Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Royal Orchids of Thailand

A flower with five pointed petals that resembles Thai chedi colored in deep violet or scarlet that are often seen in bouquet and flower shop has a mystical draw. Its beauty resembles the rich-laden palaces and temples of the Thai kingdom. The flower is the perfect type of a royal Orchid. Orchids have always been associated with Thailand. No wonder orchid is one of the symbols inspired in the logo of the Thailand’s national airline. But my exposure to the enchantment’s of the Thai orchid led me to a discovery of why it is so much adorned.

The perfect specie of a royal Thai orchid.
A red specie of Vanda.
A royal beauty...
Thailand has always been known for its stunning orchids. So I was surprised to learn that the orchids is not its national flower but the Golden Shower Tree flower. Orchids from Thailand are one of the best varieties around for export and garden breeding. This has made Thai orchids as unofficial national flower of Thailand. But it has quite become the symbol of the country for its royal beauty. It is also no wonder why many horticulturists are fascinated with this flower. Their wide variety of colors and types makes them suited for any occasion, event or just garden collection.

Thailand is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems. Presently in Thailand, the orchid’ s natural habitat has been heavily disturbed; forest degradation and over-exploitation for commercial and agricultural practices have had a severe impact on the orchid population, especially the terrestrial species. Orchid populations in conserved areas, which historically have been safe places for orchids, are being harvested at an alarming rate. These beautiful and economically important species are becoming difficult to find in the wild where they used to be abundant. Species of the genera Aerides, Cymbidium, Dendrobium, Paphiopedilum, Pholidota, Rhynchostylis and Vanda have become increasingly vulnerable. According to data from the Department of Agriculture in 2007, orchids are an important economic product for Thailand. These orchids are exported primarily as cut flowers, but the seedlings grown from tissue cultures are also highly desired on the international market. More than 36,000 tons of cut orchid flowers are exported flowers are exported each year from Thailand.

The orchid garden in Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.
A "Lady of the Night" orchid (Brassavola nodosa) at the orchid garden.
Varuthglade - a Cattleya in full bloom. 
“Ueang” and “Kluai Mai” are the vernacular names for orchids in Thailand; however, the origin of these names remains a mystery. The name “Ueang” seems to be the original name as it is the older of the two and first recorded in the Sukhothai Era 800 years ago. It is the term used by the Thai people who live in southern China and Thaiyai people of northern Burma. The name “Kluai Mai” is now commonly used throughout Thailand, particularly in the central part of the country. Prince Kromphra Nakornsawan Worapinit pointed out in his “Manual of Orchid Growing” in 1917 that this name dated back to the Ratnakosin Era of 200 years ago. The Thai people appreciate native orchids for their aesthetic value and they are commonly used for ornamental purposes.

In Thailand, native orchids grow in all types of vegetation. They have been found abundantly in Doi Inthanon National Park and Doi Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary in the north; Phu Luang and Phu Rue Wildlife Sanctuary and Phu Kradueng National Park in the northeast; Khao Luang National Park in the south; Khao Soidao Wildlife Sanctuary in the east; Huay Kha Khaeng and Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary in the southwest; and Khao Yai National Park in the center of the country. The number of orchids in Thailand as compared to neighboring countries reveals there are 176 genera with 1,157 species with many more yet to discovered. The new genus, Sirindhornia, named in honor of HRHP Princess Sirindhorn, was recently discovered in Thailand. Exploration into untouched areas of the country will undoubtedly yield new orchid species for Thailand. (Source: http://www.orchidrun.net/) 

Orchids at Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo.
Cattleya Queen Sirikit also known as "Diamind Crown"
Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich.
Cattleya Love Passion.
 My first exposure to royal orchids of Thailand was when I visited Samphran in Nakhon Pathom province to watch an elephant show. While wondering the grounds of the Samphran Elephant Ground and Zoo, I visited their orchid garden where hundreds of orchid breeds and flowers are on display. Various cattleya flowers are also breed in the garden. The colorful flowers of these plants fascinates every visitor in the orchid garden that everyone start to shoot a photo while roaming around the garden. Their sizes and shapes were feast to the eyes. I even find a unique breed of a green cattleya, Brassolaeliocattleya Greenwich and large white cattleya in bloom named Diamond Crown.

