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Ton kwaw luang

February 14, 2019

The native orange-flowered form of Butea monosperma (ton kwaw) is the drought- and fire-resistant province flower of Chiang Mai. Its flowers are heavenly beautiful in December-January.

When I visited our beloved Dokmai Garden last July (off Butea’s flowering season) I walked past a site where I many years earlier (2007) planted a rare yellow cultivar of this monsoon species. During my years until 2013 it was always a sad looking rod with a handful of flowers, and since I did not notice it last summer I concluded it was dead. This cool season Khun Densak sent me a photograph of massive blossom in a tree so big he had to use a ladder to reach the flowers.

Last summer I apparently walked past its massive trunk without realizing it was my former shy juvenile. Many trees demand several years of establishment, and this sapling was planted in a sector which we never irrigate. The reason for selecting such a dry site was that monsoon natives do not bloom normally if their natural weather cycle is tampered with. A drought is needed for a massive blossom. It is also interesting to remember that the sad looking rod survived the overflow of the nearby quarry during the wet year of 2011, another unique feature of monsoon plants. In fact, indoor pot plants in the West are often of monsoon origin, being adapted to cope with long droughts and occasional floodings.

Huge and yellow Butea monosperma flowers are crowded on the bare branches. This is an example of a splendid ornamental for the dry garden where you save time, money and water by not irrigating. Other colourful tree species planted nearby in this dry corner are e.g. Delonix regia ‘Smather’s Gold’, Cochlospermum vitifolium, Jacaranda mimosifolia and Bolusanthus speciosus.


The old sign of the yellow Butea monosperma is now back to mark the site of a revered member of the Dokmai Garden, now twelve years of age. Its yellow flowers adorn the Dipterocarpus tuberculatus leaf litter.


Eric Danell

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Leif Ljungström permalink
    February 14, 2019 5:14 PM

    Great News.

  2. February 14, 2019 5:25 PM

    Wow looks amazing, must walk up the road to have a look.

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