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Plants in our sales nursery – Hopea odorata

July 1, 2010

Most mature trees of Hopea odorata (Dipterocarpaceae) have been cut down due to its superb, hard and black timber. Although termite-resistant, the Thais would not use it, since it is said to inhabit a powerful female spirit (Pi-Takien) that will haunt your house if you use the timber for construction. That did not stop the Thais from exporting it. Maybe that is why there are so many haunted manors in England?

Nowadays, not many people have seen a mature tree. People may wonder why it is called “odorata”? I once had the privilege of driving slowly on a rural road with the windows down, and suddenly the car was full of the fragrance of an enchanting honey. I stopped the car and then I heard thousands of bees. I stepped out and put my head into the blossom (see the picture below) – fabulous!

In Thailand, most people plant teak on land they have bought as an investment. The land surrounding Dokmai Garden is either owned by poor farmers who grow longan fruit (Dimocarpus longan, Sapindaceae) for annual income, or by wealthy Bangkokians who plant timber-trees as a long-term investment  while they wait for a buyer (the current raise in land value is 100% in three years). As teak (Tectona grandis, Verbeneaceae) is a softwood and grows quickly, the investor can cash it within a reasonable time frame. Planting timber like Hopea is a much more long-term investment, but there is one such plantation nearby Dokmai Garden. I should like to meet the owner and shake his hands.  Young three-year-old seedlings have black trunks and branches – quite decorative. Since it is a monsoon tree native to Chiang Mai, not much is needed in terms of management. It fills the function of a decorative and fragrant solitary tree in your garden, surrounded with legends.

Eric Danell

The blossom of Hopea odorata appeals equally to man and bees!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Edward Kok permalink
    April 25, 2012 8:32 AM

    Love your work and your piece on hopeas. Hopeas are majestic trees and it would be a real shame if the mature ones are withered away. Here in Malaysia, and in my own residential area, we are planting many forest trees such as hopea, dipterocarpus baudii dyera costulata dryobalanops aromatica and many syzygium species to create an indigenous forest. We used to plant exotics like mahoganies which we have stopped now.

    Will be stopping by in Chiangmai year end and hope to meet you then!

    • April 25, 2012 6:05 PM

      Dear Edward,

      Most welcome here and thank you for a report than encourage us all.


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