Frangipani flowers, also called Plumeria, are one of my favorite flowers. If you are ever walking around Key West at night and notice a wonderful fragrance, it could be the frangipani flowers. They are most fragrant at night in order to attract the sphinx moths which pollinate them.
The frangipani plant comes in many species as either a tree or a bush and has a poisonous milky sap. They are natives to Central America, Mexico, Caribbean, South America and even Brazil. The flowers come in many colors from white with yellow centers, yellow, pink with yellow centers, dark pink, to even red.
This flower has many names depending on where it is located. The original name Plumeria was named after Charles Plumier, a French botanist, while “frangipani” came from an Italian family that invented a perfume with this fragrance. The Hawaiians call them “melia” and use them to make leis. Today the fragrance of the frangipani is used in many perfumes, lotions and soaps. In fact, you can get some locally made frangipani lotion at the Key West Aloe store on Duval Street.
The frangipani is associated with different cultural beliefs from protection from ghosts and demons to symbols in worship, or even a relationship status depending which ear you place it behind.
Before Hurricane Wilma, I had a frangipani tree in my back yard that produced white flowers. I have many memories of my oldest son climbing on a limb and writing his initials in the tree. Now I have a potted tree that is a different species than the first. It is less fragrant but it still produces the long lasting bouquets that my children and I used to pick and place in vases all throughout the house.
I hope that while you are here in Key West, you will find these beautiful flowers and pick one up and add it to the beauty in your life.
Relax and Enjoy the Beauty in Your Life!