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Plumeria pudica Jacq. 1760
pronounced: ploo-MEER-ee-uh pud-EE-kuh
(Apocynaceae – the oleander family)
common name: Bridal Bouquet
What a magnificent plant this is! It is no wonder that it won the Plant of the Year Award at the Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition at Fort Lauderdale in 2007. The species is quite common as private landscaping additions in Florida and the Caribbean, but as yet is not often seen here. The plant photographed is at the rear of one of the houses in the Dunoon development in Picnic Bay. It is surely one of the most beautiful of all the frangipanis, a perfect accent plant for a small yard or patio, blooming year-round, almost non-stop. It has glossy, unusually-shaped leaves, and so looks ornamental even in the short periods when the plant ‘rests’. Large clusters of bright, white flowers, about 7 cm in diameter, with small yellow centres cover this tree as a beautiful bouquet, hence its common name. It is a medium-sized tree with profuse branching; growth is rapid and upright. The leaves are dark green and uniquely either panduriform or spatulate. They are not shed like the leaves of many of the frangipani, which are often virtually naked of foliage when they are in flower.
This is a native of Panama, Colombia and Venezuela, and has only recently been introduced into Australian gardens. There is also a variegated-leafed cultivar, commonly called Golden Arrow or Gilded Spoon, and also a pink-flowering hybrid produced in Thailand: Sri Supakorn or Pink Pudica.
This is a heavy bloomer and very easy to grow. It lacks the heady evening fragrance of most other frangipanis. Its leaves also avoid the common ‘rust’ so often seen on the others. Size can easily be controlled by pruning – your plant may be kept at shrub size, or allowed to grow to its maximum size of 4–5 m. It likes full sun, or afternoon shade.
For the most part, this plant requires little or no special care once it reaches maturity. Some gardeners prefer to keep it pruned and manicured, encouraging and exploiting its natural umbrella shape; but, in fact, pruning can be completely ignored once the tree reaches a decent height.
Although this plant is not commonly susceptible to disease, there are a couple of pests that may find it too good to pass up. Mealy bugs may occasionally be a problem, but they are easily dealt with, particularly if there are lady-birds about. The frangipani caterpillar (Pseudosphinx tetrio) is also an occasional visitor, and will eat the leaves. About the size of an adult finger, these caterpillars are easily spotted and can be removed by hand before they do too much damage.
I am sure that this plant, once it becomes better known, will take its place as a street tree in many parts of the tropics. It should also be possible to use it as a container plant.
Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2010, 2011
Page last updated 24th January 2017