Plumeria (//) is a genus of flowering plants in the family Apocynaceae. 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, 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 is also used 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 and Catholic monk 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 have invented 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 South East Asia this tree and its flower is considered sacred. A relief in Penataran temple in East Java shows a plumeria tree with its distinct flower-petals and skeleton-like branches. Another relief in Borobudur, at the west side, 1st zone also depict plumeria. These reliefs, which were created before European exploration (Borobudur constructed in ~ 9th CE and Penataran in ~ 14 CE) makes a difficult question about when plumeria came to South East Asia.
In eastern India and Bangladesh, it is traditionally considered as a variety of champak flower, the golok chapa (গোলোক চাঁপা), meaning the champaka that resides in the heavenly home of Sree Krishna, a Hindu god residing at the highest realm of heaven. This flower is considered sacred and also adorned by the name of gulancha and kath golap (literally, wood rose).
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 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. 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.
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 kuntilanak, 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.
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 Puerto Rico
- 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
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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