennial).
Common heliotrope grows 2 to 3 feet high; some varieties are a compact 10 inches. Tiny, star-shaped flowers of deep blue, purple, lavender, or white come in tightly packed spikes that develop into rounded, 2- to 4-inch-diameter clusters. Hairy and veined 1- to 3-inch leaves have a purplish cast.
Among the most popular and beloved notes in perfumes, heliotrope evokes images of goose down comfort, almondy yumminess, fluffiness and powdery goodness. A pliable note, despite its characteristic odor profile, it can twist slightly here or there. Coupled with violets and iris it gains on intensity reminiscent of retro talcum powder; embraced by bitter almond, vanilla or frangipani, it gains on a mouth-watering quality that is delectable, like a billowy dessert you can't resist. A high pitched and curiously deep, at the same time, smell, this fascinating butterfly-attracting plant is but the introduction to a delightful and ubiquitous perfumery material.
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