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Champa Flower Garland
Floral garland

Plumeria rubra-4.JPG
Plumeria rubra
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Subtribe: Plumeriinae
Genus: Plumeria

See text

  • Plumieria Scop.

Plumeria (/plˈmɛriə/), known as frangipani, is a genus of flowering plants in the subfamily Rauvolfioideae, of the family Apocynaceae.[1] Most species are deciduous shrubs or small trees. The species variously are endemic to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and as far south as Brazil and north as Florida (United States), but are sometimes grown as cosmopolitan ornamentals in warm regions.[2][3] Common names for plants in the genus vary widely according to region, variety, and whim, but frangipani or variations on that theme are the most common. Plumeria is also used as a common name, especially in horticultural circles.[4]


Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers yield no nectar, though, and simply trick their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.[5] Insects or human pollination can help create new varieties of plumeria. Plumeria trees from cross-pollinated seeds may show characteristics of the mother tree or their flowers might just have a totally new look.[citation needed]

Plumeria species may be propagated easily by cutting 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. One optional method to root cuttings is applying rooting hormone to the clean fresh-cut end to enable callusing. Plumeria cuttings could also be propagated by grafting a cutting to an already rooted system.[6] The Plumeria Society of America lists 368 registered cultivars of Plumeria as of 2009.[7]

Etymology and common names[edit]

The genus is named in honor of 17th-century French botanist and Catholic monk Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.[8] The common name "frangipani" comes from a 16th-century marquis of the noble Frangipani family in Italy, who claimed to have invented a plumeria-scented perfume,[9] but in reality made a synthetic perfume that was said at the time to resemble the odor of the recently discovered flowers.[10] Many English speakers also simply use the generic name "plumeria".[citation needed] In Southeast Asia the plumeria tree and flower are considered sacred. A relief in the Penataran temple ruins in East Java shows a plumeria tree with its distinct flower petals and skeleton-like branches.[11] A relief in the Borobudur temple, at the west side 1st zone, also depicts plumeria.[12] These reliefs were created before European exploration. Borobudur was constructed in the 9th century and Penataran in the 14th century. Taken together, their dates make difficult the question of deciding when plumeria came to Southeast Asia.

In eastern India and Bangladesh, plumeria is traditionally considered as a variety of the champak flower, the golok chapa (গোলোক চাঁপা), meaning the champaka that resides in the heavenly home of Sri Krishna, a Hindu god at the highest realm of heaven. The flower, considered sacred, is also known by the names gulancha and kath golap (literally, wood rose).

Plumeria relief in Penataran temple, Blitar, East Java

In culture[edit]

In Mesoamerica, plumerias have carried complex symbolic significance for over two millennia, with striking examples from the Maya and Aztec periods into the present. Among the Maya, plumerias have been associated with deities representing life and fertility, and the flowers also became strongly connected with female sexuality. Nahuatl-speaking people during the height of the Aztec Empire used plumerias to signify elite status, and planted plumeria trees in the gardens of nobles.[13]

Frangipani trunk in Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Flowering tree of Plumeria rubra decorating a garden in Tel Aviv, Israel
Hot pink frangipani in full bloom

These are now common naturalized plants in South and Southeast Asia. In local folk beliefs, they provide shelter to ghosts and demons. They are also associated with temples in both Hindu, Jain, 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.[14] In Hawaii, the flower is called melia. In modern Polynesian culture, the flower can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status—over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.[15]

Plumeria alba is the national flower of Laos, where it is known under the local name champa or dok champa.

In Bengali culture, most white flowers, and in particular, plumeria (Bengali, চম্পা chômpa or চাঁপা chãpa), are associated with funerals and death.

Also in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, the plumeria is often associated with ghosts and cemeteries.[16] Yangsze Choo in her novel The Night Tiger for example described it as is “the graveyard flower of the Malays.” Plumerias often are planted on burial grounds in all three nations. They are also common ornamental plants in houses, parks, parking lots, and other open-air establishments in the Philippines. Balinese Hindus use the flowers in their temple offerings. The plumeria's fragrance is also associated with the Pontianak, an evil vampiric spirit of a dead mother in Malaysian-Indonesian folklores.

Indian incenses scented with Plumeria rubra have "champa" in their names. For example, nag champa is an incense containing a fragrance combining plumeria and sandalwood. While plumeria is an ingredient in Indian champa incense, the extent of its use varies between family recipes. Most champa incenses also incorporate other tree resins, such as Halmaddi (Ailanthus triphysa) and benzoin resin, as well as other floral ingredients, including champaca (Magnolia champaca), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), and vanilla (Vanilla planifolia) to produce a more intense, plumeria-like aroma.[17]

In the Western Ghats of Karnataka, the bride and groom exchange garlands of cream-coloured plumeria during weddings. 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 five-petalled flower in her right hand that is indistinguishable from plumeria.[18]

In Eastern Africa, frangipani are sometimes referred to in Swahili love poems.[19]

Some species of plumeria have been studied for their potential medicinal value.[20]


The genus Plumeria includes about a dozen accepted species, and one or two dozen are open to review, with over 100 regarded as synonyms.[21]

