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Who threw artificial flowers into my pond???

March 29, 2012

This morning when we inspected the southern water pump of Dokmai Garden we found a cluster of flowers in the water, reminding one of artificial water lilies. These flowers are not artificial, they are real, and they drop down from a wild tree!

The name of the tree is Careya arborea, and it is a member of the ‘Brazil nut’ or ‘cannonball tree’ family (Lecythidaceae). It is native to the dry lowlands of India and Southeast Asia and provides huge and ornamental blossom which open at night, falling down in the morning.

There are of course many English names such as ‘wild guava’ (a bad name since this is not a member of that family at all) and ‘tummy wood’. Ketsanee calls it ‘pak gra don’, an Esan name alluding to its edible properties. Her family is used to eat the young leaves. The same name is used for another related Dokmai Garden vegetable: Careya sphaerica. The fruit is said to be edible too, but the seeds which keep the embryos are protected by poisons. The wood is useful, but the tree rarely reaches significant proportions (up to 15 m).

The leaves are obovate (egg-shaped with a tapering end). To the right are the young fruits with the female pistil still in the centre.

The male parts (the stamens) of the flowers are discarded after pollination, but they look nice when floating in a pond. Each float is the size of a hand.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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