Monday, August 10, 2009

Frangipani Fascination

Michele: One of the trees in our font garden is a Frangipani. I was immediately fascinated in this tree because it is only deciduous tree around and the only leafless tree that I've seen in northern Queensland. Even more peculiar is that this bare tree is producing clumps of beautiful Frangipani blossoms. Sure, I've seen the Frangipani leis on TV... whatever, was my reaction -- but in person I am completely charmed. The flowers have a captivating three-dimensional shape and lovely subtle variation in color. The petals overlap in a pleasing 5-fold symmetry and grandly flare outward from the stem. The heady scent is not nearly as sickly sweet as when bottled.

Our tree drops a blossom every night. I read on wikipedia that the night is when the Frangipani scent is strongest. The flowers attract moths who think they may be fruit and then the moth carries pollen from flower to flower.
The tree is originally from central and south America, so how did it get an Italian name? The scent of the Frangipani resembles the scent that a Mr Frangipani of 16th century Italy used on leather gloves. What a strange story to this strange tree!

According to an Australia horticulture site, having Frangipanis in the garden is a bit out of fashion. I imagine this is something like having azaleas in northeast
US gardens -- been there, done that. Well passe or not, I'm still fascinated that this huge bare tree produces clumps of flowers and drops one daily. Each morning, I pick up a flower when I take the kids to the bus stop and add it to a cup in the kitchen. A small zen moment in my morning.


  1. That's pretty cool! I remember when I used to sell Body Shop products there was one "spa" product that touted how it has the oils (or something like that) of frangipani in a moisturizing lotion, or something like that.

  2. So maybe I should be rubbing these flowers on my body? I think I read that the sap is poisonous.