Common Name: Frangipani (interestingly named after Marquis Frangipani, the creator of an Italian perfume ‘Frangipani’ used for scenting gloves in the 16th century. The perfume had a very similar smell to the Plumeria rubra flower).
Etymology: Plumeria: named after Charles Plumier (1646–1704), French botanist. rubra: red.
Origin: Originally Mexico, Panama but since has been introduced to tropical and sub-tropical areas all over the world.
Description: Small spreading (candelabrum shaped) tree from 2-8m with a similar width. It has a think succulent like trunk that is rubbery but brittle and oozes white sticky sap that can be irritating to skin. Canopy and flowers are at the terminal of branches only. Tree is deciduous and looses its leaves over the cooler, dryer months.
Foliage: Leaves are dark green, lighter green underneath, 30-50cm long concave, elliptic to obovate with sharp point at the end. The leaves are arranged in clusters at the end of the branches.
Bark: Thin grey/green and scaly. Scaling formed when leaves drop in winter leaving semi-circular marks on the bark.
Flowers: Initially tubular before opening out into a waxy 5 petal flower 5-7.5cm in diameter. Prominently profuse and strongly fragrant the flowers range in colour from red/pink to white with yellow/pink splash in the centres. Flowers are terminal first appearing at the end of branches even before leaves in spring and over the summer period. Flowers rarely produce seed.
Fruit: The fruit of this species is a 17.5cm pod which splits along one side to release 20-60 winged seeds.
Growth Requirements: Prefers a sub-tropical to tropical climate, full sun position in loam soil and reasonably sheltered from strong winds. Will not tolerate frost.
Uses: Tropical gardens, parks, feature tree, street tree, containers and pots. Flowers are used as decorations on coffins and in Hawaii Plumeria leis are given to tourists upon their arrival (this practice began in the 1940’s). Medical uses: the leaves are used in the care of sores and soothing lotions and flowers and bark in traditional Chinese medicine.
Maintenance: Minimal maintenance is required but pruning can be done in stages to create a nice shaped tree or reduce the size by up to 1/3 in late winter and early spring.
Propagation: Best done from large 25cm cuttings taken in dormant period of tree. Leave pieces to dry for about a week to prevent sap from oozing out, then pot in peat moss based potting mix and place in shady position.