what is wrong with this picture? In the middle
of the saraca flowers of the pea family (Fabaceae) I inserted a red Ixora
flower, belonging to the coffee family (Rubiaceae)! Both of them seem to
have four petals, but the ixora flower is composed of a 4-lobed tube. Unlike
ixora, saraca has six or more protruding stamens, and the resulting fruits
in saraca are bean pods, not berries like in ixora. (Photo by Frank Teng
taken from Dokmai Dogma blog)
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
Asoka or saraca (Saraca indica, Fabaceae) is currently in blossom at
Dokmai Garden. In addition to the spectacular flowers, you may also admire
the drooping handkerchiefs of light green young leaves. These leaves are
actually edible when young and tender, offering you a slightly acidic
experience. The tree has been proposed as the ‘sala’ under which Buddha was
born, but so has the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis, Lecythidaceae)
which is displayed at many Thai temples. Unlike the South American
cannonball tree, saraca is native to eastern Asia including India, but the
real sal tree should be Shorea robusta (Dipterocarpaceae).
In India, saraca flowers symbolise Kama, the god of erotic love. It is even
believed the flowers arouse passion. Some Hindus believe that if you immerse
six blossoms in water and drink it, you will be protected from grief and
The fragrance reminds me of honey, but it is not very strong. Butterflies
and bees are attracted, but usually not in great numbers.
At Dokmai Garden the tree seems to thrive in a sunny position where we can
water it generously. Being an understory tree, it can stand shade too.