Walk through Bali and you’ll definitely come across these yellow-white flowers growing on trees.Locally known as jepun, the frangipani is Bali’s signature flower. It is often used in offerings, religious ceremonies, or decorations. It also smells nice too, and is used in a wide variety of cosmetic products. That smell of incense you happened to pick up during a morning walk? Probably frangipani.
The frangipani, also known as Plumeria, is a genus of tropical flowers that are native to Central America, but can be found in many tropical to sub-tropical regions. The flowers are mostly yellow and white, but in Bali, you can find red-white-yellow varieties. The red ones are usually more fragrant than white ones.
Frangipani trees can be found almost everywhere in Bali.They are planted at temples, to provide flowers for the priests and people to offer to the gods; at homes and restaurants for added decoration; and even along the sidewalk! Frangipani trees are mostly small, but in Bali, some frangipani trees are bred to amazing heights. Tempted to pick a flower? For high trees, locals often have a bamboo stick ready nearby the tree. The tip is cut into a V-shape, and you need to carefully place the tip beneath the stalk and twist it so the flower falls. Or, if you’re tall enough, just pick one! Be careful of the milky white sap, though! It stains clothes and irritates skin.
Frangipanis are bred mostly for their flowers, which are often used in religious ceremonies, both for prayer and decorating offerings. Their fragrance and beautiful colours make them great candidates for flowers to be offered to the gods. But nowadays, frangipanis have their own place as a commodity. Dried frangipanis can be ground into a fine powder used as a mixture for making incense, body lotions, and even perfumes and essential oils. Some exporters in Bali also ship dried frangipanis to China, where they are used in herbal tea. Demand for dried frangipanis are rising, so locals have started collecting dried frangipanis from their trees at home and selling them by the kilo. So, when you’re considering buying incense sticks or aromatherapy oils for gifts, rest assured you’re also helping the Balinese economy!