Connect with us

Thai Life

Phuket Gardening: Enter the Dragon’s Eye



PHUKET: From blocked canals to poor flood management, the debate rages as to why Thailand suffered the floods of 2011. And while the arguments continue, the plight of many fruit farmers has attracted little attention, even though their livelihood has disappeared with the receding waters.

Fruit trees, like most plants, suffocate through lack of oxygen if submerged for any length of time: hence the lifeless orchards of pomelo and rambutan in Nakhon Pathom.

I mention this because Phuket has mercifully been spared the inundation. So there remains every incentive to cultivate small fruit trees in your garden. What happened to orchards in the plains of central Thailand will not happen here. Unless of course you choose a fruit tree that is unsuited to Phuket’s conditions.

For example, it would be great to grow the edible fig (ficus carica). In the Mediterranean region, these trees are not only extraordinarily hardy, but produce masses of succulent and delicious fruit. But Thailand’s hot and humid climate, though entirely congenial to almost every other variety of fig, including the notorious strangler, causes root rot, or mildewed foliage in edible figs.

Dimocarpus longan, referred to in some books as euphoria longan, and known here as laam yai, is a prosperous native of Southeast Asia and thus a good choice for your garden. To start with, it is an evergreen tree, so collecting dead leaves is less of a chore. Moreover, it is of manageable proportions, rarely exceeding eight meters in height, has dense, dark-green foliage and grows evenly and symmetrically. It prefers sandy, slightly acidic soil and can be grown readily from seed.

However, its main attraction is the fruit, colloquially known as ‘dragons eye’ because when peeled the large jet black seed shows through the translucent flesh like a pupil and iris. The reddish-brown fruit hang down in loose, grape-like clusters from which the thin, bark-like shell is easily removed. Many Thais have a knack for squeezing out the ripe fruit like cracking a sunflower seed. In taste and texture , the laam yai is sweet and juicy, a favorite in soups and especially in desserts. It can also be smoke dried and preserved.

The plant is a member, like the lychee and rambutan, of the soapberry family and its seeds can be used for shampooing hair, apparently.

Deservedly popular in Thailand, the fruit has never become as well-known in Europe and the New World as its cousin the lychee (litchi Chinensis), though to my taste buds, when eaten fresh from the tree, it has a better flavor. Lychees do produce more spectacular fruit with a pink or strawberry red rind which are larger (5cms) than those of the laam yai and slightly perfumed. They prefer slightly cooler conditions so perhaps this explains why lychees are more widely grown in sub-tropical Asia, especially in China, where they have been a delicacy for more than 2,000 years. Indeed, I suspect the canned fruits are familiar to most Westerners, even though the distinctive perfume of the fresh fruit is lost in the canning process.

But for my money, I would choose to cultivate the laam yai rather than the lychee in my garden. There is something more distinctively Thai about it.

Phuket Gardening tip of the week: Pruning Larger Trees

If a tree in your garden needs frequent pruning, it is probably too large for its environment. However, if you do have to prune heavily, try to avoid topping, i.e., reducing the height of a mature tree by sawing off all its top limbs. The tree will not grow back in a natural way.

When sawing off a large limb, shorten it to a stub. To do this, select a point a foot or so along the branch, and make a cut from the underside, about a third of the way through. Then, about an inch further out on the branch, cut straight down from the top until the limb splits cleanly between the two cuts. Finally, saw through the remaining stub close to the trunk.

This method will avoid ripping and splitting the bark. Such wounds leave the tree open to infection.

Phuket Gardening is Phuket Gazette columnist Patrick Campbell’s feature of all things flora.

If you have a question or a garden that you would like featured, you can email Patrick Campbell here.

Keep checking our online Phuket Lifestyle pages for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Crime58 mins ago

Author Salman Rushdie stabbed at New York lecture

Transport6 hours ago

Daily trains begin between Malaysian border and Bangkok

Coronavirus (Covid-19)7 hours ago

Virologist predicts most of Thailand will have had Covid by 2023

Sponsored2 days ago

BKFC THAILAND 3: Moment of truth set for September 3

Transport8 hours ago

Bangkok gets 20 new electric buses next week

Crime8 hours ago

Armed robber escapes with gold worth 800,000 baht in Thailand

This is Thailand9 hours ago

Similarity of Mothers Around the World | Thai Mother’s Day 2022

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Crime10 hours ago

Foreigner faces prison for Parrotfishing in Thailand

Bangkok11 hours ago

Woman escapes death after car hit by fallen debris in Bangkok

Crime12 hours ago

Thai paramilitary ranger kills two, injures one after row in bar

Indonesia12 hours ago

Unexplained plane mysteriously sitting in a field in Bali

Cannabis13 hours ago

Thailand getting high on cannabis boost to tourist economy

Politics14 hours ago

Anupong says he will leave government with PM Prayut & Prawit

Tourism15 hours ago

Thailand’s economy grows but it still misses China’s cash

Thailand15 hours ago

Bars and clubs in Thailand proposed to open until 4.00 am | GMT

Bangkok15 hours ago

Three bars shut down in Bangkok lacking licenses, Covid safety

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11