Plumeria, also known as Frangipani, is a large flowering shrub or tree that is thought to have originated in Mexico or Central America. It grows so well in sub-tropical and tropical climates that its growth is now common in Hawaii, and in mild climates of certain other states of the US. It is common to find this plant in Southern California, and parts of the Southern states. It is also found throughout South America.
There are about eight different variants of plumeria, based primarily on the color of its blossoms and leaf shape. Each variant has very different shaped leaves from the other variants, and blossom size can vary. Common colors are cream to yellow, and red or pink. Some newer varieties have color mixes or orange, red and yellow. The plants can reach up to 40 feet (12.19 meters) in height, and they bloom throughout the year.
Plumeria flowers are also large, and may be 5 inches (12.7 cm) in diameter. They are frequently used in the Hawaiian lei because of their desirable size, and also because of their exceptional fragrance. The fragrance is described as very sweet and stronger at night.
A relative of the oleander, plumeria is very poisonous. Caution should be used in using the blooms in leis that are given to children who might mouth them. Even chewing a petal can cause mouth irritation, and swallowing one can cause extreme illness.
Despite being poisonous, some people use the plumeria in alternative health applications. Experts recommended that people avoid anything with this plant meant to be ingested as this can cause illness. Plumeria is more frequently used in perfumes and body lotions because of its desirable fragrance. It is also cited as an ingredient in love potions concocted several hundred years ago. Such a potion might indeed have been dangerous merely from the plant’s toxicity.