Thailand’s climate is tropical which makes it a wonderful location for flowers. In fact, trying to do a list of flowers popular in Thailand is difficult due to the vast number of them present. Therefore in this post, we attempt to list some of the bigger names. These flowers are popular for their significance in Thai culture, religion, or rarity.
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Golden Shower Tree
The golden shower tree, or ratchaphruek in Thailand, is known for its elegant yellow flowers. Its scientific name is cassia fistula.The tree itself is the national tree of Thailand while the flowers it produces are the national flower. Flowers from the tree have the Thai name dok khuen. The yellow color also represents both Thai royalty and Buddhism. The flowers can be seen from March to May, and grow in hanging clusters. The tree in full bloom is also popular at Songkran Festival held in April. Many visitors to Thailand may miss its full beauty as this occurs during low season for travel.
The lotus is famously known for its connection to Buddhism. The flower is sacred to a Thai Buddhist as it represents enlightenment. Read more about the Lotus in Buddhism and Thai Culture. It is common to use lotus for offerings at temples. The flower may be white, pink, and purple in color. It is an aquatic flower. Lotus is distinguishable from water lily by the way lotus flowers rise above the water. Water lily, on the other hand, lays at the surface of water. This flower is also a symbol of feminine beauty.
With over 1000 different species in Thailand, orchids are a top flower in the country. So much so that Thailand is the world’s top exporter of them. The flower is not only popular, it is business. The Land of Smiles is also the Land of Orchids. Kluai mai is the name for orchid in the Thai language. As one of the largest flower groups there is much variety in the colors and species available.
Frangipani, also known as plumeria, has a unique history in Thailand. It was once not allowed near the home at all. This is because the frangipani was once named lantom. Lantom is a word similar to sorrow or sadness. Thus, the name changed. Now it is common to see anywhere. One neat fact about frangipani is that the flower is more fragrant at night. This is due to the flower attempting to lure moths for pollination.
White and pink buds define ginger. These buds then produce yellow flowers. Several different types of ginger exist. These include beehive, shell, red, spiral, and torch. Ginger flowers are beautiful and some of my personal favorites in Thailand. They are extremely gorgeous and exotic looking. Edible gingers are maybe best known for their use in cuisines all across Asia. However, ornamental species of ginger outnumber the edible ones.
Jasmine is a white and yellow flower that is also very fragrant. It is an extremely popular gift to give a mother on Mother’s Day in Thailand. This is due to the wonderful smell and white being the color of purity. Mother’s Day in Thailand is August 12 each year. Jasmine is widely considered one of the most beautiful flowers in the world and symbolizes love and respect.
The canna flower is a popular gift for the father to receive on Father’s Day. Colors can be several shades of yellow, orange, and red. Father’s Day in Thailand is December 5 every year. Perhaps part of their popularity is due to the fact that canna is easy to grow and low maintenance. It also enjoys full sun. The yellow color is also symbolic of royalty as late King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday is the same day as Father’s Day.
Heliconia is extremely popular in Thai gardens. These flowers can be red, orange, and even pink. They are very tropical looking which make them a great addition. Heliconia will also stand out for their long, elongated shapes. The flower originally comes from the American tropics, although a few variations have been naturalized in Thailand.
Marigold flowers represent good luck in Thailand. Thus, they hold extreme importance. They are often used to make garlands known as phuang malai. Marigold are seen at events throughout the year including weddings, Loy Krathong, and the recent Thai elections. Over 200,000 marigold flowers were even grown for when King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away. Demand is high for the flower which leads to a need to import seeds.
In Buddhist texts, Queen Maya gave birth to the Buddha while holding onto a branch from a blossoming sal tree. The sal tree has since been misidentified as the cannonball tree. This has led to many cannonball tree plantings at numerous sacred sites in Buddhist countries. The cannonball tree is actually couroupita guianensis. Despite the incorrect identification, the cannonball tree and its flowers remain sacred in Thailand. It is also noteworthy for having 2 sets of stamens, one sterile and the other non-sterile.
Banana flower blossoms are used in Thai cooking. It is a large purple flower that should be rubbed with lime or lemon juice after cutting to prevent oxidation. The flower is bitter tasting. It is often served as a side or as an ingredient in a dish such as Pad Thai. The flower grows at the end of the banana plant. Inside contain sterile male flowers that cannot turn into bananas. Hua Plee is the flower’s Thai name.
White Spider Lily
I thought this was one of the coolest flowers ever when I first saw one In Queen Sirikit Park in Bangkok. White spider lily is elegant with long, white flowing petals. You may even see a basket made of spider lily as it is a traditional flower choice used during Loy Krathong. Spider lily is a common name for several species within the Amaryllidaceae family. The white spider lily, crinum asiaticum, is actually poisonous if ingested and may even cause irritation if touched.
Butterfly Pea Flower
A very beautiful flower with the scientific name of clitoria ternatea. So named for its resemblance to the human female genitalia. Butterfly pea petals are used in a tea that has medicinal properties. Thanks to its vivid blue coloring, the flower is also used to make a natural food coloring. Color changing drinks have become popular due to this feature as well. It can also be dropped in a batter and then fried to eat as a snack.
Hibiscus is a lovely looking flower that dazzles in a number of colors and sizes. It is common in northern Thailand where it strives. Both Malaysia and South Korea even include it as their national flower. Hibiscus is common in a number of tropical countries and is even used in a medicinal tea.
Cochlospermum regium has its origins in South America but is now commonly found in Thailand. 5 different provinces claim supanika as their provincial flower: Uthai Thani, Sara Buri, Suphan Buri, Nakhon Nayok, and Buri Ram. The bright yellow flower grows on a small tree and may be used for its anti-oxidant properties.
A rare and protected flower that was named due to its resemblance to a bird in flight. It grows only in a small region near Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Also, it is way too fragile to transport elsewhere. Petals are a combination of white, light purple, and a rich pink. Its scientific name is impatiens psittacina while its Thai name is dork nok khaew.
Black Bat Flower
Tacca chantrieri, or black bat flower, is quite the unusual flower. They are native to Thailand as well as Malaysia and southern China. This flower is an understory plant requiring plenty of shade. Black hanging filaments stretch well below the flower.
You have to come to South East Asia if you hope to see the rare rafflesia. The plant is parasitic which means it requires a host plant for survival. In Thailand, it can be found at Khao Sok National Park. Be prepared to smell the scent of rotting flesh. The flower emits the foul smell and its pollen is actually spread by insects like flies. An interesting fact about rafflesia is that it is the world’s heaviest single flower.
From the elegant and beautiful to the strange and unique, flower seekers are sure to find plenty of wonderful flowers in Thailand. They are used for numerous purposes here. Some in cuisine and medicine while others for their sheer looks. Next time you are in Thailand visit a park or garden and see how many you can identify.