The weather in Hanoi has started to get chilly over the past week and the intense fragrance of Alstonia Scholaris (or milk flowers) has pervaded the air on the streets in the capital city.
Alstonia Scholaris blossoms from mid-September to December with a typical scent; therefore, the odor of the plant is praised as a symbol of Hanoi's autumn.
The small bunches of the white flowers on the streets create a different scene for Hanoi on Autumn days. The street corners with the milk flowers make a charming picture.
The streets, where milk flowers abound such as Quang Trung, Nguyen Du, Quan Thanh, Thuy Khue, and Thanh Nien, are carpeted with tiny white flowers. Alstonia Scholaris can also be seen in the areas around West Lake, Hoan Kiem Lake, and so on. Furthermore, there are quite many of these trees planted along a few roads in the outskirts of districts of the capital city.
Every afternoon, the pungent fragrance of the flowers pervades the air, and on streets with a high density of this plant, the odor of the flower would be rather uncomfortable for many people.
However, the faint scent of this flower is reminiscent of Hanoi's autumn, inspiring poets, musicians, and artists and awakening indescribable feelings. The paths also become more poetic than usual thanks to the white flowers. On windless nights, the ardent fragrance makes the autumn atmosphere more romantic and poetic.
Milk flower has been an endless inspiration for poets and songwriters to compose famous works about Hanoi such as “Remembering Hanoi’s autumn” by Trinh Cong Son, “My dear, Hanoi streets” by Phu Quang, “Hanoi in the fall” by Huu Xuan, or “Quietness of Hanoi by night” by Phu Quang. The most popular song is “Milk flower” written by Hong Dang in 1978.
Its fragrance has become a subject of romantic, wistful nostalgia among Hanoians who have had to live far away from the city for a long time.