ugly plumeria plants

by John Bagnasco

At least that's what I felt people might be saying as they passed by with armfuls of plants with spectacular blossoms.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I went to the the show and sale of the Southern California Plumeria Society in Balboa Park, San Diego.

The Hawaiian themed festival included music, dancers, food, the best shave ice I ever had (the key is the scoop of ice cream) and of course thousands of plumeria plants. The waiting line to get into the main room was longer than the wait at the post office, but not as long as the DMV.

We were there on Sunday and workers told us that Saturday was somewhat of a controlled, but happy mob.

Since there had already been a day and a half of sales, most the rarest and hardest-to-find plants had already been sold. Still, there were literally hundreds of plants with gorgeous flowers available for sale. But it was two plants with no flowers and odd leaf shapes that caught my eye.

The first was Plumeria pudica, a plant with cobra-head shaped leaves that is native to Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. Unlike most plumeria, this one is evergreen and looks very tropical and ornamental even in short the short periods when it is not blooming. Unfortunately the blooms have little or no fragrance.

The second plant I bought was Plumeria filifolia, native only to the island of Cuba. The species name comes from a combination of the Latin terms filium (thread) and folium (leaf). I guess it could be referred to as the thread-leaf plumeria. The flowers are smaller that other plumeria, but are easily noticeable among the needle-like leaves.

I was a little surprised that my wife actually encouraged me to buy these two plants, so Ipressed my luck when I found a plant of ‘Fantasia’, which is an awesome plumeria with striped flowers. I told her I’d been looking to get one for a couple years. This plant was $95 for a one-gallon and she sweetly informed me that we should pass so that I could still have something to look forward to. Of course, I wasn’t disappointed, because I still got to go home with the two ugliest plants at the show!