Plumeria History

Plumerias are very similar to you and me. Their DNA can give us a record of their origin and their heritage. When it comes to these exotic tropical flowers, many associate Hawaii as their birth place due to the abundance of plants found on the islands. I was one of those people, however, this is a false assumption. They where first found in the southern forest regions of Mexico in the mid 19th century. The very first plant was brought over to the Hawaiian islands in 1860 by Wilhelm Hillebrand, a German physician who became a botanist later in life.

You never know what beauty you will find on your travels. 

Pictures were both taken in Maui on the road to Hana. 

Cultural Usage Around the World

In India, the tropical plants were known as temple trees. Buddhists said they

resembled immortality because you can snap a branch off and it will re-grow
and produce beautiful flowers from the severed branch.
● Aztec Indians used it for medical purposes.
● Caribbean’s use the leaves as a wrap to heal bruises
● Hindus offered the beautiful tropical flowers to their gods.
● In other cultures, like Bengali, the white Plumerias were associated with
funerals or death.
● In the Philippines or Indonesia, you may find these flowers in graveyards
because of the belief that the tropical plant would shelter ghosts. In Hawaii, it is the
symbol of eternal life.
● The flower is related with love in feng shui
● Polynesian women will wear the flower in their hair to represent
relationship status.

…And to think that one gorgeous little flower had all these meanings
throughout the different cultures!

How Plumerias Received their Name

One of the most important botanists in the 17th century was a French monk by the name of Charles Plumier. Plumier was sent by the king to the New World on several extensive journeys. On his travels, he was ordered to search for different types of exotic plants. During his field work, he was able to make descriptive notes and drawings of each plant that he came across. Using the collected information and plant cuttings, he was able to turn his notes into manuscripts. Even after all of the new species he collected, he never
named any of them after himself. Due to all of his discoveries, Charles's colleagues named the plant after him. Although he was honored with the naming of the plant, he was not the discoverer of the species. The actual discoverer of the plant was a Spanish priest named Francisco De Mendoza. Over a century before Plumier , Mendoza prepared a manuscript for the Spanish king, explaining the medicinal properties of local plants and how they were used by the Aztec population. Among the plants described in the
manuscript was what would later be known as the Plumeria. 


The other common name for these plants, Frangipani , comes from a 16th century Italian nobleman. His name was Marquis Frangipani and he was recognized by the perfume he created to scent gloves. Once people discovered the scent of the Plumeria, it reminded them of the perfume that Marquis had created.



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