Plumeria species have a milky latex that, like many other Apocynaceae, contains poisonous compounds that irritate the eyes and skin.[22] The various species differ in their leaf shape and arrangement. The leaves of P. alba are 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 nondeciduous, 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.[citation needed]


Plants of the World Online[23] lists the following:


  • The following may be designated to the nominate subspecies of Plumeria obtusa L.:
    • Plumeria clusioides Griseb.[24] - Cuba
    • Plumeria cubensis Urb. [24] - Cuba
    • Plumeria ekmanii Urb.[24] - Cuba
    • Plumeria emarginata Griseb.[24] - Cuba
    • Plumeria krugii Urb.[24] - Puerto Rico
    • Plumeria montana Britton & P.Wilson[24] - Cuba
    • Plumeria venosa Britton[24] - Cuba
  • The following may be considered synonyms of P. obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson:
    • Plumeria lanata Britton[25] - Cuba
    • Plumeria sericifolia C.Wright ex Griseb.[25] - Cuba
    • Plumeria trinitensis Britton[25] - Cuba
    • Plumeria tuberculata G.Lodd.[25] - Hispaniola, Bahamas
Formerly included in genus[2]



  1. ^ a b "Genus: Champa L." Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 14 March 2003. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 8 September 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "World Checklist of Selected Plant Families". Retrieved 18 May 2014.
  3. ^ Urs Eggli, ed. (2002). Illustrated Handbook on Succulent Plants. Vol. 5: Dicotyledons. Springer. p. 16. ISBN 978-3-540-41966-2.
  4. ^ M.M. Grandtner (8 April 2005). Elsevier's Dictionary of Trees: Volume 1: North America. Elsevier. pp. 679–. ISBN 978-0-08-046018-5.
  5. ^ Haber, William A. (1984). "Pollination by Deceit in a Mass-Flowering Tropical Tree Plumeria rubra L. (Apocynaceae)". Biotropica. 16 (4): 269–275. doi:10.2307/2387935. JSTOR 2387935.
  6. ^ Thornton, Sharon H. (1985). The Exotic Plumeria (Frangipani). Plumeria Specialties. p. 21.
  7. ^ "Registered Plumeria". The Plumeria Society of America. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  8. ^ "Zumbroich, Thomas J. 2013. 'Plumerias the Color of Roseate Spoonbills'- Continuity and Transition in the Symbolism of Plumeria L. in Mesoamerica. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 11:341-363". Retrieved 2015-04-15.
  9. ^ George William Septimus Piesse (1867). The Art of Perfumery and the Methods of Obtaining the Odors of Plants: With Instructions for the Manufacture of Perfumes for the Handkerchief, Scented Powders, Odorous Vinegars, Dentifrices, Pomatums, Cosmetics, Perfumed Soap, Etc., to which is Added an Appendix on Preparing Artificial Fruit-essences, Etc. Lindsay & Blakiston. p. 23. Retrieved 2017-07-08.
  10. ^ Andrew Kettler (2015). "Making the Synthetic Epic". The Senses and Society. 10: 5–25. doi:10.2752/174589315X14161614601682. S2CID 192944557.
  11. ^ Beragam Tanaman Pada Relief Candi di Jawa Timur Abad 14 Masehi; Skripsi_Regina Yofani_UI 2010
  12. ^[dead link]
  13. ^ "Zumbroich, Thomas J. 2013. 'Plumerias the Color of Roseate Spoonbills'- Continuity and Transition in the Symbolism of Plumeria L. in Mesoamerica. Ethnobotany Research & Applications 11:341-363". Retrieved 10 October 2015.
  14. ^ Jones, Jay (22 April 2008). "Hawaii keeps the lei-making tradition alive". Los Angeles Times.
  15. ^ "Symbolism of Wearing Hawaiian Flowers". Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  16. ^ Bautista, Norby (22 April 2015). "The summer blooming of the Kalachuchi". Manila Bulletin. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  17. ^ "Equinox Aromatics, LLC - Halmaddi - Ailanthus triphysa - India". Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  18. ^ "Kottegoda, S R, Flowers of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka, 1994; pp xiii-xiv". Archived from the original on 9 August 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2010.
  19. ^ Knappert, Jan (1972). An Anthology of Swahili Love Poetry. University of California Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-520-02177-0.
  20. ^ Sharma, Garima; Chahar, Maheep K.; Dobhal, Sonal; Sharma, Neelu; Sharma, Tek Chand; Sharma, Mahesh C.; Joshi, Yogesh C.; Dobhal, Mahabeer P. (2011). "Phytochemical Constituents, Traditional Uses, and Pharmacological Properties of the Genus Plumeria". Chemistry. 8 (8): 1357–1369. doi:10.1002/cbdv.201000159. S2CID 197211733.
  21. ^ The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed December 2016)
  22. ^ College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Ornamentals and Flowers. Feb. 1998. OF-24.
  23. ^ Plants of the World Online Plumeria Tourn. ex L. (retrieved 6 May 2019)
  24. ^ a b c d e f g The Plant List (RBG, Kew, MBG) access date: 2015-02-26
  25. ^ a b c d The Plant List (RBG, Kew, MBG) access date: 2015-02-26 Easy way to make a Plumeria Floral Garland archived in on 19 April 2022

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Plumeria at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Plumeria at Wikispecies