Ever since our beloved lacquer tree was killed by Dendrophthoe parasites we have tried to re-introduce the species at Dokmai Garden. In 2012 I planted a number of seedlings within the garden. Although 2012 had a poor and mostly dry rainy season, I did not foresee any problems, as this tree grows in very arid situations. However, all seedlings died, and I have heard from some other people about problems in transplanting lacquer tree seedlings from pots to plots.
Generally a pot allows controlled germination and protection from intensive sun, excess water, drought, weeds and pests, but some species seem to have such a vulnerable root system that a transplantation from a pot is very difficult.
Throwing out any type of seeds on the ground is of course an option, but many are lost to rodents, birds and weevils. Planting the seeds under the soil surface will provide some protection.
In the case of lacquer seeds, we simply soaked them in water for two days, and waited until the young roots began to emerge to make sure the seeds were viable. Then we selected a sunny and well drained area with sandy soil and dug a shallow (10 cm) hole in the ground and planted the seed just under the soil surface. Based on observations of its natural habitat, no compost is needed, as that may even contribute to a saturated environment resulting in fungal rots. The place should be marked by hammering a plastic rod into the ground (anything wooden will disappear within months due to termites). Continued watering is recommended since you initiated germination, but after the rainy season allow the seedling a drought dormancy to follow the natural cycle.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell
A new orchid of the Orchid Ark collection at Dokmai Garden is Eulophia spectabilis (Orchidaceae). It never bloomed while in its pot in the shaded but moist nursery, but released in the dry monsoon woodland in August 2012 it dived like a fish released from its bucket. A vigorous inflorescence without leaves, typical of the Eulophia genus, showed up recently. Identifying this species is not easy since it is highly variable depending on its geographical origin. It can be all red (var. purpurea), all white or white and red. The specimen below has greenish sepals with pink stripes. A characteristic feature of the species is the pink venation of the lip with a white, sometimes yellow spot in the centre, while many other Thai Eulophia have lips with a pink centre. The inflorescence is fleshy and the flowers quite large, up to 3 cm. The pseudobulbs are round.
Although rare, it can be found from the dry lowlands (200 m) to the evergreen highlands (over 2000 meters) in all provinces of Thailand and from India to the Solomon Islands. A molecular study of the many geographical morphotypes may reveal that the scientific name is in fact an umbrella for many more species.
If life on Earth was as popular as sports, the current sports sponsorship industry of 40 billion dollars annually would probably be happy to sponsor research and conservation of wild orchids. One cent to biodiversity research and conservation for every soda or beer can would have a dramatic impact on how Earth looks like 1000 years from now. Our actions will affect future generations’ view of us; as egocentric clowns or responsible adults.
This form of Eulophia spectabilis is illustrated in Hooker’s book (1895) “A Century of Indian Orchids” and is also very similar to that illustrated in “Wild Orchids of Peninsular Malaysia” by Ong et al. (2011). Other forms are illustrated in “Thai Native Orchids 2″ by Nannakorn & Watthana (2008) and “Wild orchids of Thailand” by Vaddhanaphuti (2005).
Text & Photo: Eric Danell
(Precipitation report: on the 9th of May we received 10 mm of rain.)
Yesterday we spent a lovely day in the hills near Dokmai Garden, enjoying the results of the latest rains. Geodorum attenuatum ground orchids were in bloom along with yellow Globba sp. (Zingiberaceae) and two fantastic Curcuma spp (Zingiberaceae) and Gagnepainia thoreliana.
We collected the mature and very well tasting Thai dwarf date fruits (Phoenix loureiroi, Arecaceae):
The seeds look very much like ordinary date seeds but smaller. The flavour of the fruit pulp is identical to ordinary dates. Back home at Dokmai Garden we planted six seeds in situ in the garden, another 12 in pots and then we keep 12 for seed exchange.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell
(Precipitation report: on the 6th of May we received 13 mm of rain).
Buds turn into flowers. These pictures of the Siamese sindora (Sindora siamensis, Fabaceae) was taken yesterday on May 5th, 2013:
The flowering buds split in four sections and expose three pairs of short male stamens and one pair of longer male stamens. There is one pistil. No showy petals. The fragrance resembles a mix of honey, Norway spruce (Picea abies) and hyacinth. You would only detect the fragrance if you put the nose close to the flowers. Ketsanee and Mika both said the fragrance was appealing, but neither could describe it. I did see some visiting carpenter bees but no masses. I went out again after dark but I only saw one moth. Ants crawled around but I think they come due to the sugary droplets of the sepals. Being on the outside does not help with cross-pollination between trees, but they provide protection against hungry pests. I licked the droplets but they are too tiny to give any sensation.
In addition to this treat, yesterday’s visitors and Orchid Ark benefactors Allen and Janet Todd from Oregon got nice pictures of the flower of Strophanthus perakensis:
I updated the previous blog with Allen’s picture and added one of the young fruit.
