Human Flower Project

Thailand’s Floral ‘Father’

Flowers shower the festivities honoring the world’s longest-reigning monarch.

imageGolden Rain Tree (Cassia fistula)


The royal flower of Thailand

Photo: Royal Flora

King Bhumibol Adulyadej ascended to the throne of Thailand 60 years ago, at age 18. This week, and on into 2007, he’s being honored throughout Thailand with all manner of floral celebration. Thai culture, as much as any we’ve studied, incorporates flowers into ever dimension of life—culinary, ceremonial, superstitious and commercial. So of course the beloved father of the nation would be recognized through the glory of plants.

For starters, royalty from more than 25 countries, Swaziland to Norway, have flown to Bangkok to pay their respects. At the capitol airport,  “attendants in white tunics held purple parasols to shield royals while women in colorful silk clothes strewed flower petals on a red carpet as they arrived.” The sheiks, princessses, and kings from afar also received jasmine garlands, known as phuang malai, a Thai greeting that commoners enjoy, too.

And several days ago, the Thai king and queen were anointed with lustral (flower-scented) waters.

From a nation that dispensed with monachs straightaway, it’s hard to understand the Thais’ reverence for their king. This story from the Christian Science Monitor helps: “In the late ‘50s, (Thailand’s) military government turned to the monarchy as a unifying force. The king’s image reappeared in public places, and long-abandoned rituals, including prostration and royal barge processions, were revived. King Bhumibol began to tour the nation and engross himself in rural development, which became central to his popular image as a ruler in touch with his people’s needs.”

imageKing Bhumibol Adulyadej greets a citizen

Photo: Tourism Authority of Thailand

We learned that King Bhumibol not only travels rural Thailand Prince Charles-style, with his camera (a famous image shows the King daubing sweat from his regal nose), he actually holds “several patents on rainmaking equipment and has devised complex hydrology projects (dams, mostly), in addition to writing books, making art, and composing music.” Recently, the King, who typically stays aloof from politics, diffused potential strife after a very fishy national election.

While this week marks the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol’s reign, even bigger floral festivities are planned for the fall. Before the king’s 80th birthday, December 5, 2007, a purported nine million Golden Rain Trees (Cassia fistula) are to be planted throughout the country.

“The project started in 1987, with the planting of 99,999 Cassia fistula, to mark His Majesty the King’s fifth-cycle the birthday anniversary. The Cabinet on 2 October 2004 designated the Cassia fistula flower as a national symbol….It was surmised that Cassia fistula could be grown in all parts of the country, and had been linked to various customs and traditions of the Thai people. The name ratchaphruek or chaiyaphruek – the Tree of Victory – is considered auspicious. The name ratchaphruek became established because of its bright yellow flower, representing Buddhism. It is also considered the royal color, the color of Monday, His Majesty the King’s day of birth.”

Not only does the Golden Rain Tree link back to the king through its color symbolism, “the shape of the pollen resembles the Thai numeral for nine; another fascinating characteristic that is symbolic of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Rama IX, the ninth ruler of the illustrious Chakri dynasty.”

imageNong Khun or Ratchaphruek

Logo for Royal Floral Expo

From November 2006 through January 2007 a Royal Flower Expo will take place in Chiang Mai. A publicity campaign has already started, with a floral tela-tubby-type cartoon character “Nong Khun or Ratchaphruek” leading the way.

It does seem odd that Thai moviegoers would stand up from their theatre seats to sing His Highness’s praises before settling in for “The Da Vinci Code,” but after reading about the King, even a hierarchy-bashing American can’t help but be impressed.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, the King continues to express his “conviction that self-sufficiency and sustainability, not globalization and breakneck growth, should drive Thailand’s development. A country that escaped Western imperialism should not succumb to its modern, more pernicious economic forms. He even asserted, in a speech given annually on his birthday, that foreigners claiming to have the best interests of Thailand in mind are not necessarily to be trusted. If the present state of Bangkok is any indication - a city known for its thriving sex tourism industry and its four-hour, suffocating commutes, on roads introduced by Westerners to replace nonpolluting canals - the King’s message may prove prophetic.”




Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/12 at 10:48 AM


here in mexico i am tring to gow up this wondefrul plant, however i do to know the teknique to reproduce this plant. if posibble i appreciate a lot any information. thanks.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 07/09 at 11:35 PM

The flower in the first picture is originally from India. This flower is an important part of a festival called Vishu which is celebrated in the South Indian state of Kerala.

Posted by Bangkok Girl on 02/20 at 04:21 AM

Thanks to all respect that you all giving out to our King.The Flowers on the post can be seen throughout the country of thailand mostly on highway to north pat of thailand, as this floer tree is the royal flowersto the king.

Posted by thailand Advisor on 02/23 at 02:10 PM

I’m Thai but live in Europe now, I now try to grow ratchaphruek flower here. At my home in Thailand we have many.

Posted by Thai girl on 03/26 at 02:23 PM
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