FRANGIPANI – Plumeria
The Frangipani was originally described
by a French botanist – Charles Plumier
– from where the botanic name is obviously derived.
Originally the plant came from Tropical America but today it is very widely spread throughout the Tropics and Sub-Tropics and even found in many temperate regions.
At times it has been known as the Temple Tree or Pagoda Tree, possibly as it is found growing in many Buddhist and Hindu Temples where the f are used extensively for decoration or worn as hair and ear adornments’. However, Frangipani is the more common and widely known name with Western gardeners.
The Genus contains a number of Species of which P. acutifolia, P. rubra and P. obtusa are the more common. Because of the extreme popularity, much work has been accomplished by Botanists and Nurseries and many cultivars have been bred over the years, so that in todays’ gardens it is mostly the cultivars which are to be seen as compared to the original variety.
The tree branches are more or less supple, and it is regarded as a semi-succulent, with the younger branches being fairly easy to break off. The tree exudes a whitish milky sap which is sticky and poisonous. It propagates easily from cuttings. In the Tropics the trees can flower for most of the year whilst in the cooler Sub-Tropics the flowering commences in spring and lasts through to the onset of cooler weather.
Plumeria acutifolia can reach a height of 9 – 10 m in an ideal
environment, though normally it is much smaller at around 4 – 5 m. They are generally deciduous and the more common to be seen, carry large heads of highly fragrant white flowers with yellow centres. The leaves are generally narrow and pointed as compared to the P. obtusa variety qv. They can withstand sea breezes fairly well, so make an ideal planting in warm coastal regions.
Plumeria rubra is the other common variety found, being popular because of the profusion of flowers which vary from pale pink to dark crimson and are generally heavily scented and leave a lingering fragrance as you pass by. They too, are deciduous.
Plumeria obtusa is the evergreen species and is more suited to the tropical region where it retains its leaves and flowers virtually throughout the year. Grown in the Sub-tropics, with the onset of cooler months, the tree is prone to dropping its leaves as it reverts to a semi deciduous form for a short period. The leaves of P. obtusa are have a slight sheen, are broader and have a more or less blunt tip.
The obtusa range has been developed into Dwarf varieties making them excellent pot specimens, as they carry smaller dainty perfumed flowers even throughout the year in the sub-tropics if grown in a suntrap warm part of the garden.
Frangipanis, as a rule do not suffer from many pests or diseases, however a relatively recently introduced disease Frangipani Rust is caused by the fungus Coleosporium plumeriae Syn. C. domingense which can be rather debilitating causing defoliation, an unsightly appearance and very much reduced flowering.
For further information on this disease and how to control refer to article below.