While traveling throughout Myanmar you will find that there are a few trees that are really important to the Burmese people and can be found growing most everywhere we visited. One, of course, is the Thanaka Tree (Limonia acidissima). It is the tree from which Thanaka, which is used by most Burmese women for beauty and cosmetic purposes, is made. The second tree is the Burma Padauk, also known as the Burmese Rosewood (Pterocarpus macrocarpus). This is the tree most used in Burmese wood carving and craftsmanship. Its large size and dense wood make it perfect for furniture. Surprisingly (maybe just to me), it is the Burmese Rosewood that is the national tree and not the Thanaka Tree. The third tree that stands out is one that looks like it would be better suited for the plains of Africa rather than tropical Southeast Asia. It is the Htanaung Tree (Acacia leucophloea).
The bark of large, sprawling Acacia leucophloea are marbled from white to yellowish gray, with blacks and reds mixed in. Its marbled trunk seems to twist and turn in the air as it eventually forms the characteristic wide umbrella-like crown found in mature trees. They form such an imposing presence that you can find them planted throughout the landscapes of Myanmar. The tree just asks to be photographed.
Acacia leucophloea is a component of dry-forests, savannas and bush woodlands. Looking at a world map, one would not guess this is something they would find in a tropical place like South East Asia. However, away from the rivers and during the dry season, water can be quite limited. For example, in Bagan you might only see a few inches of rainfall from November through March.
The Htanaung Tree tree serves many purposes for the people of Myanmar. The bark of the Acacia leucophloea is used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders. The wood is used for firewood, charcoal and indoor construction. The attractive, dark red wood is also used in furniture making. The sap of the Acacia leucophloea is the major ingredient of multi-colored and incised Burmese lacquerware that is so popular in Myanmar. But for me it was the tree’s noble presence in various landscapes that won my attention. Below are a few of my favorite photos I took of Acacia leucophloea during my travels through Myanmar.
Htanaung Trees at the Mahar Gandar Yone Monastery in Mandalay. This is where hundreds of Buddhist monks line up for their daily ritual: to eat and be photographed by hordes of tourists.
Acacia leucophloea at our hotel, the Bagan Thiripyitsaya Sanctuary Resort in Old Bagan.
Htanaung Tree at Mani Sithu Market in Nyaung-U (Just outside Old Bagan).
Bagan Plains at sunset from the top of the Shwesandaw Pagoda. Temples and Acacias as far as the eye could see. Truly one of the highlights of my entire trip to Myanmar.