Ketsanee Seehamongkol and Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden, Chiang Mai
People who like Dokmai Garden and our philosophy will also like Faasai Resort and Spa in Chanthaburi, southeast Thailand. We believe it is important that good forces pull the same way and we are more than happy to recommend other eco-friendly resorts and attractions. At present we negotiate the possibility of this land becoming a second Orchid Ark, with a responsibility for the southern Thai orchid species. Below is a guest blog written by Bronwen Evans who runs this family-owned resort.
At first glance we have what appears to be a normal resort garden with palms, bougainvillea, clipped hedges, fountains and lawns. However as they stroll around the gardens, perceptive guests will notice the diversity of plants, trees and flowers bustling with bees, butterflies and birds, and they may even spot a member of staff gathering some delicacies from the trees for lunch or dinner.
Welcome to our edible forest garden!
Many people have heard of forest gardening through the work of English writer John Hart or Japanese no dig guru Masanobu Fukuoka, but my inspiration has been the Japanese philosopher Mokichi Okada, who wrote about gardening as a form of truth, beauty and virtue, similar to our motto of harmony, grace and natural beauty. Most importantly, he founded the school of nature farming in Japan early last century. His followers set up the Asia Pacific Natural Agricultural Network (APNAN) in Thailand in 1989 which teaches the use of beneficial microorganisms and working with nature as an effective way of growing healthy productive crops without the need for insecticides or artificial chemicals. APNAN, which is based in Saraburi in central Thailand, is a wonderfully practical organization which teaches its techniques to thousands of people every year and provides useful advice on everything from rice farming, to orchid growing, creating a self-sufficient farm and animal husbandry. I attended a course in Saraburi four years ago and use their techniques in our organic gardens.
My other inspiration is my husband Surin who grew up in a village in Ubon Ratchathani in northeast Thailand (Isaan). He describes an idyllic boyhood, tending buffalo, hunting and fishing and gathering wild herbs and fruits. According to Surin there was an amazing diversity of fauna and flora around his village, including fragrant beautiful flowers and delicious wild fruit. Since they had no electricity and a non-monetary economy, everything came from the land, including light from the resin of the ton ya nang tree (Dipterocarpus sp.), collected by Surin. Unfortunately the landscape of Isaan is very different today, with most of the native trees cut down and replaced by a monoculture of rice paddies. Even the rice grown today is far removed from the aromatic heritage varieties grown in the past.
Most of the trees from the northeast also grow well here in Chanthaburi and we are lucky enough to still have extensive pockets of bush around us which shower us with self-seeding trees such as the richly scented lam duan and “mahaat” (Artocarpus lakoocha), a tall forest tree which produces fragrant fruit like apricots.
When we came to Kung Wiman nine years ago we bought two pieces of land – three and a half acres where we built the resort and one and a half acres along the road where we planted around one thousand rare agar wood trees (Aquilaria sp.). We kept about 50 of the original small trees on the resort property and planted hundreds more. Although we don’t have the barking deer and tigers that Surin used to see 50 years ago, we do have many small creatures such as squirrels, bats, lizards, frogs, toads, native bees, butterflies and birds which give life and movement to the gardens. Five years ago we bought a further 15 acres nearby. There were a couple of ponds and swampland fed by fresh water springs and we restored the small lake which was once there, called ‘White Water Lake’. Around the lake we have planted trees including natives such as agar wood and gankrau (Fagraea fragrans). Nearby we grow fruit and herbs and rice in the rainy season and we also graze three pet cows.
As well as commercial varieties of fruit we are growing heritage varieties of mango, durian and coconuts, wild fruits from Isaan such as ton waa chompu (Syzygium cumini) and local fruit varieties such as moon trees (Diospyrus decandra). In addition to staples such as lemongrass, galangal, kaffir limes and chillis, we harvest seasonal delicacies. This week we collected banana flowers and leaves, young tamarind and pigar leaves (Oroxylum indicum), hairy basil, holy basil, bitter cucumber, egg mangos, papaya, and a cherimoya.
We made tom yum with the tamarind leaves and a bitter cucumber salad seasoned with the tamarind leaves. Surin also made “hor mok gai” with the banana flowers, which is the quintessential forest cuisine. Hor muk literally means mixed wrap and is a mash of herbs and meat wrapped in banana leaves. Traditionally it was grilled over charcoal but today it is usually steamed.
Any meat can be used – when Surin was a boy he had hor muk made with lizards, frogs, snake, rats or squirrels. Since today we have no desire or need to kill these lovely creatures we eat it instead with chicken or fish or bamboo shoots.
Surin’s hok mok chicken recipe:
All ingredients are pounded together in a mortar and pestle, wrapped in a banana leaf, sealed with a toothpick and steamed.
We offer a few forest cuisine dishes at the resort such as pork with chamuang leaves, chicken with neem leaves (Azadirachta indica) and soup with Siamese cardamom (Amomum villosum). Curious guests may be able to try other exotic recipes – by asking what our staff are eating or tracking me down in the garden to find out what’s in season.
‘Mala’ or ‘mara’ salad, based on wild bitter gourd (Momordica charantia var. abbreviata).
