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The Golden Shower – Thailand’s National Tree

April 23, 2010

Visitors to Dokmai Garden often ask when the best time is for flowers. That is a tricky question, as that depends on what you want to see. There are always some species in blossom, no matter when you come. Many tourists avoid this time of the year, the hot season (we have 39 °C right now, slight wind, clouds building up, hinting a possibility for rain), but as I have suggested earlier, this time could also be called the wildflower season.

When monsoon trees are in blossom, the blossom is usually massive! Right now is a good time to admire the Golden Shower, Cassia fistula. It is a monsoon tree which demands a long period of drought for perfect blossom, i.e. thousands of flowers and no leaves. Specimens that grow near ponds or canals, or trees which get irrigated, usually develop a lot of leaves which hide the majestic blossom. This tree has been selected as the National tree of Thailand. I believe this is a clever choice, as it forms flowers during the Thai New Year (April 13), and the colour (yellow) is the colour of the King. It is also good that the Thais selected a native tree, not a foreign garden ornamental like Plumeria obtusa (South-American frangipani) which is the national tree of Laos. Quite a poor choice, actually.

Earlier today when I drove a car under yellow cassias and red Delonix regia (the Red flame-tree from Madagascar), I thought how sad it is that most tourists never see the Chiang Mai boulevards on fire. Our European trees are rarely that flamboyant, while here many trees have excess blossom and so sparkling colours that they almost blind the eyes.

Thai governmental nurseries give away seedlings of these trees (and other trees too, like teak) for free, which is a fantastic project to promote reforestation, add beauty and shade to the landscape and to prevent erosion.

Eric Danell

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