The ratchaphruek (royal tree) is also known as the chaiyaphruek, golden shower, and golden rain. The beautiful, small, yellow flowers seem to tumble from the tree and it can be seen along roadsides, in parks, in gardens, and in various other public and private spaces. It is Thailand’s national flower and it bursts into bloom at the end of the cool season.
An important religious symbol, the lotus can be found in ponds, rivers, lakes, and large, water-filled urns all around the nation. It is especially common within temples and is seen as the flower of Buddhism. It is also important within Brahmanism. Lotus buds are often left as offerings at shrines. The aquatic plant may have pink, purple, or white flowers. A particularly striking place to witness the beauty of the lotus is at Talay Bua Daeng (the Red Lotus Sea) in Udon Thani during the cool season. It’s not just a pretty flower and a religious symbol, though. The seeds are an edible delicacy – the root can be turned into soup, the leaves can be used to wrap food, and the plant is thought to have medicinal properties.
Especially common in Northern Thailand, there are more than 1,000 different species of orchid in the country. Indeed, Thailand has the most orchids of any country in Southeast Asia and it is one of the world’s leading exporters of the plant. While you will spot some types of orchid growing in the wild, fans of the floral beauty should schedule a trip to one of the many orchid farms to truly appreciate the vast diversity of colours and sizes. Some of the more common orchid types in Thailand include brassavola, denobrium, cymbidium, mokara, and vanda. In the wild, orchids typically bloom in January and August, although they are common decorations in Thailand so can be seen throughout the year.
The frangipani is another flower native to Thailand that is often used as decoration. You may spot it beautifying a drink, tucked behind a massage therapist’s ear, or within a table display in a restaurant. The flowers may be pink, white, or yellow and they are also often used in spiritual rituals. Of course, it is also widely found in the wild. The flowers have a strong, sweet smell, and can be used to make perfume. Some Thais believe that frangipani trees house spirits and ghosts, and some people in the past associated the tree with bad luck.
The lovely, purple krachiao flower, also known as the Siamese tulip, bursts into colour at the start of the rainy season. One of the best places to see flower-filled fields stretching for as far as the eye can see is Chaiyaphum, a province in Northeast Thailand. There is a yearly flower festival from June to August. Despite the name, the flower is no relative of the tulip. Rather, it is part of the same family as turmeric!
Jasmine, with its enticingly sweet aroma, is the symbol of Mother’s Day in Thailand. Along with its fragrance, the white colour of the flowers is said to be representative of the wholesome, gentle, unconditional, and pure love between a mother and her child. It is also often used in offerings at temples, given as a respectful gift to elders, and used for decoration. Petals can be added to Thai desserts for a sweet fragrance and is used to make tea. The flowers may also be utilised to make perfumes and essential oils. Although not native to Thailand, having been brought to the nation from Iran via China, jasmine has been around so long that it has become naturalised. Different species of jasmine found in Thailand include the small-flowered star jasmine and Arabian jasmine, with its double petals and larger flowers.
Named because of its resemblance to a bat in flight, the large, purply-black bat flowers are also sometimes ominously known as the devil flower. The flower’s long “whiskers” add to its dramatic appearance. Some people believe it is bad luck to look into the eye-like parts of the flower. Thriving in humid conditions, the rainy season is the best time to find the bat flower in bloom throughout Thailand. It primarily grows in the country’s jungles.
Often associated with the tropics, the hibiscus flower can be seen all around Thailand. Also known as roselle, the flowers come in a variety of shades and sizes. It can be used to make tea and is also used in several countries as a traditional herbal remedy. It is especially common in the northern parts of Thailand.
The mangrove trumpet tree, also known as tui, has white flowers on long stems. The fluted appearance makes it look somewhat like a trumpet, hence the plant’s name. Found in several countries as well as in Thailand, it is especially popular in the Land of Smiles for its edible properties. It is found in several Thai dishes, including the spicy and sour, soup-like Thai curry of kaeng som. The trees grow in abundance around Thailand, including in people’s gardens, in parks, and next to roads.
An attractive and distinctive flower, torch ginger is often used for both decorative and culinary purposes. In Thailand, the flower buds are used in certain types of salad. Other names for the flower include red ginger lily, wild ginger, porcelain rose, wax flower, and torch lily. While the flowers are often reddish-pink in colour, they can also be white, deep red, and pale pink. There is a close cluster of petals at the heart of the flower, with larger petals peeling outwards. It blooms almost all year round and prefers the shade to the sun.
The giant Rafflesia is a rare flower that grows in just a few countries across the world, Thailand being one of them. Khao Sok National Park in the southern province of Surat Thani is one of the best places in Thailand to spot a giant Rafflesia in its full glory. Sightings definitely aren’t guaranteed, though, as the gigantic flower only remains in bloom for a few days. It takes around nine months for the bud to become a flower, and the blooming season changes from year to year! If you do manage to see a giant Rafflesia, however, you’re in for a treat. It’s the biggest flower in the world, with an average diameter of one metre, and the mammoth flower can weigh up to seven kilograms. It’s a parasitic plant, with no stem, root, or leaves. While impressive to look at, the flower certainly won’t win any prizes when it comes to fragrance — its smell is often likened to that of rotting meat!
Thailand has many beautiful flowers. From roses, daisies, chrysanthemums, and honeysuckle, to marigolds, sunflowers, butterfly peas, lilies, and poinsettias – you’ll find a huge variety of blooms, native, naturalised, and imported, around the country. Do keep your eyes peeled for the udumbara, though it’s almost guaranteed you won’t see it — some people doubt it even exists! A flower in Buddhist legends, it is said to bloom only once every 3,000 years!