Ecuador’s remote Mashpi Lodge has created a synthetic perfume derived from rare rainforest magnolia flowers, with profits from sales going to conservation projects. Jenny Southan reports

Pioneering Ecuadorian eco-lodge Mashpi Lodge has launched a partnership with global fragrance giant MANE and The Red List Project (TRLP), a not-for-profit pioneering collective which aims to rescue botanical species around the world from extinction.

With a focus on the unique Magnolia Mashpi, the partnership serves to protect the species which was announced as a brand-new species for science back in 2016 and to date, is known to only grow within the lodge’s 2,800-hectare private cloud forest reserve, to the west of the Ecuadorian capital, Quito.Mashpi LodgeThe story begins when TRLP Conservation Director, Vanessa Handley, visited Mashpi Lodge as a guest and came away fascinated by the riches of its biodiverse forest, part of the Andean Chocó region, and by the lodge’s singular business model which finances research into this threatened and highly significant UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Today, the list of new species previously unknown to the world of science has reached 18, and as such, the recent discovery of the Magnolia Mashpi was a perfect candidate for TRLP’s list of endangered species.

Supporting TRLP since 2022, MANE performs a one-time-only extraction of the essence from selected fragrant botanical species around the world to minimise harvesting of the endangered species, to then recreate the quintessence of the fragrance in their laboratories using 100% biodegradable materials.Mashpi magnoliaIn the case of the Magnolia Mashpi, a few fragrant flowers of the tree were harvested using the lodge’s Dragonfly cable car which glides two kilometers across the treetops of the Mashpi Reserve, offering guests a unique aerial view of the dense forest. Using this technique, the precious magnolia can continue to thrive in its natural habitat.

Committing to share with TRLP a percentage of the profits MANE earn from the sales of fragrances containing the Magnolia’s reconstituted essence to their B2B clients, in turn, these clients also pay a percentage on their sales to the general public — who could, in the near future, come across a fragrance containing the beautiful scent of Magnolia Mashpi in anything from detergents to high-end perfumes.

The income derived from this agreement returns to the forests of Mashpi directly, fueling further conservation action. The first phase of the agreement will see TRLP fund a project, to be executed by Mashpi’s Research & Biology team, in which magnolia populations will be identified outside the reserve boundaries, in order to strengthen in situ conservation of this species.Mashpi LodgeNot only that, but ex situ conservation will also be enhanced by creating community nurseries which will help to educate and create awareness of this species’ importance and fragility among local communities in the surrounding region.

Commercialising the fragrance based on the Magnolia Mashpi’s stunningly-beautiful essence, while not endangering the trees themselves, is an innovative method to provide a sustainable, long-term means to conserve the species in the Ecuadorian Chocó for many years to come.

For now, the only way to detect its nuances of pear nectar, peach, gardenia and jasmine is to visit Mashpi Lodge and its reserve, find a petal on the forest floor a short walk from the lodge, and inhale the essence of the enveloping, life-giving forest.