The Incommensurable Ubiquity of a Time-Travelling Flower
Unique with their own special beauty, trees and plants have journeyed many dimensions, assuming different shades of meaning in their travels through the time and the geography of human history. A kaleidoscope of signification, shape and substance crystalized in a perfect, complete balance where human history is layered and synthesized. Plumeria trees and flowers are a perfect example of this little miracle.
Originally typical of the warm and damp, tropical climates of Central America, Venezuela, Hawaii and the Caribbean Plumeria Rubra develops in shrub-form that can reach up until 10 meters of height. The big lanceolate green leaves can either be deciduous or evergreen depending on the region where the tree grows. Flowers are born around May and blossom throughout all the summer: they can reach a diameter of 10 cms and the fruits they bare are toxic as a defense from animals.
The plant owe its name to the French botanist Charles Plumier who discovered and classified it during a journey to the Antilles in the XVth century. It is also commonly known as Frangipane, probably a derivation from Muzio Frangipani, an Italian learned architect who distilled a perfume of a very similar scent to the flower.
From the moment of its discovery by Western travellers Plumeria has toured all over the world, taking a new and different meaning with each culture it came into contact. In the Maldive Islands the tree is known as Temple Plant as it is easy to be found around Mosques and local sacred places. Plumeria flowers are an essential element to the flowery garlands typically prepared by Hawaiian people as a gift for friends and guests. In the Far East, instead, the tree is associated with rebirth and immortality owing to the rapidity with which Plumeria’s branches, once cut, soon begin to blossom again.
In all such multi-dimensional travels across cultures the peculiar and unique beauty of this plant has been noticed and has been a target of several meanings. Plumeria is the perfect example of how Nature gathers and mirrors the real, the symbolic and the imaginary of human kind journey through Life.