Kalatsutsi, a Plant of The Genus Plumeria

Kalatsutsi belongs to the genus Plumeria and the family Apocynaceae. It has waxy flowers with five petals. It serves an adornment to temples, graveyards, parks and homes. It has been used in perfume and as medicine. Hawaiians use them in leis.

Common Names

     My Tagalog dictionary spells the name of this plant “kalasutsi,” and I have seen the spelling “kalachuchi” on the Internet and elsewhere, but I am used to calling it kalatsutsi. I have seen other Philippine spellings, such as kalasasi and kalatutsi.

     Two appropriate English common names are temple tree and graveyard flower. The appearance of kalatsutsi is very pleasing, so it is not surprising that it sometimes is planted near temples and in graveyards. Another English common name is frangipani. According to Wikipedia, this name honors a sixteenth century marquess who invented a plumeria-scented perfume.

     In India, the tree has several common names, such as champa. It is also called champa in Laos, where it is the national flower. It is also the national flower of Nicaragua. Here it is called Sacuanjoche, according to Wikipedia.

     One of the common names current in Mexico is flor de Mayo.

Taxonomy

     Kalasutsi belongs to the genus Plumeria. This name honors a French botanist named Charles Plumier.

     Several different species belong to this genus. According to “The Southern Living Garden Book,” Plumeria alba is white frangipani. Plumeria obtusa is blunt-nosed frangipani or Singapore frangipani, and Plumeria rubra is nosegay frangipani.

     Kalatsutsi belongs to Apocynaceae, the dogbane family. Other members of this family are oleander, yellow oleander, and the periwinkle.

Characteristics:

     The one Plumeria specimen that I specifically remember seeing was in the vivero of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala. It was a little taller than I. The tree was somewhat contorted and had grayish bark. I believe that it had a few leaves and flowers. At least, I saw the flowers and leaves somewhere.

     The description given in the International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry accords pretty well with what I remember. According to this source, the leaves of Plumeria acuminata may grow to a maximum length of 40 centimeters. They are about 7 centimeters wide and oblong in shape. They usually grow in a cluster at the end of branches.

     The flowers have both male and female parts. They have a pleasant fragrance and five waxy petals.

     “The Southern Living Garden Book” pictures four different varieties of Plumeria rubra. One of them is white with yellow inside. Two others are white with a generous admixture of pink or red.

Uses

     I have already mentioned that kalatsutsi is used to adorn temples and graveyards. It also serves as an ornamental in parks and around homes. Ornamental use is also made of the flowers. According to Wikipedia, Hawaiians use the flowers to make leis.

     The Philippine Medicinal Plants website lists a large number of medicinal applications of kalatsutsi. I cannot guarantee that they will work, and in any case, consult a doctor before using any herbal medicine.

     The root bark is used as a purgative and as a remedy for certain venereal diseases. The latex, when mixed with coconut oil, relieves itching. An infusion made from the leaves is used to treat asthma. Parts of the plant have also been used as a remedy for rheumatism, dysentery, toothache, and diabetes.

References:

“The Southern Living Garden Book”; Steve Bender, editor

International Journal of Research in Pharmacy and Chemistry: Review on Plumeria acuminata

http://www.ijrpc.com/files/31-264.pdf

Philippine Medicinal Plants: Kalachuchi

http://www.stuartxchange.com/Kalachuchi.html

Zipcode Zoo: Plumeria acuminata (Yasmin Hindi)

http://zipcodezoo.com/Plants/P/Plumeria_acuminata/

Wikipedia: Plumeria

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plumeria

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