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Superstitions about Trees and Plants - 01
Written by Panrit "Gor" Daoruang   
Friday, 09 February 2007 02:26

Thai people believe that it is not advisable to plant certain kinds of trees and plants near the house or in the compound. They are unlucky.

Soak (Saraka indica). Soak in Thai means anguish or sorrow, a bad name for a tree to have growing near the house. Perhaps the tree is the Indian asoka which bears red clusters of flowers with a mild fragrant odor. In India the tree is supposed to flower when struck by the foot of a beautiful damsel. Asoka in Sanskrit means sorrowless, but this word in Thai has lost its first unaccented syllable and becomes soak or sok which means quite the opposite of sorrowless.

Rak (Calotropis gigantea). This tree is the araka of India. Its floers are strung into garlands to be worn around the necks of criminals on their way to the place of execution. In Thailand the rak tree grows wild in deserted dry palces. Its trunk and branches have a milky sap and its flowers are used for floral pieces which are to be seen usually at creamations. Now it is the fashion for a bride and bridegroom to wear a garland of these flowers, for the name rak means love in Thai.

Lanthom. This is the frangipani or the temple or pagoda flower tree. The word lanthom has a sound resembling the word rathom which means apony. Hence the taboo. It is usually to be found in a wat or manastery where, according to a superstitious belief, any unlucky or ill thing will lose its bad effects.

Sala and Rakam (Zallaca wallichianapalmae). These two kinds of trees are very similar. They are rattan-like palms with sharp spines in whorls around the stem. Sala in Thai means forsaken and Rakam means affliction. Hence they are not grown in a house compound. Owing to their edible sour fruits which in some varieties have a sweet flavor, they are of high marketable value. Gardeners grow them as hedges, for their sharp spines will prevent trespassers.

Tau Rang (Caryota mitispalmae). This is a type of palm tree which bears fruit-like berries in beautiful clusters but with poisonous fruits walls. The tree may be found in the compound of a European houses as as ornamental tree. The Thai people do not grow it for the reason that the second syllable or word of "tau rang" is similar in sound to another word which means deserted or abandoned, (perhaps the poison of its fruit and also its non-economical nature has something to do with its taboo).

Kradanga (Canagium odoratum). A tall tree bearing sweet-smelling flowers. It is usually not found near a house due to the fact that the tree has soft wood, and its vrancesare easily cracked and broken.

Nang Yaem (Cleredendron fragans). A shrub having fragrant flowers. It is easily propagated as its roots run far and wide underground and shoot up as new plants until they become a nuisance. The people believe that Nang Yaem will turn into a "phi" when it grows old, and disturb the peace of the house by pelting stones at it. Nang Yaem in Thai means to open slightly in bloom or the peeping of a damsel, hence its poetic name is found quoted in Thai erotic literature.

Phutaraksa (Canna Sp.). In Thai, this means "Buddha's protection". It is cultivated in a house compound for its beautiful showy flowers. Some people object to the growing of this plant near the house. It is believed the name Buddha has a great deal to do with the superstition, for anything sacred or in connection with "phi" is not allowed to be in the same compound as an inhabited house.

Champi and Champa (Michelia champaka). These are two varieties of a tree which bear in the former a scented creamy white flower, and in the latter yellowish ones which are in great demand for floral decorations. Bothkinds of trees have soft wood and are liable to be broken easily, hence, they are not grown near a house.

Saraphi (Ochrocarpus siamensis). A tree which bears sweet-scented flowers.

Phikun (Mimusops elengi). A tall tree which bears small star-shaped flowers which retain their sweet scent for a comparatively long time. On certain important occasions such as a coronation, Phikun flowers of gold and silver are distributed by the King to officials.

Chan (Diospyros packmanil-C.B. Clarke). A tall tree which bears yellow fruit. When ripe the shape of the fruit resembles the moon. Hence its name.

These trees; Saraphi, Phikun and Chan are not usually grown in the house compound, but curiously are to be found in wats (temples) and the royal palace compounds. If a person dares to plant such trees in his residential compound, misfortune will occur sooner or later to the owner.