Frangipani / Plumeria / Bunga Kamboja

Plumeria (common name Frangipani) is a genus of flowering plants in the dogbane family, Apocynaceae.It contains seven or eight species of mainly deciduous shrubs and small trees. They are native to Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America as far south as Brazil, but have been spread throughout the world’s tropics.

photo: joko guntoro
photo: joko guntoro

Used in many cultures:

These are now common naturalised plants in southern and southeastern Asia. In local folk beliefs they provide shelter to ghosts and demons. The scent of the Plumeria has been associated with a vampire in Malay folklore, the pontianak; frangipani trees are often planted in cemeteries. They are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures.

In several Pacific islands, such as Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, New Zealand, Tonga, and the Cook Islands Plumeria species are used for making leis.In modern Polynesian culture, it can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status – over the right ear if seeking a relationship, and over the left if taken.

photo: joko guntoro
photo: joko guntoro

P. alba is the national flower of Nicaragua and Laos, where it is known under the local name “Sacuanjoche” (Nicaragua) and “Champa” (Laos). In Bangladeshi culture most white flowers, and, in particular, plumeria (Bengali, চম্পা chômpa or চাঁপা chãpa), are associated with funerals and death.

In the Philippines and Indonesia, Plumeria, which is known in Tagalog as calachuchi, often is associated with ghosts and graveyard. Indonesian name Plumeria as Bunga Kamboja. Plumerias often are planted on cemetery grounds in both countries. They are also common ornamental plants in houses, parks, parking lots, etc. in the Philippines. Balinese Hindus use the flowers in their temple offerings.

Plumeria

Indian incenses containing Plumeria have “Champa” in their name, for example Nag Champa Plumeria is not a champa OR it’s aroma is not similar, but Indian Incense having Halmaddi (Alianthus malabarica) resins produces Plumeria like aroma,which is the main Ingredient of Nagchampa Incense.

photo: joko guntoro
photo: joko guntoro

In Hindu mythology, there is a saying “चम्पा तुझमें तीन गुण – रंग, रूप और बास  ; अवगुण तुझमें एक ही कि भंवर न आए पास” (Hey Champa you have three qualities color, beauty, and fragrance, but the only thing you lack is that honey-bees never sit on you.) “roop tajey to Radhikey, or bhanwar Krishna ko daas, is mariyaadey ke liye bhanwar na aaye pass” (the beauty of champa is compared to Radhika, who is wife of lord Krishna and honey-bees are servants of Lord Krishna and this is the reason honey-bees don’t sit on the champa flower.) However, the champa flower is the Indian Magnolia, and not plumeria. Both lack nectar. In Southern India,western ghat (Karnataka’s) local people uses cream colored plumeria in wedding.groom and bride exchange plumeria garland at wedding.its also called Devaganagalu OR DevaKanagalu (God’s plumeria) but red colored flower is not used in wedding.we can find plumeria plants at most of the temples in these region).

Plumeria

In Sri Lankan tradition, Plumeria is associated with worship. One of the heavenly damsels in the frescoes of the fifth-century rock fortress Sigiriya holds a 5-petalled flower in her right hand that is indistinguishable from Plumeria. In Eastern Africa, frangipani are sometimes referred to in Swahili love poems. Some species of Plumeria have been studied for their potential medicinal value, such as in http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/6/36/ and http://www.pso-hns.org/psojournals/pjohns/2009/abstract_otomycosis.pdf

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