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An edible jungle plant in blossom

April 1, 2011

These are busy times, so many plant species in blossom at Dokmai Garden I do not have the time to blog about all of them, or take pictures. Some simply have to wait until next year. Vanilla orchids (Vanilla planifolia) are now in blossom, and so are the orchids Dendrobium jenkinsii and Ascocentrum ampullaceum. Due to the strange weather, this is in fact the most beautiful landscape I have seen: we have blossom which normally would occur in a brown and very dry environment, and we have a lush green that would normally occur in the rainy season without the colours of blossom. Time to postpone the ‘musts’ and simply bring out a chair, sip some wine and behold a surreal landscape that may not come back for years.

Why not induce this landscape every year through irrigation? We are not sure how this weather will affect the plants and animals. For instance, I had the golden birdwing butterfly (Troides aeacus, Papilionidae) flying around the stunning Rangoon creeper blossom (Quisqualis indica, Combretaceae) all morning. This large butterfly is lovely, but if it gets dry again it will probably die without reproducing. Shortening the dry season every year, i.e. begin and keep the irrigation after the mango blossom (only allowing four months of drought) would perhaps be OK for the butterflies and orchids, but April blossom of e.g. the golden shower (Cassia fistula) and the red flame tree (Delonix regia) might be disturbed, i.e. instead of a torch of yellow or red, the leaves will hide the blossom. There is a reason why northern Thailand have species not occurring in the more wet southern Thailand. Better to just follow the seasons and be grateful for nature’s variations.

As to our more peculiar jungle vegetables, Dregea volubilis (Asclepiadaceae/Apocynaceae) is now in blossom too. It is a vine native to the nearby forests here in northern Thailand (Chiang Mai), and it is called ‘huan mu’ in northern Thai language. Leaves and flowers can be eaten raw or used in curries. The flowers have a slightly bitter taste, a feature highly esteemed among the locals who also enjoy gall bladder and Midnight horror (Oroxylum indicum, Bignoniaceae) which is now off-season. You should not eat too much, this is just a spice, because if you do, the plant will induce vomiting, and so it has been used as an emetic.

Eric Danell

Dregea volubilis is native to India and Southeast Asia.


P.S. No earthquake damage and no flooding here – feel safe to visit Dokmai Garden!


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