Apart from being tasty, forest cuisine is also healthy. It is rich in vitamins and trace elements and almost everything we eat is also cited in our herb guide.
While we might not be able to recreate the idyllic world of Surin’s childhood, our gardens are a living reminder of what Thailand was once like and what it could be.
Text & Photo: Bronwen Evans. She is a New Zealander, who with her Thai husband Surin Laopha, created the award-winning eco-resort Faasai Resort and Spa at Kung Wiman in Chanthaburi in the Southeast of Thailand. Interestingly, Bronwen is the great-granddaughter of the Kew mycologist Mordecai Cubitt Cooke.
Acknowledgements: We thank Duncan Smart who visited Dokmai Garden back in 2011, and who put us into contact with Bronwen Evans after his stay with her this May.
Editing and scientific names: Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
On Tuesday we had five visitors from Boston, Hawaii and Esan (northeast of Thailand) and while checking out a guanabana fruit and a tarantula hole, I raised my eyes to screen the sky for raptors. There was a large bird indeed, but it had a long neck, black and white wings: Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans)! This was the 100th bird species recorded at Dokmai Garden.
It was not even on my ‘candidate list’. Possibly this individual was gaining high altitude (11 a.m.) to make a move for the central plains or perhaps even go abroad for a visa run. An acquaintance north of town (Mae Rim) said he had 200 openbills in the rice fields next to his garden. That visit was a first time sight for him too. Rice fields are a more typical location for the Asian Openbill, as storks like wetlands, while Dokmai Garden is at the foothills of the mountains.
Here is the updated bird list of Dokmai Garden. We have had visitors who have used it to identify species around their hotel even before visiting Dokmai Garden. The list is arranged in groups such as ‘raptors’, ‘long-tailed’ etc. Instead of buying a book on 1000 bird species you get a list of the 100 most common birds in the Chiang Mai valley, so a short-term tourist can quickly home in on possible candidates, google the names and get an illustration.
Precipitation report: we got 7 mm of rain last night and this morning, transforming the landscape into a lush green. Termites have begun swarming so we keep lights out at night. One light was on outside the bathroom when I returned from the lab by midnight, and around the lamp were tockay geckos swollen of termite food, wings hanging out of their mouths. On the ground I saw the first ‘ung ang’ frog this season, also attracted by the smörgåsbord of termites. Normally they spend a six months long siesta underground until the rains begin.
With the appearance of amphibians snakes get more active too. I have a bronzeback in the orchid nursery. She looks offended if you spray her with water and she moves away like a chic lady splashed by the neighbour’s naughty kids during Songkran, but she likes the humidity there. She shares the premises with a very fat toad. This clumsy old troll lives inside a pot with a tiger orchid, and he likes to take a walk in the restaurant garden at night.
I have updated the blog on the slug snake thanks to exciting information from Sjon Hauser, my mentor in snake watching. As it turns out, there is another look-alike snake species in Chiang Mai, largely over-looked. Sjon kindly provided a picture of this slug snake so if you like to know more about your garden neighbours, take a look at this blog again!
At last, we also invite tourists and VIP card holders to join us for a mango leather making activity. It will begin on Wednesday, May 8th, at 10 a.m. Kindly send us an e-mail if you wish to attend (info at dokmaigarden.co.th).
Eric Danell & Ketsanee Seehamongkol
The Dokmai Garden monsoon woodland hosts many of the Orchid Ark’s terrestrial orchids. I have previously reported Geodorum recurvum flowers, and can add that a total of ten such individuals have been recorded, one flower still remains although the first was sighted two months ago. Another exquisite orchid of this fire-free monsoon woodland displays its flowers right now, Eulophia andamanensis (Orchidaceae):
The flowers’ colours coincide so much with the surrounding leaf litter one might wonder if this is a camouflage. I think it is not a camouflage, but colours are redundant in this case, where morphology and possibly scent (undetectable to humans) attracts its pollinator. Bees and beetles are known pollinators of African and South American Eulophia. Some Eulophia mimic other flowers to lure pollinators, but that can not be the case in this species.
This species is often mislabeled Eulophia graminea, another native orchid with large green pseudobulbs. That species has pink colours in the centre of its lip, and blooms much earlier. Although native to India and Southeast Asia, E. graminea has become naturalized in Florida. Judging from seed pods we have that species in our monsoon woodland too.
Lindley’s name ‘Eulophia‘ is derived from ‘eu’ and ‘lephos’ meaning ‘beautiful plume’, alluding to the lip. The name ‘andamanensis’ seems to restrict it to the Andaman Sea, but E. andamanensis grows widely in deciduous forests all over Southeast Asia. We hope it will thrive and reproduce within our monsoon woodland.
While writing this blog at 11.15 p.m on Thursday, massive lightning and thunder is seen to the west. Ketsanee just told me about a destructive hail storm in Samoeng, so rainy season seems near. Precipitation report: we got 8 mm of rain around midnight, the bulk of which on the May 3 side.
Text & Photo: Eric Danell