All over my little island, I see frangipani strewn across the ground. They’re white flowers with a tinge of yellow in the middle. I am always surprised to see the number of people who have trampled across these flowers without noticing their existence.
While the flowers the frangipani tree sheds are many, it is not easy to find an unblemished flower among the many that lay strewn across the ground.
I have this habit of looking at them and trying to find an unblemished flower. After looking at a few, I would eventually find one that was still in bloom and that had not been stepped on. I’d put it in my hair or bring it home.
Within hours or over the course of the night, the flower would spoil. By the next day, however, when I walked through my little island again, I would find these flowers once more.
One day, after a dinner, I told some friends of mine about this flower that can be found ubiquitously all over the island and that no one notices or pays attention to. “It’s a frangipani,” I said. It’s also known as a plumeria. They come in magenta, too. But those are less common than the white ones.
Due to the fragrance the tree gives out at night, plumeria trees are very attractive to moths that pollinate them over the course of the night. The frangipani flower actually has no nectar. It tricks the moths into pollinating them. What a cheeky flower.
Outside of Southeast Asia, plumerias are associated with the Mayan deities of Mesoamerica. They represent life and fertility and the flowers have a strong connection with female sexuality. In modern Polynesian culture, the flower is worn by women to indicate their relationship status. They wear it over the right ear if they are seeking a relationship and over the left if they are taken.
I better be careful which ear I put it in from now on…