Plumeria (common name Frangipani) is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. It contains seven or eight species of mainly deciduous shrubs and small trees. They are native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America as far south as Brazil  but can be grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions.
Plumeria is related to the Oleander, Nerium oleander, and both possess an irritant, rather similar to that of Euphorbia. Contact with the sap may irritate eyes and skin. Each of the separate species of Plumeria bears differently shaped, alternate leaves with distinct form and growth habits. The leaves of P. alba are quite narrow and corrugated, whereas leaves of P. pudica have an elongated shape and glossy, dark-green color. P. pudica is one of the everblooming types with non-deciduous, evergreen leaves. Another species that retains leaves and flowers in winter is P. obtusa; though its common name is "Singapore," it is originally from Colombia.
Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers have no nectar, however, and simply dupe their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.
Plumeria species may be propagated easily from cuttings of leafless stem tips in spring. Cuttings are allowed to dry at the base before planting in well-drained soil. Cuttings are particularly susceptible to rot in moist soil.
In order to get the most from a plumeria plant with respect to growth, size, blooms, and scent, there is a fine balance that must be maintained. Ideally, a plumeria is in its element when it can have plenty of sun and appropriate water, so as to maintain soil moistness just above a state of dryness. On the other hand, if the plant receives a lesser amount of sun, then a lesser amount of watering is necessary - again, to ensure that soil moistness stays just above the dry state. The more sun, the more water. The less sun, the less water. A common mistake of novice plumeria growers is to overwater the plant when it is not able to be exposed to enough sun, thereby resulting in a rotted root system. Conversely, if a plumeria plant is able to receive maximum exposure to the sun, but they aren't watered enough, the plant will die.
Propagation can also be by tissue culture from cuttings of freshly elongated stems or aseptically germinated seed. Pruning is best accomplished in the winter for deciduous varieties, or when cuttings are desired.
There are more than 300 named varieties of Plumeria.
Etymology and common names
The genus, originally spelled Plumeria, is named in honor of the seventeenth-century French botanist Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species. The common name "frangipani" comes from a sixteenth-century marquess of the noble family in Italy who invented a plumeria-scented perfume. Many English speakers also simply use the generic name "plumeria".
In Persian, the name is "yas" or "yasmin". In India, the name is "champa" or "chafa", in Telugu "Deva ganneru" (divine nerium), in Manipuri "Khagi Leihao" . In Hawaii, the name is "melia", although common usage is still "plumeria". In Sri Lanka, it is referred to as araliya and (in English) as the Temple Tree. In Cantonese, it is known as 'gaai daan fa' or the 'egg yolk flower' tree. The name 'Leelawadee' (originating from Thai) is found occasionally. In Indonesia, where the flower has been commonly associated with Balinese culture, it is known as "Kamboja".
These are now common naturalised plants in southern and southeastern Asia. In local folk beliefs they provide shelter to ghosts and demons. The scent of the Plumeria has been associated with a vampire in Malay folklore, the pontianak; frangipani trees are often planted in cemeteries. They are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures.
In several Pacific islands, such as Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga, and the Cook Islands Plumeria species are used for making leis. In modern Polynesian culture, it can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status - over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.
In the Philippines and Indonesia, Plumeria, which is known in Tagalog as calachuchi, often is associated with ghosts and graveyards. Plumerias often are planted on cemetery grounds in both countries. They are also common ornamental plants in houses, parks, parking lots, etc. in the Philippines. Balinese Hindus use the flowers in their temple offerings.
Indian incenses containing Plumeria have "Champa" in their name, for example Nag Champa Plumeria is not a champa OR its aroma is not similar, but Indian incense having Halmaddi (Alianthus malabarica) resins produce Plumeria-like aroma, which is the main ingredient of Nagchampa incense.
