How does your garden grow?
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
A Snake in the Garden
I admire the camouflage of
this snake. Look at the brown band which runs through the eye. The
iridescent sheen of the scales is probably due to the fact that this
individual recently moulted.
By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden
Hitherto we have recorded nine species of snakes at
Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. In all of Sweden, which is
almost the same size as Thailand, there are only three species. The ninth
species was caught yesterday: the banded kukri snake (Oligodon fasciolatus,
Colubrinae). The genus is not fully resolved so this is a tentative name. I
have seen this small snake a couple of times in the Orchid Ark nursery,
always moving so quickly I thought it was a skink. For the past two days I
have cursed the chicken for overturning pots, but today I saw that the
culprit is a snake.
This common snake is characterized by a round pupil and
an olive back with brown military camouflage markings on the head. Some
scales have a black margin, some have a white margin. Although not
venomous, it has sharp slashing teeth adapted to a diet of bird and reptile
eggs, in addition to grubs and other large insects. These teeth may inflict
a deep wound which may become infected. Although I am sure this snake
controls many pests, we can not risk having an accident while moving around
pots with bare hands. Khun Densak, Dokmai Garden’s fearless head gardener,
caught this fast snake using a stick, and then he twisted it around the
stick and released it outside Dokmai Garden.
A very good source for identifying Chiang Mai snakes is
Sjon Hauser’s website:
Simond’s mute orchid
Simond’s mute orchid,
Aren’t all plants mute?
The orchid genus Cleisostoma literally means ‘closed
mouth’ in latinized Greek. The flowers of Cleisostoma look like many other
small brownish orchids, but this genus is identified by its tumour-like
‘callus’ blocking the mouth to the spur.
The genus Cleisostoma was coined by the German botanist
Carl Ludwig von Blume in 1825. He spent nearly ten years in Java where he
part of the time directed the Bogor botanical gardens. In 1829 he became the
director of Rijksherbarium in Leiden. The orchid genus Cleisostoma contains
over 100 species found in Southeast Asia and Australia.
So who was Simond after which this orchid (Cleisostoma
simondii, Orchidaceae) is named? He was a field collector for the French
botanist Francois Gagnepain (1866-1952) who first described this orchid
species. Gagnepain spent many years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Vietnam.
Simond’s mute orchid has been found from Nepal and India to Southeast Asia
including Thailand. It is native to Chiang Mai, and just began displaying
its unusually large flowers (for being a Cleisostoma) at Dokmai Garden.
How do you recognize it from other Cleisostoma? The
size of the pink and greenish brown flowers, 1.5 cm, is striking. The lip is
triangular and pink, and the spur’s sides are decorated with veins. The
orchid plant has erect and terete (cylindrical) leaves, while many other
Cleisostoma have leaves hanging down. It prefers evergreen forests but is
usually well exposed to the sun.
We do not consider this species acutely endangered
since it is fairly common here in the north and is widespread in many
countries, but it is still a member of the Orchid Ark.
www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected].
The Zingiber ottensii is also known as the
purple ginger root and has a light yellow flower.
By Eric Danell
One problem with vernacular names is that they are not
exact. Going to Chiang Mai’s Khamtieng flower market I thought I would just
pick up ordinary ginger (Zingiber officinale) and plant it at Dokmai Garden.
Sure, I asked for the Thai name ‘king’ and I got it swiftly. Well, now my
‘king’ is in blossom, and it is another species: Zingiber ottensii! This has
not happened once or twice, but maybe 60 times. You ask for one plant, the
dealer or farmer gives you something else. Sometimes they do this because
they do not care about being exact, similar is good enough. Sometimes they
do it because they do not know much, or because a name in one part of the
country refers to one plant, but in another part it refers to a completely
different plant. Never identify a plant based on a dictionary, never trust
the vendor – use a flora!
Most members of the ginger genus, Zingiber, form their
flowers in a separate conelike inflorescence. Zingiber is also characterised
by a swelling of the leaf base. Kai Larsen lists 48 species of Zingiber
native to Thailand.
The flowers of Z. ottensii can only be admired early in
the mornings, as they wilt in the afternoon. Next day there will be a new
set of flowers.
At Dokmai Garden we grow this plant in the shade where it
makes flowers and leaves. It is native to moist evergreen forests of
Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Its rhizome is purplish and so quite
different from true ginger. I therefore propose the English name ‘purple
These are the English names:
Ginger (Zingiber officinale), spice, red and yellow flower on green cone,
Purple ginger root (Zingiber ottensii), spice, light yellow flower on
brownish red cone.
Shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet), shampoo, light yellow flower on green
cone, turning red. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected]