Magnolia champaca is a large evergreen tree, native to the Indomalaya ecozone. It is best known for its strongly fragrant yellow or white flowers. It is, however, primarily cultivated for its timber, and is also used in urban landscaping. Its aril-covered seeds are highly attractive to birds.
The species epithet, champaca, comes from the Sanskrit word campaka . Common names in other languages include champaca, champak; Sonchaaphaa in the Marathi language; Chenbakam/Chenpakam in Tamil; Chenbagam in Malayalam; shornochampa (golden champa), in Bengali; champa, cempaka, sampenga and sampangi in Telugu; Sampige in Kannada; jeumpa in Acehnese and shamba. All other names above apply to Plumeria varieties as well, with the exception of Sonchaaphaa, which is used exclusively for this particular subvariety in Western India. Some half a dozen varieties of Plumeria together with Magnolia champaca (three varieties) and two varieties of Ylang Ylang are generically called Chaaphaa in Marathi, though in some cases, a further descriptor is added: the red plumeria variety, for instance, is Dev Chaaphaa or God's Champa, and the two Ylang Ylang varieties each have a separate name as well.