Oak Moss - Evernia prunastri

August 31, 2009

I never thought I'd be writing about perfume on this blog, but I have been reading a book on perfume history and am finding the intersection of botanicals, our sense of smell, and science very interesting. More specifically, it has been interesting finding exactly what natural substances have been used historically (and currently) in fragrance, and how fragrance is extracted from their sources. Animal substances include musk (historically obtained from a gland of the male musk deer, now a synthetic version is used), civet (obtained from gland of civet), and possibly the strangest, ambergris (a solid, waxy, substance produced in the digestive system of sperm whales). Some of the more common plant substances include jasmine, rose, lavender, neroli, bergamot, vertiver, labdanum, and oakmoss. Oakmoss and treemoss are types of lichens that can be found in Europe, North America and North Africa. Every year tons of these lichens are harvested for the fragrance industry. Compounds found in these lichens have the ability to "fix" fragrances, giving them longer staying power, and some of these compounds, such as one found in E. prunastri, have a distinct and complex aroma that is woody, sharp and slightly sweet. Oak moss is one of the traditional ingredients found in the fragrance family (or accord) known as chypres. One of the most famous chypres is Mitsouko. Mitsouko, created in 1919 by Jacques Guerlain, can still be found, however, due to recent regulations by the European Union deeming oakmoss an allergen, it has been reformulated sans it's mossy, forest like base notes.

*painting of oakmoss available in Etsy shop.


  1. Lichens are my very favorite! So fascinating about their use in perfumes, I'd no idea.

  2. this piece is especially unique to botanical illustration. What a fun way of depicting a moss! It's very much alive.

    Have you ever thought about publishing a journal or sketchbook of prints like these?


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