Plumeria (/plˈmɛriə/), also 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 are native to the Neotropical realm (in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and as far south as Brazil and as far north as Florida in the United States), but are often grown as cosmopolitan ornamentals in tropical regions, especially in Hawaii, as well as hot desert climates in the Arabian Peninsula with proper irrigation.[2][3]

Plumeria rubra
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Apocynaceae
Subtribe: Plumeriinae
Genus: Plumeria

See text

  • Plumieria Scop.



The genus Plumeria is named in honour of 17th-century French botanist and Catholic monk Charles Plumier, who traveled to the New World documenting many plant and animal species.[4] Plumeria is also used as a common name, especially in horticultural circles.[5]

The name "frangipani" comes from a fictional 16th-century marquis of the noble Frangipani family in Italy, who created a synthetic plumeria-like perfume.[6][7] 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.[5]

In eastern India and Bangladesh, plumeria is traditionally considered as a variety of the champak flower, the golok chapa, meaning the champaka that resides in the heavenly home of Sri Krishna, a Hindu god at the highest realm of heaven. In Sri Lanka it is known as “Araliya” or “Temple Flower”.The flower, considered sacred, is also known by the names gulancha and kath golap.


Frangipani trunk in Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Plumeria branches are succulent.[8] The trunk and branches of the Plumeria species have a milky latex sap that, like many other Apocynaceae, contains poisonous compounds that irritate the eyes and skin.[9][10]



Plumeria trees are small or low shrubs. The leaves grow at tips of their branches. Various species and cultivar have various leaf shape and arrangements.[10][3] 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, semi-deciduous species that retains leaves and flowers in winter is P. obtusa; commonly known as "Singapore plumeria".[11]


Time-lapse of a flower opening

Plumeria trees flower from early summer to fall. Their blossoms grow in clusters on ends of the stems, they are made of tubular corolla with a length of 2–4 inches (5.1–10.2 cm) that split sharply into five rounded and waxy petals that overlap each other. These flowers come in many colours including pink, red, white and yellow, orange, or pastel. They have separate anthers.[10][3]

The flowers are highly fragrant, especially at night. Their scent is perceived to have floral elements of jasmine, citrus, gardenia, fruity aromatic notes of coconut, peach, vanilla, as well as lactonic, woody accords. However, they yield no nectar. Their scent tricks sphinx moths into pollinating them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.[12]

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 distinct appearance.[13]

Its fruit separates into two follicles with winged seeds.[3]




A frangipani tree in bloom in Bugibba, Malta

The genus Plumeria includes about 18 accepted species, with over 100 regarded as synonyms. As of January 2024, Plants of the World Online accepted the following species:[2]


  • The following may be designated to the nominate subspecies of Plumeria obtusa L.:
    • Plumeria clusioides Griseb.[14] - Cuba
    • Plumeria cubensis Urb. [14] - Cuba
    • Plumeria ekmanii Urb.[14] - Cuba
    • Plumeria emarginata Griseb.[14] - Cuba
    • Plumeria krugii Urb.[14] - Puerto Rico
    • Plumeria montana Britton & P.Wilson[14] - Cuba
    • Plumeria venosa Britton[14] - Cuba
  • The following may be considered synonyms of P. obtusa var. sericifolia (C.Wright ex Griseb.) Woodson:
    • Plumeria lanata Britton[15] - Cuba
    • Plumeria sericifolia C.Wright ex Griseb.[15] - Cuba
    • Plumeria trinitensis Britton[15] - Cuba
    • Plumeria tuberculata G.Lodd.[15] - Hispaniola, Bahamas
Formerly included in genus[2]



Plumeria can be propagated by seed or vegetatively propagated by cutting stem tips in spring, allowing them to dry at their bases, then planting in well-drained soil. These are particularly susceptible to rot in moist soil. Applying rooting hormone to the clean fresh-cut end will enable callusing.

