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The Lantom or Leelawadee Flowering Tree of Thailand
Plumeria, Plumiera, Frangipani, Temple Tree, Temple Flower, Araliya, Lantom, Leela Wadee or Leelawadee
Whilst travelling the world we have not been able to ignore a particular tree, with five petaled fragrant flowers. The flower is unusual in the fact it has no stamen!
We have personally seen the tree in Mexico, Kenya, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Dubai. We know people who have seen it in Cuba, Australia, Bali, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore.
The tree is of the Genus Plumeria, originally spelled Plumiera. the commonest of which is the white plumeria alba, related to the magnolia, also known as the white frangipani. Plumeria or plumiera is also known as frangipani, the temple tree, the temple flower, araliya, lantom and leela wadee or leelawadee, amongst others.
There are seven or eight members of the species that can be found between the tropic of Capricorn and tropic of Cancer; they include: Plumeria alba, Plumeria inodora, Plumeria obtusa, Plumeria pudica, Plumeria rubra AKA acuminata and acutifolia, Plumeria stenopetala and Plumeria stenophylla.
The tree is so prolific in so many countries where it grows so abundantly that many people think that it is indigenous there, in fact it is native to the tropical and subtropical Americas. Other places have been colonised over hundreds and in some cases thousands of years.
Plumeria is an easy subject for artists and it features heavily in 'native' art in countries on the opposite side of the planet from its origin. You will see the temple tree in art and architecture, advertising and we have even seen frangipani tattoos!
Each of the Frangipani species possess poisonous, milky sap, rather similar to a weak latex and each of the separate tree species bears different shaped leaves and growth habits. The leaves of alba are quite narrow and deeply ridged, while leaves of pudica are dark green, elongated and slightly oak-leaf shaped, smooth and glossy and is of the non-deciduous ever blooming types. Plumeria obtusa; though it is known as "Singapore", originally comes from Colombia.
Frangipani flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure various sphinx moths to pollinate them. The Frangipani flowers have no nectar but dupe their pollinators with the scent. The scent is so aromatic and heady and has been extracted as an essential oil, used in aroma therapy and perfume.
Frangipanis are associated with temples in both Hindu and Buddhist cultures; although for some reason Hindus do not use the Frangipani in their temple offerings.
Items annotated (TAT)
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