Plumeria filifolia

Family : Apocynaceae

Text © Pietro Puccio


English translation by Mario Beltramini


Rare wild and in gardens, Plumeria filifolia is recognized at once by its long leaves © Giuseppe Mazza

Rare wild and in gardens, Plumeria filifolia is recognized at once by its long leaves © Giuseppe Mazza

The species is native to Cuba, where it lives along the eastern coats of the island on calcareous rocky slopes.

The genus is honoured to the French missionary Charles Plumier (1646-1704), who picked it up and studied a great quantity of plants of the Caribbean area by the end of the ‘600; the name of the species is the combination of the Latin terms “filum” = thread and “folium” = leaf, with obvious reference.

Common names: Cuban frangipani (English); lirio de costa (Spanish-Cuba).

The Plumeria filifolia Griseb. (1863) is a shrub or a small tree with milky lymph and rather thin branches, grey in the older part, green in the young one, on which are visible the scars of the fallen leaves.

The leaves, on a 0,5-2 cm long petiole, are alternate, linear lanceolate to almost filiform, membranous, 13-18 cm long and 0,1-1 cm broad. Terminal thyrsiform inflorescence carrying numerous white flowers with yellow throat, bisexual, with calyx having 5 lobes and funnel-shaped corolla with 1-1,5 cm long tube and 5 lobes almost perpendicular to the tube, oblong-obovate to obovate, 2-2,5 cm long; the flowers emanate a slight scent.

The fruits are fusiform paired follicles, opposite, 8-9 cm long and of 1 cm of diameter, dehiscent (spontaneously opening when ripe), containing several flat seeds equipped with a membranous wing which favours their dispersion through the wind. It reproduces by seed utilizing a particularly porous and draining loam, kept humid, at the temperature of 20-22 °C, with germination times of 2-3 weeks, and easily by cutting and air layering.

Species with particular foliage, rare in the wild and even more in cultivation, requires full sun and particularly draining soils, utilizable in the tropical and subtropical climate zones, as it does not stand temperatures close to the 0 °C, in desertic gardens in association with xerophytic species, as it can stand long drought periods; furthermore, it resists to the marine aerosols, therefore it can be cultivated close to the sea.

The waterings must be regular in summer, but duly spaced in way to allow the soil to dry up before giving water again, practically stopped in winter. Where the permanent cultivation in open air is not possible, it can be cultivated in pot, in loam formed by about the 50% of sand or agri-perlite, in order to be sheltered in winter in a more possible luminous and dry location, with lowest temperatures never under the 14 °C.

Synonyms: Plumeria stenophylla Urb. (1924).


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