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The frangipani or Plumeria is a member of the Apocynacea family of plants. It is native to tropical America: Mexico, Venezuela, Central America and some of the Caribbean Islands. Not Hawaii!
We can thank Christopher Columbus and other early Spanish seafarers for spreading the Frangipani around the globe.
Frangipani was the name of an Italian perfume that was used in the 16th century to scent gloves. It was named after the man who created it, Marquis Frangipani. When the frangipani flower was discovered the perfume reminded people of the scented gloves and so the flower was called frangipani.
The genus name, plumeria, is the name given it by French botanist Charles Plumier who travelled to the Caribbean in the 17th century and identified and catalogued the plant.
The frangipani has many names in various parts of the world. In the Far East where it is grown in the grounds of shrines, it is called the Pagoda Tree or Temple Tree.
In the Philippine Islands, some Caribbean Islands and in HawaiiWhere it was always planted Mission graveyards, it was known as the Graveyard Tree.
Frangipanis were introduced into Hawaii in 1860, and is now known there as Plumeria or Pau Melia.
In Hawaii it's used for making the traditional lei because of it’s perfume and ability to remain fresh for a long time. The French-
And in Venezuela it has many names but is most frequently called the Amapola (poppy) Tree.
Frangipanis come in many forms, with a vast range of flower colour and leaves of different shades of green, sheen and shape. Flowers vary in shape and texture, some having rounded overlapping petals and others having petals with pointed tips, and there is a vast selection of flowers with petal shapes in between.
The texture, colour, size and shape of both flowers and leaves can vary dramatically from plant to plant, and with the development of new hybrids the choices are almost endless. Tree shape and size can be dwarf, tall and rangy or spread more horizontally.
Frangipani is the perfect tree. With a cool green canopy and colourful and perfumed flowers, they make a beautiful garden focal point in summer and during winter, when deciduous, provide a warm place in which to sit and enjoy the winter sun.
They require little attention and are an extremely drought tolerant plant which grows as well in a pot as in the ground. As a feature around swimming pools, BBQ areas, patios or decks, frangipani grown in pots can be pruned to keep the plant small and to the desired shape, or a dwarf variety could be chosen. They add to the tropical look and feel of the area, especially if the chosen plant is one with a strong perfume and bright colour.