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Phuket Gardening: Taking the pisonia

Legacy Phuket Gazette

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Phuket Gardening: Taking the pisonia | The Thaiger

PHUKET: THE Phuket Gazette is certainly living up to its status as an international newspaper. Bernard King from Auckland, New Zealand, no less, wonders if I can send him some pisonia seeds.

He writes: “I am a disciple of growing tropical plants in a cool country. I have managed to grow a small mango tree that is bearing fruits. I saw your Gazette article about the lettuce tree. I have tried for a long time to find some seeds… and hope you can help me.”

There are difficulties but not, I hope, insurmountable ones. One is that while pisonia (also known as the lettuce or moonlight tree) is widely distributed, it grows principally in tropical regions of the world. The species (grandis) is particularly common on most of the island groups in the Indian and South Pacific Oceans, even thriving on coral keys and atolls. In the right environment, it can reach eighty feet.

That familiarity with the sea and salt-laden winds, bred into its genes over eons, probably explains why the cultivar alba does well in Phuket, particularly in the Rawai and Nai Harn areas.

The second problem concerns the seeds. In the case of grandis, they are fertile alright, produced inside elongated fruits that come in various sizes. The hairs on the fruits are sticky – hence the name of “bird-lime tree” – and sometimes trap insects and small animals. They even stick to the feathers of birds, and seeds are often dispersed in this way.

But sadly they are a bit of a gamble: they must be planted when fresh; otherwise they will not germinate reliably. Moreover, although alba is the cultivar with the most dramatic leaves, it has fewer flowers and does not always produce seeding fruits.

Bernard has the answer to the first issue; he tells me he possesses a greenhouse where he assures me, pisonia will produce its characteristic yellowish green foliage. Yes, we are still on the topic of yellow shrubs and pisonia alba, along with newer varieties of duranta repens or pigeon berry, which have the showiest golden leaves of any of the plants mentioned in these columns. But the leaves of pisonia are much larger, up to a foot across and have a delicate, almost translucent appearance.

As for the second problem, I shall have to track down a flowering tree in the area, check to see if it has any fruits, and beg a few. Then the seeds will have to be sent, post-haste, to the Antipodes.

Speaking personally, I have had little success with the lettuce tree. It needs some acidity in the soil and good drainage. I tried it in partial shade where it seemed unhappy.

Bear in mind, too, that although it is a relative of the extremely tough and spiny bougainvillea, the grey branches are brittle and the leaves will be at their golden best only in full sun.

Other foliage plants tend to be intermittently yellow. Dracaena fragrans, one of the most popular and hardy of Asian plants, comes in many colors but one, reflexa, has brilliant yellow margins to its leaves. It does especially well in pots and can manage for long periods with little or no watering. Sun is no problem.

Both schefflera and dieffenbachia hybrids, under-storey plants that prefer shady conditions, sometimes sport bold yellow stripes or blotches, and there are forms of Codiaeum (croton) which produce golden foliage. Codiaeum ovafolium, for example, has both yellow and dark green leaves; the narrow leaved “Yellow Johannes Coppinger,” popular here as a container plant, has brilliant golden leaves edged with green.

Tip of the week – Trees
When planning your garden, consider how tall your trees will become. Big fruiting trees such as tamarind, mango, and sataw will quickly outgrow the average plot. So you are better off with trees of a manageable size.

Remember too, that the majority of tropical trees are evergreen, equipped with tough and often attractive glossy leaves that can withstand the heat of the day. They provide deeper pockets of shade for under-storey shrubs, better cover and insulation for the walls of your house.

In temperate climes, most trees are deciduous: they start with a burst of new spring foliage (and often blossom), and then remain in leaf until late in the season when the leaves fall, revealing bare limbs.

In the tropics, fewer trees are seasonally deciduous. They tend to shed some leaves in dry conditions to minimize moisture loss, so they seldom look skeletal.

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

Keep checking our online
Phuket Lifestyle pages or join our Facebook fan page for regular gardening features and tips.

— Patrick Campbell

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

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Business

Fish sauce excluded from Thailand’s proposed tax on salty foods

May Taylor

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Fish sauce excluded from Thailand’s proposed tax on salty foods | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Cook’s Illustrated

Thailand’s Excise Department and Public Health Ministry is considering a levy on salty foods in an attempt to tackle the sodium-rich diets of Thai citizens, and the health consequences.