Plumeria cuttings can also be propagated by grafting to an already rooted system.[16] The Plumeria Society of America lists 368 registered cultivars of Plumeria as of 2009.[17]

In culture

Plumeria is commonly used to make leis in Hawaii.

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.[18]

In the Philippines, where plumerias were introduced early in the 1560s from Mexico, plumerias are associated with graveyards, since the strong smell of the flowers were used to mask the "smell of death". This association spread into neighboring regions in Ternate and into Malaysia and Indonesia. In these three countries, plumerias are still often associated with ghosts and cemeteries.[19][20] 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 Kuntilanak, an evil vampiric spirit of a dead mother in Malaysian-Indonesian folklores.

In several Pacific islands, where plumerias were introduced in the late 19th century,[19] such as Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga, and the Cook Islands, Plumeria species are used for making leis.[21] 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.[22]

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, chômpa or chãpa), are associated with funerals and death.

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.[23]

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 in this region. 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.[24]

In Eastern Africa, frangipani are sometimes referred to in Swahili love poems.[25]

Some species of plumeria have been studied for their potential medicinal value.[26]



  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 d "Plumeria Tourn. ex L." Plants of the World Online. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Retrieved 4 January 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d Eggli, Urs (2002). Albers, Focke (ed.). Illustrated Handbook on Succulent Plants. Vol. 5: Dicotyledons. Springer. p. 16. ISBN 978-3-540-41966-2.
  4. ^ Zumbroich, Thomas J. (December 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 15 April 2015.
  5. ^ a b Grandtner, M. M. (2005). Elsevier's Dictionary of Trees. Vol. 1: North America. Elsevier. pp. 679–. ISBN 978-0-08-046018-5.
  6. ^ Piesse, George William Septimus (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 8 July 2017.
  7. ^ Kettler, Andrew (April 2015). "Making the Synthetic Epic". The Senses and Society. 10: 5–25. doi:10.2752/174589315X14161614601682. S2CID 192944557.
  8. ^ "Succulents in the Genus Plumeria". World of Succulents. Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  9. ^ College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR). Ornamentals and Flowers. Feb. 1998. OF-24.
  10. ^ a b c Mahr, Susan (2023). "Plumeria". Wisconsin Horticulture. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Retrieved 15 February 2023.
  11. ^ "NParks | Plumeria obtusa". Retrieved 2024-05-05.
  12. ^ Haber, William A. (1984). "Pollination by Deceit in a Mass-Flowering Tropical Tree Plumeria rubra L. (Apocynaceae)". Biotropica. 16 (4): 269–275. Bibcode:1984Biotr..16..269H. doi:10.2307/2387935. JSTOR 2387935.
  13. ^ "Plumeria Blooming". 6 August 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g The Plant List (RBG, Kew, MBG) access date: 2015-02-26
  15. ^ a b c d The Plant List (RBG, Kew, MBG) access date: 2015-02-26
  16. ^ Thornton, Sharon H. (1985). The Exotic Plumeria (Frangipani). Plumeria Specialties. p. 21.
  17. ^ "Registered Plumeria". The Plumeria Society of America. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  18. ^ "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.
  19. ^ a b Zumbroich, Thomas J. (2013). "'Plumerias the Color of Roseate Spoonbills' -Continuity and transition in the symbolism of Plumeria L. in Mesoamerica". Ethnobotany Research & Appllications. 11: 341–363.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Jones, Jay (22 April 2008). "Hawaii keeps the lei-making tradition alive". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ "Symbolism of Wearing Hawaiian Flowers". 16 December 2015. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  23. ^ "Equinox Aromatics, LLC - Halmaddi - Ailanthus triphysa - India". Archived from the original on 9 July 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2015.
  24. ^ "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.
  25. ^ Knappert, Jan (1972). An Anthology of Swahili Love Poetry. University of California Press. p. 93. ISBN 0-520-02177-0.
  26. ^ 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.