Asian Arboreal Eye Candy

Asia is home to a vast array of flora and fauna. Given the size of the region as well as the diversity of climates, that is hardly surprising.

From the permanent winters of the Himalayas to the perpetual summers of equatorial countries, Asia’s plants and animals have adapted to thrive.

In many parts of Asia, particularly in the south-east, trying to control foliage is like spitting into a hurricane. Want a jungle in your backyard? If you leave it, it will come. Like much of South-East Asia, survival through sheer determination is simply part of the DNA.

Some of the most spectacular flowering trees in the world can be found hanging onto the sides of buildings, or in abandoned construction sites covered in concrete, as well as in manicured gardens and lovingly propagated parks.

Let’s look at a couple of extremely tough and equally beautiful trees of the far east.

Take, for example, the unfortunately named, but utterly stunning, Golder Rain Tree of the Fistula Species. This is one of Thailand’s most prolific and reliable flowering beauties. A favourite of the revered late King Rama IX, this tree can be seen lining streets all through the country. Thailand imagines itself to have winters, a period where the temperature drops below medium-high oven, and, yes, it can get chilly in the north, but the Golden Rain doesn’t care.

It will give less flowers in the ‘winter’ when evenings may get down to as low as 25°C, but as soon as evenings hover at 30°C and days at 35°C, this gloriously common plant busts out eye watering numbers of bright yellow tubes that delight all the local bees as well as the human population. Yes, they make a bit of a mess on the floor, but against a bright blue sky they are stunning.

Another truly remarkable tree, sometimes called the ‘Cherry blossom of the Philippines’ is the Salingbobog or Crateva religiosa, the sacred garlic pear. Another slightly odd choice of anglicised name for something so lovely, I am sure you would agree.  When squinted at, you may actually believe you are in the best parts of Japan at the best time of year, however, this tree’s flowers are actually mostly white with a touch of pink. It matters not.

A native of the Philippines, the Salingbobog holds its own as a true delight on the eyes. Again, it can grow just about anywhere without love and attention, and is said to attract butterflies and birds as well as bees, another bonus. It does have an off season where the flowers quieten down, but when summer arrives, so does a proliferation of sumptuous floral activity.

And lastly, one of the oldest surviving genus of flowering tree in Asia, the Gingko Biloba, or Maidenhair Tree (certainly the kindest name so far). Gingko trees as a species, are believed to be over 200,000,000 years old. Fossils of their leaves from the Jurassic time show no change from the Gingko of today. What has changed is that all but one of the types of Gingko is extinct.  

The Gingko Biloba is found mainly in China and Japan, although their ‘nut’ or fruit is widely eaten in most Asian food cultures and they are part of the world-wide health supplement industry.

The trees spend part of the year quietly being green and growing, as trees are want to do, but then, when Autumn hits, this happens.

Actually, the tree does not produce flowers to make this happen. Gingko flowers look like this.

It is their leaves that turn the world yellow, but we had to include them here because…

Not only are these trees simply stunning, they are as hardy as anything. If you needed proof as to why these trees deserve more attention, you may be interested to hear that, as well as outliving the dinosaurs, Gingko trees were the first plants to make it back after the bombing of Hiroshima.


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