Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Group Writing: The Scent of a Woman

 

The scent of rumduol is the scent of a woman. Phka rumduol, phka being the Khmer word for flower, is the national flower of Cambodia. Rumduol has been a beloved bloom of the Khmer people for thousands of years. It graced many of our temples and sculpted female figures are adorned with rumduol in their hair and bodies. They also graced the temples’ colonnades and door frames.

Rumduol is the single most recurring character in Khmer literature. Countless poets, playwrights and lyricists, in the past as in the present, have gone to great lengths to extol the beauty of rumduol the flower and rumduol the woman and sometimes both. In Khmer culture, rumduol is synonymous with women and represents feminine beauty. This doesn’t just apply to literature. Khmers use rumduol and women interchangeably in real life as well. In the past, young women would thread rumduol blooms into body chains to wear before entering temples to receive blessing. But the flower itself bears neither Hindu nor Buddhist connotation. Khmers just simply love rumduol.

Rumduol flower comes from the rumduol plant (sphaerocoryne affinis), which belongs to the annonaceae or soursop family. Rumduol is native to Cambodia, often seen growing wild in semi-dense and secondary vegetation in the plains of country. They are heavily concentrated particularly around Angkor Wat temple. The plant is also cultivated all over the country; they line the streets, in the parks, hotels, cafes and private residences.

Rumduol is a mid-sized tree that can grow up to 15 meters high. Its silver-ish green leaves have a prominent mid-vein and are alternately arranged. The blossoms are white-yellow and reddish-yellow in colors. Each blossom is round and thick with two layers of six petals. When in bloom, three petals open up and the other three stay curving inward. They look waxy, dainty and quite symmetrical.

Rumduol flowers bloom in late afternoon and early evening. They are fragrant, though not quite floral, a hint of musk with a light sweetness. It is a very distinctive scent, not something you would expect a flower to smell like. Late into the evening when their scent intensifies, the smell can get quite heady, and can be detected over long distances. If you’ve ever been anywhere in Cambodia, you have definitely picked up this scent.

Rumduol plant also bears fruit, its season is from December to March. Rumduol fruits are small and round. They are green when young. They turn to dark purple that have a dusty grape-like pruinescene when ripe. Rumduol fruit tastes sour with a slight sweetness. Rumduol timber was used to make bows and other hunting tools in the past. Its bark is used to treat both animal and venomous snake bites and fever. The blooms are used to treat dizziness and nausea, and made into lip wax called kramuon rumduol.

Ladies, if you ever find yourselves in Cambodia, don’t be surprised or offended when some stranger calls you rumduol; it’s a compliment.

There are 9 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Arahant Member

    Another nifty bit of culture from Cambodia. Thank you.

    • #1
    • May 31, 2019, at 6:16 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. Mark Camp Member

    Colleagues,

    For me, one of the best Ricochet articles of the year so far.

    This is literature. I want to say why. But the simplicity of it hides much complexity, and I’ve already talked too much, even without my adding this…

    LC,

    Thanks again for writing.

    • #2
    • May 31, 2019, at 6:29 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Beautiful, LC, I can almost smell the fragrance now. Thanks.

    • #3
    • May 31, 2019, at 6:34 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Do you know if rumduol-scented products are available in the US, and do you have recommendations ? Might want to get an exotic present for my honeybunny.

    • #4
    • May 31, 2019, at 2:32 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I always learn something from LC’s posts. We leave May on a fragrant note.


    This conversation is part of our Group Writing Series under the May 2019 Group Writing Theme: Blooming Ideas.

    June’s theme is posted now, sign up to write about “Hot Stuff!”

    • #5
    • May 31, 2019, at 3:40 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Doug Watt Moderator

    Perhaps you should return to the U of A as a full professor in Cambodian culture, history, and literature. Lovely post, and you would provide a nice contrast between the Sonoran Desert, and Cambodia.

    • #6
    • May 31, 2019, at 7:35 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Would rumduol flourish in parts of the United States? I imagine they would make a magnificent addition to the right sort of botanical garden.

    • #7
    • June 1, 2019, at 12:12 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Do you know if rumduol-scented products are available in the US, and do you have recommendations ? Might want to get an exotic present for my honeybunny.

    Unfortunately, not in the US. There are personal care products and perfumes that are rumduol-scented, but I’m pretty sure you can’t get them outside Cambodia.

    Actually, maybe some French perfumes would, but I’m not too sure. That’s the closest I can imagine.

    • #8
    • June 1, 2019, at 9:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Would rumduol flourish in parts of the United States? I imagine they would make a magnificent addition to the right sort of botanical garden.

    Definitely Hawaii. Really any place that’s hot and wet, typical tropics climate.

    • #9
    • June 1, 2019, at 9:46 AM PDT
    • 1 like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.