White butterfly orchids or Doritaenopsis Ox Honey caught my attention!
The multi-tiered Bushakapa Throne at the center of the garden.
When we are at Suvarnabhumi Airport for our flight back to Manila, I saw again an orchid garden that displays various Thai orchids which was one of the central attraction in the airport. This time, bundles of white butterfly orchids or Doritaenopsis Ox Honey caught my attention. Dotted with deep violet tinge at the center of the flower, their bloom is eye-catching! Another unique variety of orchid that I saw is the Dendrobium Burana Jade (yellow-green orchids) that displayed in a manner like a drapes of curtain hanging down by the spot of the garden. Other unique orchid breed on display are the tiny yellow orchid or The Veined Oncidium (Oncidium varicosum), deep violet butterfly-like orchid called Phalaenopsis Tai-Lin Redangel, violet colored Dendrobium Genting Blue and Dendrobium Charming White. At the center of the garden is a multi-tiered roof Bushakapa Throne enshrining and reliquary urn of lord Budhha. Other flowers adorning the garden that also equally exquisite are anthoriums and red and orange bromeliads.

Dendrobium Burana Jade at the orchid garden of Suvarnabhumi Airport
Various orchids and ornamental plants on display at Suvarnabhumi Airport
In the Philippines, Thai orchids are popular during All Saint’s Day where the tradition of giving orchid bouquets or with other flowers on the tombs of departed loved ones’ are practiced. The normal white and violet flower variety of orchid are the most common orchid being sold in the market during this holiday. But depending on which variety, some breed and color are being sold quite expensive during this period. But other than the All Saint’s Day tradition, Thai orchids are also popularly used in pageant bouquets, gifts, and graduation corsages. Thai Airways’ flight attendants uses the violet colored orchid as corsage to promote it. It is also very popular in Filipino home garden where some are collecting different species of the orchid. I remember my mom used to grow them in our backyard and fascinates at their different blooms.

Though, the orchid is not the official flower of Thailand, it is quite the most symbolic flower of the country. Its beauty is comparable to the golden riches of its temples and palaces. Its enigmatic beauty just fascinates every horticulturists and hobbyists alike. I am not surprise since Thai orchids is one of the most beautiful flowers around. Having these flowers in your own garden is like having gems when they bloom. But whether the Thai orchids blooms in white, red or violet, its beauty is definitely royal.

The Royal Orchids of Thailand is part of my Thailand's Amazing Smiles series where I share my wonderful trip to the land of amazing smiles last October 25-28, 2011. For a helpful trip to Bangkok visit Bangkok for Visitors website for more information. You might also like the other parts of the series:  


  1. bigla ko na-miss mom ko. she loves orchids and has a collection of it back home. kaso, when she went sa usa, wala na nagalaga orchids nya. awesome post :)

  2. @Oman: Thanks! My mom also used to grown orchids too in our backyard but its difficult to maintain them especially if they are not shaded from the sun's heat.

  3. simply beautiful! beauties of nature like these are amazing! I remember tuloy my garden before sa pinas. Aside from my job at the bank, I also grew various plants and flowers of all kinds from orchids to bromeliads, etc...great job again in this post Ian...keep it up!

  4. i love all these flowers!

  5. We used to have orchids in the garden, too! Beautiful flowers :)

  6. @Ruby: They are simply stunning, right? Thanks for sharing your comment.

    @Joei: And fascinating too!

  7. Theory of the blog is different from others as I have read hundreds of blogs and articles but found such essence nowhere. Impressive writing and deserve a title of unique writing skill.

  8. very nice and informative post.. you have done a good job. http://www.tripne.com/2018/08/national-flower-of-thailand.html


All comments and reactions are highly appreciated.

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