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Jungle Perfume

March 7, 2010

Mesua ferrea is one of those local tree species that were almost exterminated in the hungry quest for timber. It has an iron-hard, dark, brownish-reddish wood, once highly esteemed by local carpenters. Today’s carpenters hardly know this wood, since many of the lowland forests in tropical Asia are gone, replaced by sterile golf courses and resort style private gardens dominated by South American plants. During the past four years, I have only seen one mature tree of Mesua ferrea. At Dokmai Garden we have three seedlings from that mother tree, which survived the holocaust at a nearby mountain temple. This year, at age three, two of them just began to produce flowers. The petals are snow-white, and there is a thick pom-pom of bright yellow stamens. The wild bees come in masses to collect pollen, and their legs are heavy from successful treasure hunting. The literature rarely mention the fragrance, which to me resembles the perfume “Kenzo”, with a distinct cucumber touch. Another appealing feature of this humble being, are the young leaves, which are very pale at first and then turn pink and then red. While we struggle  to find a solution to the only environmental problem, i.e. the overpopulation of earth, it would be nice if gardeners meanwhile could assure we do not lose too many of our fellow beings.

Eric Danell

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