20 Facts You May Not Know About Frangipanis (Plumeria)
According to Mexican myth the gods were born from Frangipani flowers.
Frangipani (Plumeria) is very rare in China, and even more precious than orchids. So, when a person gives frangipani flowers to a sweetheart, it is the closest thing to saying you’re special, I love you in a culture where expression of personal feelings is frowned upon.
The colorful caterpillar of Pseudosphinx tetrio feeds predominantly on the leaves of Plumeria rubra (frangipani).
“Warming” oils — such as those from frangipani are said to have a calming influence on those suffering from fear, anxiety, insomnia or tremors, according to the principles of Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old Indian holistic science that seeks to balance mind, body and spirit.
Frangipanis are good hosts for dendrobium orchids.
According to Vietnamese myth, ghosts live in trees with white and fragrant flowers including the frangipani. In Vietnam and China the colour white is associated with death and funerals.
In Hindu culture, the flower means loyalty. Hindu women put a flower in their hair on their wedding days to show their loyalty to their husbands.
There is a theory that Catholic missionary priests spread frangipanis around the world as they travelled. This may explain why the frangipani is so popular and common in the Philippines and Thailand but very rare in China and Vietnam. Thailand and the Philippines welcomed the Christian missionaries while, in China and Vietnam, they were persecuted until around the 1850s.
The frangipani is regarded as a sacred tree in Laos and every Buddhist temple in that country has them planted in their courtyards.
Frangipanis won’t burn except in extreme temperatures (over 500 degrees).
In Caribbean cultures the leaves are used as poultices (a healing wrap) for bruises and ulcers and the latex (sap) is used as a liniment for rheumatism.
The frangipani is also associated with love in feng shui.
In India the frangipani is a symbol of immortality because of its ability to produce leaves and flowers even after it has been lifted out of the soil. It is often planted near temples and graveyards, where the fresh flowers fall daily upon the tombs.
In Vietnam the frangipani is used for its healing qualities: the bark, mashed in alcohol, prevents skin inflammation. It is also used to treat indigestion and high blood pressure, while the roots have purgative effects on animals and the milk-like sap serves as a balm for skin diseases. The white flowers are used in traditional medicine to cure high blood pressure, haemophilia, cough, dysentery and fever.
In Malay folklore the scent of the frangipani is associated with a vampire, the pontianak.
In modern Polynesian culture, the frangipani can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status – over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.
Frangipani trees were once considered taboo in Thai homes because of superstitious associations with the plant’s Thai name, lantom, which is similar to ratom, the Thai word for sorrow. As a result, frangipanis were thought to bring unhappiness. Today, however, the blossoms are presented as fragrant offerings to Buddha and Thai people wear them on special festival days like Songkran (Thai New Year).
The frangipani is the national flower of Nicaragua and it features on some of their bank notes.
The name, frangipani, comes from the Italian nobleman, Marquis Frangipani, who created a perfume used to scent gloves in the 16th century. When the frangipani flower was discovered its natural perfume reminded people of the scented gloves, and so the flower was called frangipani. Another version has it that the name, frangipani, is from the French frangipanier which is a type of coagulated milk that the Plumeria milk resembles.
The name, Plumeria, is attributed to Charles Plumier, a 17th Century French botanist who travelled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species, although according to author Peter Loewer (The Evening Garden: Flowers and Fragrance from Dusk Till Dawn; Timber Press, 2002) Plumier was not the first to describe Plumeria. That honour goes to Francisco de Mendoza, a Spanish priest who did so in 1522.