17 April, 2010

Frangipanis - The Origins

Many people assume that frangipanis originated in Asia, especially when so many of these beautiful trees found in huge numbers around temples, flowers offered to Buddha as offerings and in some parts of India the frangipani represents eternity because of it's remarkable capacity to continue flowering well after the branch has been picked.

But actually, records indicate that frangipanis were unknown in the East before the sixteen century, when Portuguese and Spanish traders introduced the specimens plants they had collected from various parts of the New World and the Caribbean.

Frangipani plants are actually native to the semi-deciduous forests of southern Mexico and Panama and first were featured in The Badianus Manuscripts of 1552. It's an earliest collection of Aztec herbal remedies that was compiled during early years of Spanish rule, that shows that indigenous people used frangipani for a wide range of medicinal purposes. This hardy shrub with beautiful fragrant flowers became the favourite of the Spanish, who planted it around their churches, monasteries and took it with them as they explored the world.

For thousand of years frangipanis were cultivated in the area of present-day Mexico and in Aztec and Mayan civilisations frangipani was known as Cacalo. Mayans believed that the flower was created by the father of the gods, and it was intrinsically woven into their mythology. It was a sacred symbol of truth and immortality.

From the sixteen century frangipanis were taken from the New World to the Old and ultimately spread to world's tropical islands and when tourism took off in the twentieth century, frangipanis were quickly adopted as a symbols of a relaxed tropical lifestyle.


  1. I've just found your blog as I've been outside repotting my frangipani and wondered what (if anything) I could plant/sow around it to compliment the planting (might just put some pebbles around).
    This history is very interesting, thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes

  2. I always thought that frangipani are native to Bali and Java.. Interesting history. Thanks for sharing.. :)