Botany Photo of the Day
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Plumeria obtusa 'Singapore'

Plumeria obtusa 'Singapore'

Today, we'll start Katherine's series of entries on white-flowered medicinal plants. She writes:

This image of Plumeria obtusa 'Singapore' is courtesy of Dinesh Valke (dinesh_valke@Flickr). For this series on medicinal plants, one should assume that traditional and sometimes scientifically unproven uses are noted, unless otherwise stated. I made my best attempts to find scientific articles where possible.

In Mabberley's Plant-Book, 8 species are noted for Plumeria, with two receiving mention as often-cultivated ornamentals in this tropical American genus: Plumeria obtusa (native to the West Indies) and Plumeria rubra (native from Mexico to Panama). Both of these species are widely cultivated throughout the tropics. Despite having only a couple handfuls of species, hundreds of cultivated varieties have been selected or hybridized, including today's evergreen cultivar. If researching Plumeria rubra, do note that many sites and references use the synonym Plumeria acuminata.

The U.S. National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) provides wonderful descriptions of both Plumeria obtusa and Plumeria rubra, along with their uses. The site notes that Plumeria flowers are used to make lei in Hawai'i, due in part to providing large numbers of showy flowers that retain colour and fragrance. The same source also notes that the scent varies widely among cultivars; this reference by Richard Criley of the Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa details 40 or so cultivars, with comments on fragrance: Plumeria in Hawaiʻi (PDF). The National Tropical Botanical Garden also makes note of the use of Plumeria as an ornamental for cemeteries (hence one of the common names, graveyard flower) and temples (known as temple flower in India and Sri Lanka). Today's cultivar is commonly known as 'Singapore' graveyard flower.

Medicinally, Plumeria species have traditionally been used to treat itches, swellings and fevers, skin eruptions and abscesses, dysentery, herpes, syphilis, coughs and as a purgative. A recent test of the leaves of Plumeria obtusa for anticancer properties did not find significant positive results (unlike some other members of the Apocynaceae): Wong et al. 2011. Antiproliferative and phytochemical analyses of leaf extracts of ten Apocynaceae species. Pharmacognosy Research. 3(2):100-106. However, a 2006 study by Gupta et al. suggested that an extract from the leaves of Plumeria acuminata can soothe inflammation in "both acute and chronic models": Antiinflammatory evaluation of leaves of Plumeria acuminata. BMC Complememnt Altern Med. 6(36).


I love wearing these beauties in my hair when in Hawaii

I remember reading a long time ago that the plant was regarded as a symbol of immortality somewhere in the East, possibly Java. This was because the plant would carry on flowering even when completely uprooted.

I had an accident with a propagator and a couple of Plumeria seedlings were chopped in half. Despite the fact they still only had cotyledons the top half rooted and carried on growing.

This site mentions the Immortality symbolism and use vs. rheumatism and other uses:

I love receiving your daily mail . . . but WHY did I receive 4 identical mailings from you
today . . . one is delightful AND sufficient

Oh, just a glitch in the system. The publishing program for the software messed up on the previous entry, which I suspect is the reason for the glitch now. As long as no one was receiving twenty notifications this time, it's just a minor annoyance.

I think I can smell it!


Gorgeous, I am saving for some future creation. Thanks.

I have been given a plumeria in a pot dug up from a yard in Southern California. No varietal name available. I live on the Central Coast of Oregon. The plant is deciduous and did not bloom last year. It has leafed out beautifully. Is there a fertilizing protocol for this plant which will remain in a pot but go outside in June?
Thank you.

on feeding Plumaria, use a slow release that is lower in nitrogen yet higher in phosphorus and potassium and has added trace elements. If you wish to go organic, usually a Tomato food will suffice, but cut the rates in half. Apply as leaves are budding out and give them as much sun as you can.

Plumaria trees, with their strange swollen-stubby-finger branches, grow wild on the arid hillsides amongst the tree cactus out of Oaxaca, Mexico. Does anyone know when this genus was introduced to the Pacific Islands and Asia?

..i swear..when i opened this page..i smelled vanilla..!

I too have worn this beautiful and fragrant bloom in my hair in Hawaii. This entry made me think of those wonderful islands and all the beautiful flora there. Thanks for the memories.

There are abundant of these in the Philippines. Although, locally we call this flower " Calachuchi". This can grow in medium planters when crafted and can grow in the ground, and it can grow like a small flowering tree as time goes on and it can stay very old as well. I knew & I saw my grand parents using the sap of this flowers for wounds & abcesses, skin irritations and I heard from them, it cures herpes and syphillis & the like. The sap is white & milky especially when it is from the leaves & young branch.
The fun pard of it when I was growing up was the making of garlands, using different colors:

Beautiful - the lighting is magnificent

Thank you for the four identical mailings, it really caught my eye. As I admit sometimes I omit looking at them, due to so much mail. It was a good glitch to me!!! !

This simply beautiful plumeria, took me back fourty seven years, to when I was 18 and went to the Hawaiian islands for the first time, after arriving in Vancouver to live here from England.

While in the islands I purchased a beautiful Plumeria brooch, which I still have to this day.

Thank you for the lovely reminder of that holiday so long ago.

Now that I have a high speed computre. I will try to look at every single magnificent posting, as I used to do. It was a joy. Thank you.
Diana Johnson

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