The director general of the Excise Department, Patchara Anuntasilpa says the tax would be calculated based on the amount of salt in a product, with the proposal being sent to Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana by year end.

Fish sauce is a liquid condiment made from fish or krill that have been coated in salt and fermented for up to two years.[1][2]:234 It is used as a staple seasoning in East Asian cuisine and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly south east Asia and Taiwan. Following widespread recognition of its ability to impart a savoury umami flavor to dishes, it has been embraced globally by chefs and home cooks.

“If the tax is approved, we will allow entrepreneurs one or two years to reduce the salt content and launch a less-salty version of their product.”

The World Health Organisation and the UN both recommend taxing foods with a high salt content, saying increased sodium intake leads to high blood pressure, cancer and kidney and heart disease.

The Nation reports however, that while the proposal is to levy the tax on frozen and canned foods, along with processed items such as instant noodles, seasoning such as fish sauce and snacks like potato chips would be excluded.

The Federation of Thai Industries has pledged to cooperate with the government’s effort to improve the health of Thailand’s citizens, but its head Wisit Limluecha says he is not in favour of taxing popular seasonings, snacks, frozen or instant foods.

“Research has found that these foods represent only 20% of what we eat each day, and everyone has different eating habits, so the better solution would be to advise consumers on how to eat healthily.”

Wisit warns that the tax may damage the country’s competitiveness in the food sector both overseas and in Thailand, where imported products are easily available. He also voices concern that small businesses will suffer if unable to afford ingredient and packaging changes.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Business

500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies

Greeley Pulitzer

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500 people own 36% of equity in Thai companies | The Thaiger

Roughly 36% of Thailand’s corporate equity is held by just 500 people, highlighting wealth inequality in the Kingdom, according to a study released by the Bank of Thailand’s research institute.

Each of these 500 amass some 3.1 billion baht (102 million USD) per year in company profits, according to the report from the Puey Ungphakorn Institute for Economic Research. In contrast, average yearly household income in Thailand is around 10,000 USD.

A report out this week from the Economic and Business Research Centre for Reform at Thailand’s Rangsit University also pointed to divisive and polarised politics being another root cause of the economic divide.

Thailand’s private sector is dominated by tycoons running sprawling conglomerates. According to the World Bank, the gap between the mega-wealthy and the rest of the Thai population of 69 million is among the many economic challenges for Thailand. According to Bloomberg, the perception of a divide, exacerbated by an economic slowdown, is a major political fault line.

“Magnates arise in Thailand from institutional factors that privilege certain businesses,” said the executive director of PIER, author of the study.

The institute said Thailand needs to promote competitiveness to reduce profits from monopoly power and bolster entrepreneurship to create a more equitable distribution of corporate wealth.

The research is based on analysis of 2017 Commerce Ministry data on the 2.1 million shareholders in Thai firms, and was funded by the University of California San Diego.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Thai Life

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers

The Thaiger

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Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | The Thaiger

PHOTOS: Daily News

The answers are in the banana leaves.

Thai people LOVE playing the lottery (and gambling generally). In fact they’re BANANAS about the twice-monthly lottery (it was drawn again today). Daily News has reported about two unusual banana trees growing in front of a shop in Klong 4 Pathum Thani, just north of Bangkok. The trees did not have blossom and on one plant two bananas were pointing skywards. On another there was a whole bunch pointing up into the sky.

There was a steady stream of the faithful lighting incense, praying and rubbing powder on the trees to get lottery numbers. One group thought ‘542’ was the magic numbers and a path to riches (we’re not sure how they came to this conclusion). 53 year old Surachai says the trees had been growing for a few months and that he’d never seen anything like it before.

An unnamed agricultural expert suggested that there was probably something wrong with the banana plants. Trees and malformed animals are a favourite source of inspiration to select numbers for the lottery, as are numbers of houses and vehicles involved in events where people experience “miracle” escapes from danger, or even bizarre accidents.

SOURCE: Daily News

Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger Thais go bananas over freak plants in pursuit of lottery numbers | News by The Thaiger

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