Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frangipani/ABC Wednesday

F is for Frangipani

Nothing evokes that tropical feeling quite like the Frangipani.  Its colors remind me of sunsets.  If you've been to Hawaii, I'm sure you would associate Frangipani blossoms and its sweet fragrance with the tropical paradise.  In the Philippines, we associate its heady perfume with death.  Death because Frangipani, or Kalachuchi as it is known locally, is mostly used in sympathy wreaths.  Frangipani trees are often planted in cemeteries, not because of any cultural significance, but because they are tough plants that can survive neglect, heat and drought, and still fill the air with wonderful scents.

My grandmother had an old Frangipani tree in the garden, and it was a source of my childhood imaginings of  ghosts and otherworldly beings when its perfume filled the night air.  Frangipani flowers are highly aromatic at night--the white flowers are more fragrant than the pink ones.

It is called Flor de Mayo in South America where it is a native, although there are claims that Frangipanis are indigenous to the Caribbean and were taken to the Americas by Spanish priests.  Frangipani is related to Oleander and there more than 300 species.  They are relatively small trees growing to only about 5-6 meters tall, with gnarled branches, long leaves and distinctive flowers.  Frangipanis are deciduous and sensitive to cold weather, spreading and sparsely branched. A cut made on any part of the tree will produce a milky, sticky sap that is poisonous to both humans and animals.  

There is a theory that Catholic missionary priests spread Frangipanis around the world as they traveled.  This may explain why the Frangipani is 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.

Little-known facts about Frangipanis:
  • Many Haiwaiian leis are made from Frangipani flowers
  • The colorful caterpillar Pseudosphinx tetrio feeds only on the leaves of Frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
  • Frangipanis are good hosts for dendrobium orchids
  • Frangipani is the national tree of Laos, where it is called dok jampa.  It is regarded as a scared tree and every Buddhist temple in that country has Frangipanis in their courtyards.
  • Frangipani is the flower of Palermo in Sicily
  • It is also the national flower of Nicaragua and is featured in some of their bank notes
  • Frangipanis won't burn except in extreme temperature (over 500 degrees)
  • 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, a Thai word for sorrow.  As a result, Frangipanis were thought to bring unhappiness.
  • In Caribbean cultures, the leaves are used as poultices for bruises and ulcers; the latex is used as liniment for rheumatism.
  • The Frangipani is associated with love in feng shui
  • In India, Frangipani is a symbol of immortality because of its ability to produce leaves and flowers even after it has been lifted from the soil.  It is often planted near temples and graveyards, where fresh flowers fall daily upon the tombs.
  • In Hindu culture, frangipani flower means loyalty, and Hindu women put flowers on their hair on their wedding day.
  • In Vietnam, it is used for its healing qualities
  • In modern Polynesian culture, the frangipani can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status.
  • A Mexican myth believes that gods were born from Frangipani flowers
  • In Malay folklore, the scent of frangipani is associated with a vampire, a pontianak

Frangipani names around the world:  Tipanier (Tahiti), Cocaloxochite (Aztec), Flor de la Cruz (Guatemala), Phool (India), Amapola (Venezuela), Pumeli (Hawaii), Kemboka kuning (Malaysia), Jepun (Indonesia), Pomelia and Frangipane (Italy), Kang Nai Xin (China), Kalachuchi (Philippines), Hoa Su Ma (Vietnam), Sacuanjoche (Nicaragua)

Linking to ABC Wednesday


Lois Evensen said...

Beautiful flower! It is so welcome on this cold, gray day here.

Indrani said...

Fantastic Flowers.
Love the details!

Rajesh said...

Beautiful flower, such lovely texture.

Richard Lawry said...

Amazing flowers!
An Arkies Musings

Reader Wil said...

This is the first time I have seen this beautiful flower! Though I knew the name! Thank you for sharing.
Wil, ABCW Team.

joy said...

remimds me of ,my childhood. And by the way masyado palang popular ang calachuchi with different meanings sa iba ibang bansa. Nice knowing these facts:)

Photo Cache said...

for whatever reason, i cannot remember the scent of frangipani, even though i used frangipani scented lotions.

Judy said...

Thanks for all the information, and the beautiful images!! I love the way the petals maintain that swirl pattern, even after they have opened!!!

Dianne said...

Stunning captures of this beautiful fragrant bloom.

Tania said...

Very beautiful flowers! I have never seen them before:-)

Carver said...

Beautiful shots. My sister brought me some in her suitcase once and even dried the scent was wonderful.

Carver, ABC Wed. Team

Roger Owen Green said...

It almost looks like a confectionery flower!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Leslie: said...

Stunning! Fabulous!

abcw team

Wanda said...

What exquisite colors..Just beautiful.

NatureFootstep said...

this is a gorgeous flower. I liek both the colorong and the shape of it. An interesting post.

Unknown said...

Beautiful photos and post.

Visiting from pret-a-vivre.com

Hildred said...

I do wish we lived in the kind of climate that was kind to the Frangipani. Beautiful blooms, and I'm sure a lovely fragrance.

betty-NZ said...

How lovely! I had no idea what color they were.

Hazel said...

The white ones are always lovely, but these color ones are quite interesting.

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

You might get the prize for the most beautiful F.

Crafty Gardener said...

Beautiful blooms. I've been sharing plants as well, to help cheer me up over the winter.

Lea said...

Informative post!
Beautiful photos!
Lea's Menagerie

Unknown said...

Gorgeous flowers, I love them.

isabella kramer - veredit said...

Breathtaking beauty in your photos - I can smell it ..

many thanks for sharing.

xoxo - veredit

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

which side of yr ear do you wear them?

Luna Miranda said...

@ Ann, i wear them on both ears--it means "it's complicated". *lol*

Chubskulit Rose said...

I miss the smell of that flower!

Fitness... Fashion... Family

Playing catch up again with F entries..
Rose, ABC Wednesday Team