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A glimpse of paradise

July 29, 2010

If the paradise can be described as the home of God and wonderful creatures, then the Buddhist paradise is called Himaphan. In this mythical forest, situated at the foot of mythical Mount Sumeru somewhere in the Himalayas, live fantastic animals and spectacular flowers. Many Thai temples therefore collect sculptures of fantastic animals such as dinosaurs and Donald Duck, and exotic plants such as the man-made Codiaeum variegatum (Euphorbiaceae) to give the visitor a glimpse of Himaphan and mount Sumeru, the axis of universe.

Ironically, the real paradise in the nearby national parks is highly endangered. Thailand has a wealth of true wonders, but they are only appreciated by a minority of the locals. Uvaria lurida (Annonaceae) from the South of Thailand is a flower which gives us a glimpse of Himaphan. Its bright red and thick petals, and overflowing sticky nectar, makes it look like something from the Avatar movie. Its fruit are food to the gibbons, another ‘Himaphan creature’ on the brink of extinction. I find it amazing that such a lovely, evergreen liana like Uvaria lurida, is so rarely cultivated, and so hard to obtain. At Dokmai Garden we aim at propagating it, making it available to more people.

I sincerely think that if the Scottish Loch Ness monster had existed for real, the Scots would have hunted it to extinction. Since it is mythical, it receives more attention than basking sharks or puffins, which are true Scottish marvels. Few people realise that paradise surrounds us!

Eric Danell

The shy Uvaria lurida resides outside the teak-house at Dokmai Garden.

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