In Hindu mythology, there is a saying "चम्पा तुझमें तीन गुण - रंग, रूप और बास ; अवगुण तुझमें एक ही कि भंवर न आए पास" (Hey Champa you have three qualities color, beauty, and fragrance, but the only thing you lack is that honey-bees never sit on you.) "roop tajey to Radhikey, or bhanwar Krishna ko daas, is mariyaadey ke liye bhanwar na aaye pass" (the beauty of champa is compared to Radhika, who is wife of lord Krishna and honey-bees are servants of Lord Krishna and this is the reason honey-bees don't sit on the champa flower). However, the champa flower is the Indian Magnolia, and not plumeria. Both lack nectar. in southern India, western ghat (Karnataka's) local people use cream colored plumeria in weddings. The groom and bride exchange plumeria garland at the wedding. It is alternatively called Devaganagalu or DevaKanagalu (God's plumeria). Red colored flowers are not used in weddings. Plumeria plants are found in most of the temples in these regions.
In Sri Lankan tradition, Plumeria is associated with worship. One of the heavenly damsels in the frescoes of the fifth-century rock fortress Sigiriya holds a 5-petalled flower in her right hand that is indistinguishable from Plumeria.
In Eastern Africa, frangipani are sometimes referred to in Swahili love poems.
Some species of Plumeria have been studied for their potential medicinal value.
- 1819 - P. B. Shelley "The champak odours fail / Like sweet thoughts in a dream," line from "Indian Serenade".
- 1884 - In Huysmans's "À rebours" the persistent odor of frangipani troubles Jean des Esseintes.
- 1890 - In Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Henry's wife's perfume leaves the scent of frangipani to linger in the room, likely referencing the work of Huysmans.
- 1905 - Sarojini Naidu "Where upon the champa boughs the champa buds are blowing;" line from the poem entitled 'Village-Song' from her collection entitled The Golden Threshold.
- 1913 - Rabindranath Tagore story entitled 'The Champa Flower' from the collection Crescent Moon.
- 1957 - Doris Lessing's short story Flight, from her collection 'The Habit of Loving' includes several references to the frangipani tree - "Her hair fell down her back in a wave of sunlight, and her long bare legs repeated the angles of the frangipani stems; bare, shining-brown stems among patterns of pale blossoms."
- 1977 - The song Winter in America by Australian singer/songwriter Doug Ashdown contains the line "The Frangipani opens up to kiss the salty air".
- 1978 - Panama novel by Thomas McGuane "But I looked down through spinning air filled with frangipani and rock and roll and saw how quickly you are alone..."
- 1985 - The book "Perfume", the character Baldini wears it
- 1996 - "Under the Frangipani" (A Varanda do Frangipani) by Mozambican Mia Couto, who allegorises the passage of time as the shedding of the tree's flowers and the protagonists' departure from their shattered world as merging into the tree's roots.
- 1986-"Frangipani House" by Beryl Gilroy
- Plumeria alba L.
- Plumeria obtusa L.
- Plumeria pudica Jacq.
- Plumeria rubra L.
- (Formerly placed here) Himatanthus lancifolius (Müll.Arg.) Woodson (as P. lancifolia Müll.Arg.)
Red frangipani found in Malaysia.
Plumeria in the Jardin des Plantes de Lille, Lille, France.
White Plumeria, found at Andhra Pradesh
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- "Genus: Plumeria L.". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-03-14. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
- Urs Eggli, ed. (2002). Illustrated Handbook on Succulent Plants. 5: Dicotyledons. Springer. p. 16. ISBN 978-3-540-41966-2.
- College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Ornamentals and Flowers. Feb. 1998. OF-24.
- "KohSamui-Info" (in English). Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- "The Lantom or Leelawadee Flowering Tree of Thailand". Thailand-travel-guide.co.uk (in English). Retrieved 2012-10-05.
- Jones, Jay (April 22, 2008). "Hawaii keeps the lei-making tradition alive". Los Angeles Times.
- Kottegoda, S R, Flowers of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 1994; pp xiii-xiv
- Knappert, Jan (1972) An Anthology of Swahili Love Poetry, University of California Press, page 93. ISBN 0-520-02177-0
- . doi:10.1002/cbdv.201000159/abstract. Missing or empty
- Tagore, Rabindranath (1913, new edition 2007) Crescent Moon — Child Poems, Standard Publications Inc, ISBN 1-59462-738-X
- Lessing, Doris (1957) The Habit of Loving, Crowell. ISBN 0-261-61606-4
- Couto, Mia (1996) A Varanda do Frangipani: Romance (Uma Terra Sem Amos), Caminho. ISBN 972-21-1050-0
- "GRIN Species Records of Plumeria". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2010-09-08.
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