One of the ancients
Of obvious reasons yesterday’s blog on the heavy rains received a lot of attention. I should like to connect to that blog by presenting a few interesting trees which could be used for both preventing erosion and to add beauty.
With 1100 wild tree species in northern Thailand there are many options. Unfortunately only a limited number are available. This is mainly due to lack of demand. Land owners who want a forest accept the free governmental teak seedlings (Tectona grandis, Lamiaceae), although a much greater number of tree species are offered, including the valuable rosewoods (Dalbergia spp., Fabaceae) which are now stolen in the national parks. Since the land owners want a quick cash reward for themselves, they are not interested in making money for their children or grandchildren, nor are they interested in biodiversity. However, if you belong to the vanishing minority of the human population who do care, then you should visit a Thai governmental forest nursery and ask what they have to offer. Some examples: Mai Dhaeng (Xylia xylocarpa, Fabaceae, a beautiul dome-shaped tree with a valuable and durable wood), Takien (Hopea odorata, Dipterocarpaceae, a black-stemmed slow growing species with an amazingly valuable wood and small flowers smelling of honey) and Makha (Afzelia xylocarpa, Fabaceae, a burgundy red wood used for floors. Very sturdy, can stand flooding and droughts). Australian Eucalypts may not be a good choice as they may lower your water table significantly in the dry season.
If you are lucky you may stumble upon an ebony (Diospyros, Ebenaceae). Luk jun, en Esan name for Diospyros decandra, is one of ‘the ancient trees’, not seen very often now. Thai elderly visitors coming to Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai clap their hands when they see our small tree, and you can almost see tears in the corners of their eyes. Not only does it have a magnificent and expensive wood, not only does it grow into majestic proportions, but it has edible fruits with a lovely perfume! It is not included in Simon Gardner’s book on northern Thai trees, so maybe it has a more eastern range, although I have seen it Luang Prabang in Laos which should imply it might have grown in northern Thailand before the loggers came.
According to Ketsanee, ‘jun’ refers to the moon, because the fruit resembles a little yellow moon. Why not use the English name ‘Moon ebony’ to create an interest for this unusual fruit?
Text & Photo: Eric Danell