My uncle’s farm in Kurtkoti was horticulture’s delight. Two Frangipani trees one bearing white and the other pink flowers added a lot of character to the farm. The branches of these trees were very easy to climb and we cousins would spend hours under the tree on summer afternoons to beat the heat. Few of these flowers would adorn the idols of the pooja room and during Diwali swings would be tied to these trees and we would swing wildly to our hearts content.
The botanical name of Frangipani is Plumeria belonging to Apocynaceae (oleander family). The name plumeria honors the French botanist Charles Plumier. Common names are “melia” in Hawaii, araliya in Sri Lanka, Temple Tree in English, Devva Kanagale in Kannada, Gulachin in Hindi.
The tree is deciduous and is a native of Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and Venezuela, but is widely grown all over the world for beatifying parks, roads and cemeteries. The trunk of the tree is grey, thick and smooth. The leaves are pointed, 20 inches long, leathery, and are clustered at the end of the branches. Some of the hybrid varieties of this tree are evergreen and leaves are rounded rather than pointed.
Because of the beauty and the fragrance of Frangipani flowers, they are synonymous with leis / garlands made in several Pacific islands like Tahiti, Fiji, Hawaii, and so on. It is the national flower of Nicaragua and Lao. The tree grows to a height of 25 feet spreading wide.
The flowers are 5 to 7 cm in diameter and are in shades of pink, white, yellow, deep red with a yellow center. The flowers appear at the tip of the branches in a bunch.
The fruit is a long capsule, green when young and turns to almost black when mature.
Warning: The tree possesses poisonous, milky sap, which when comes in contact with eyes and skin might cause irritation.
Plumeria species may be easily propagated from cuttings of leafless stem tips in spring. Cuttings are allowed to dry at the base before planting in well drained soil.