Field Guide to a Plumeria Flower

Field Guide to a Plumeria Flower
Plumeria flowers are known for their creamy hues of white, yellow or pink. They have been the focus of many artists and have been referenced in literature throughout the centuries. Whether you are seeking these blooms for their fragrant perfume or to observe the aesthetic beauty of their petals, you will find a few facts helpful.


Plumeria flowers, also called Frangipani, are part of the Apocynaceae family. They grow mostly on deciduous tree-like shrubs that can reach the height a small tree higher than arms reach, and they bloom from April into November in the right climate.

There are more than eight known species of Plumeria, but all blooms have five petals, most of which are oval or elliptical in shape. In many species, the petals slightly overlap each other in the whorl. Blossoms, depending on their species, are uniform in color while many have a lovely blend of two colors. Common combinations are: white with an egg-yolk yellow center; magenta and yellow; magenta and white; or deep yellow on light yellow.

The leaves differ depending on the species though most of them have orderly veins. Plumeria alba has long narrow leaves while Plumeria pudica has spatulate leaves, for example.


Plumeria flowers are a royal tease. They do not produce nectar, but their hypnotizing scent tells insects otherwise. Their main pollinator, sphinx moths, will pollinate the flowers as they go from one to the other looking for the sweet nectar they think they smell. Humans also find their scent to be alluring and have used it in the making of perfume and candles. Each species smells slightly different. Because these flowers try to attract these specific moths, they produce a stronger scent at night, when the moths are more active. In Brazil these flowers are called Lady of the Night for this reason.


Plumeria flowers are native to tropical and subtropical climates such as Mexico and Southern India, and having been introduced elsewhere, they flourish in places like Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. In places such as Fiji, Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Hawaii, these flowers are made into leis. In Polynesia, young women traditionally wear a Plumeria bloom behind their right ear if they are single and seeking a relationship and behind the left if in a partnership.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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