Plumeria (//) is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae. Most species are deciduous shrubs or small trees. The species variously are indigenous to Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, and as far south as Brazil and north as Florida, but are grown as cosmopolitan ornamentals in warm regions. 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 also is used directly as a common name, especially in horticultural circles.
Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths to pollinate them. The flowers yield no nectar, however, and simply trick their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar. 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.
Plumeria species may be propagated easily by cutting 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. 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. The Plumeria Society of America lists 368 registered cultivars of Plumeria as of 2009.
Etymology and common names
The genus 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 marquis of the noble family in Italy who claimed to invent a plumeria-scented perfume, but in reality made a synthetic perfume that was said at the time to resemble the odor of the recently discovered flowers. Many English speakers also simply use the generic name "plumeria".
In Persian, the name is yas or yasmin: this term, however, considerably antedates the discovery of the Americas and originally refers to Jasmine (Jasminium species), whose center of diversity is South Asia. In Bengali the name is "Kath Champa", in Hindi, champa, in Gujarati champa, in Marathi chafa (चाफा), in Telugu deva ganneru (divine nerium), in Meitei khagi leihao. In Hawaii, the name is melia, although common usage is still 'plumeria'. In Malayalam it is called Chempakam. In Sri Lanka, it is referred to as araliya (අරලිය) and (in English) as the 'Temple Tree'. In Khmer, it's known as "Champa" (also sounds like the country Champa). In Cantonese, it is known as gaai daan fa or the 'egg yolk flower' tree. The name lilawadi (originating from Thai) is found occasionally. In Indonesia, where the flower has been commonly associated with Balinese culture, it is known as kamboja, in Bali especially it is known as jepun. In French Polynesia it is called tipanie or tipanier and tīpani in the Cook Islands. In the Tagalog it is called kalachuchi. In the Kannada dialect spoken in the Old Mysore region of Karnataka of southern India, the flower is called Devaga Nagale, devaganagalu or devakanagalu (God's Plumeria). In Vietnamese; "cây sứ" which means the porcelain tree. In Burmese; တရုတ်စကားပင်.
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.
These are now common naturalized plants in southern and southeastern 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. 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.
Also in the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, the plumeria is often associated with ghosts and cemeteries. 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 fragranced 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.
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 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.
There are a few more new hybrids now (Nui Delight, Nui's Diamond Rose, Nui's Dragon Heart, Nui's Light of Hope), named after Nui Leera from Thailand, who has planted over 100,000 plumeria seeds (2018).
The genus Plumeria includes about a dozen accepted species, and one or two dozen open to review, with over a hundred regarded as synonyms.
Plumeria species have a milky latex that, like many other Apocynaceae contains poisonous compounds that irritate the eyes and skin. The various species differ in their leaf shape and arrangement. The leaves of Plumeria alba are narrow and corrugated, whereas leaves of Plumeria pudica have an elongated shape and glossy, dark-green color. Plumeria pudica is one of the everblooming types with non-deciduous, evergreen leaves. Another species that retains leaves and flowers in winter is Plumeria obtusa; though its common name is "Singapore," it is originally from Colombia.
Plants of the World Online lists the following:
- Plumeria alba L. - Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles
- Plumeria clusioides Griseb.
- Plumeria cubensis Urb.
- Plumeria ekmanii Urb.
- Plumeria emarginata Griseb.
- Plumeria filifolia Griseb. - Cuba
- Plumeria inodora Jacq. - Guyana, Colombia, Venezuela (incl Venezuelan islands in Caribbean)
- Plumeria krugii Urb.
- Plumeria lanata Britton
- Plumeria magna Zanoni & M.M.Mejía - Dominican Republic
- Plumeria montana Britton & P.Wilson
- Plumeria obtusa L. - West Indies including Bahamas; southern Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Florida; naturalized in China
- Plumeria pudica Jacq. - Panama, Colombia, Venezuela (incl Venezuelan islands in Caribbean)
- Plumeria rubra L. - Mexico, Central America, Venezuela; naturalized in China, the Himalayas, West Indies, South America, and numerous oceanic islands
- Plumeria sericifolia C.Wright ex Griseb.
- Plumeria × stenophylla Urb. - Mexico and Central America
- Plumeria subsessilis A.DC. - Hispaniola
- Plumeria trinitensis Britton
- Plumeria tuberculata G.Lodd.
- Plumeria venosa Britton
- The following may be designated to the nominate subspecies of Plumeria obtusa L.:
- The following may be considered synonyms of Plumeria obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson:
- Formerly included in genus
- Plumeria ambigua Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria angustiflora Spruce ex Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
- Plumeria articulata Vahl = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
- Plumeria attenuata Benth = Himatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
- Plumeria bracteata A.DC. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria drastica Mart. = Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
- Plumeria fallax Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
- Plumeria floribunda var floribunda = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
- Plumeria floribunda var. acutifolia Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria floribunda var. calycina Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria floribunda var. crassipes Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria hilariana Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria lancifolia Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria latifolia Pilg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria martii Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria microcalyx Standl. = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
- Plumeria mulongo Benth. = Himatanthus attenuatus (Benth.) Woodson
- Plumeria obovata Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria oligoneura Malme = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria phagedaenica Benth. ex Müll.Arg. 1860 not Mart. 1831 = Himatanthus drasticus (Mart.) Plumel
- Plumeria phagedaenica Mart. 1831 not Benth. ex Müll.Arg. 1860= Himatanthus phagedaenicus (Mart.) Woodson
- Plumeria puberula Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria retusa Lam. = Tabernaemontana retusa (Lam.) Pichon
- Plumeria revoluta Huber = Himatanthus stenophyllus Plumel
- Plumeria speciosa Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus bracteatus (A.DC.) Woodson
- Plumeria sucuuba Spruce ex Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus articulatus (Vahl) Woodson
- Plumeria tarapotensis K.Schum. ex Markgr. = Himatanthus tarapotensis (K.Schum. ex Markgr.) Plumel
- Plumeria velutina Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
- Plumeria warmingii Müll.Arg. = Himatanthus obovatus (Müll.Arg.) Woodson
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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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