Plumeria acuminata Air. is a flowering plant cultivated in the Philippines. Known commonly as “kalachuchi,” it is usually planted for ornamental purposes.
Kalachuchi is a small, deciduous tree, standing at 3 to 7 meters. Its crooked trunk bears fleshy, thick branches, and contains a sticky, milky sap. The bark is smooth and papery, while the wood is yellowish-white and soft. The leaves are alternate, oblong or oblanceolate, 20 to 40 centimeters long, pointed at both ends, and arranged in a spiral at the ends of the branches.
The flowers are large, 5 to 6 centimeters long. They are white or purplish outside and pale yellow within. They are borne in compound peduncled cymes, usually when the tree is leafless. The fruit is of two follicles, cylindrical, pointed at the tip, 15 to 20 centimeters long, and 1.5 to 2 centimeters in diameter. The seeds are numerous and winged.
Origin and distribution
Plumeria acuminata was introduced to the Philippines from Mexico by the Spaniards. It is now pantropic in distribution.
Cultivation and use
Kalachuchi is mainly grown in the Philippines as an ornamental plant, with the flowers as its main attraction. The flowers are supposed to be the source of the perfume known as “Frangipani.”
The flowers are popular in Filipino culture as ones given to the dead. Moreover, local superstition says that the tree put strain on the relationships of those living nearby.
Kalachuchi has a variety of medicinal properties. Its bark, which contains the bitter glucoside plumierid, is used as a purgative, emmenagogue, and febrifuge when in decoction. In Mexico, the calcium salt-containing latex is given for toothache, and when combined with coconut oil is used as a remedy for itching.
- Quisumbing, Eduardo (1978). Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. Quezon City: Katha Publishing.