This post is a continuation of last week’s Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden tour. As promised, I will now focus on the amazing plants of Nong Nooch. I mentioned last week that I had taken over 400 photos during my visit. With great effort I was able to filer that amount down to 40 for this post. Ask anyone that has been to Nong Nooch and they will all tell you that you could spend weeks photographing all the plants and still miss a great many. For this post I will focus on my favorite photos of plants in the landscape and select a few photos of my favorite specimen plants.
Maintaining the constant needs of rare and beautiful plants for a 600-acre botanical garden is an overwhelming task. To help alleviate the task, Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden has its own plant nurseries that surround it on three sides. They must be growing millions of plants onsite, and while many are used for their garden displays, a great deal of them are also sold to hotels, retail nurseries or keen collectors. The growing grounds go on as far as the eye can see.
You might have found it odd to have seen cactus in the last photo. Most people usually don’t think of the rainy, humid tropics as a place for dessert-loving plants. However, Nong Nooch has a few gardens dedicated to them. To make sure their xeric plants in the Cactus Garden stay dry, they built a cover to keep the rain out.
Agaves, Moringas and colorful lizards are used to decorate garden walls at the Agave Collection display.
Located right next to each other, the Orchid Garden and Bromeliad Garden are very popular stops. I am not sure why, but I had both to myself, which was quite odd considering the massive amount of people touring Nong Nooch at the time. Both gardens are changed out frequently, so each visit rewards you with something different to look at. Mixed in with various tropical ferns, the Orchid Garden boasts one of the largest collections of orchids found in Thailand.
Speaking of ferns, here is a display made up almost entirely of Asplenium nidus (Birds Nest fern).
Occupying the middle strip of the main road that cuts through Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden, you will find the Bonsai Garden. This is most likely one of the more difficult displays to maintain. We all saw how much time Mr. Miyagi put into the care of his small collection of bonsai trees in Karate Kid. Now imagine having to take care of almost 200 trees. Giant tortoise are the beast of burden in this display.
After many hours in the heat and humidity, I began wandering around aimlessly. It would seem that at every turn I would run into some new beautiful tropical flowing tree. Having to choose just three as my favorites, I would say the Plumeria rubra with different colored branches grafted to it, the Mussaenda erythrophylla, and the Saraca indica would be my favorites right now. Ask me next week and it will probably change.
Now for the main event as far as plants go at Nong Nooch, and the reason I made the long journey: Palms of the World. A collection of more than 1,000 palm species from around the globe.
Anyone who regularly reads my blog knows that I am somewhat of a palm tree devotee. I currently serve on the Board of Directors of the International Palm Society, but sadly I missed our group meeting at Nong Nooch in 2012. Most, including myself, consider this place the Mecca of palm tree botanical gardens. It did not disappoint. The issues were trying to keep my wife from becoming bored from palm tree overload and trying to limit how many palms I took photos of. Neither was an easy task!
As you might have gathered from the first part of the tour, palm trees dominate the scenic landscapes at Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden. Their use of terrain and skywalks gives you outstanding vantage points to take in all the beauty. I had to be nudged more than a few times to keep it moving from the wife.
This is the winding road that leads you through the Palms of the World section of Nong Nooch. It was a dream come true for me, and represented a nightmare for my wife. But she turned out to be a trooper for those two hours we spent exploring.
The Variegated Plant Collection display had some heavily variegated Wodyetia x Veitchia (Foxy Lady Palms). Variegated Wodyetia x Veitchia are actually easy to come by, but here in our dry, hot sun these leaves would burn to a crisp.
The star of the Variegated Plant Collection display was of course one of the pride and joys of Nong Nooch. Their variegated Borassus flabellifer. Just as the sign says below, it is thought to be the only brown variegated Borassus flabellifer in the world.
My wife asked what this sign meant. I told her “Coco-de-Mer” was Seychellois for “Wall of Moons.” She believed me. The sign was actually an art display showing the seeds of one of the more famous palm trees in the world – Lodoicea maldivica. The common name is Coco-de-Mer, or more appropriately, the Double Coconut. Those Lodoicea maldivica seeds on the wall represent the largest seed of any plant in the world, some weighing over 45 pounds. Seed of this palm is now almost impossible to acquire, as the Seychelles listed it on CITES and banned it from international trade without bureaucratic permits.
Here is a beautifully grown specimen in flower. Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden had a few seeding Lodoicea maldivica protected with cages while I was there. The high price the seeds command on the black market requires drastic means of protection from thieves.
There were a few challenges with photographing the amazing plants of Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden and then writing a blog post about them. 1) There were just way too many plants that needed a photograph, so I had to try to be selective. 2) Many of the plants were difficult to get photographs of in the first place. Some were in areas where it was hard to get a good angle, some were crowded out by other plants, and others were in bad light. Keeping it short, here were some of my favorites.
Areca catechu is a pretty common palm planted throughout the tropics. Areca catechu ‘Dwarf’ is much more rare and certainly better looking. The dwarf variety has a very compact look with a short, dense crown of fronds.
Not all that attractive, but very unique, is this oddball Bismarckia nobilis.
Most probably do not know this, but the wispy-leafed palm Euterpe oleracea is where the açaí fruit comes from.
I don’t always grow spiny palms, but when I do, I grow Astrocaryum. OK, so I can’t grow this palm here in Southern California because it needs a more tropical environment.
Medemia argun might look ordinary, but it has an interesting story to tell. It is a very slow growing palm and can be picky in its requirements. Medemia argun is actually a desert palm from Egypt and Sudan. Famous for its appearance in the Dungul Oasis, Medemia fruits have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs from the 5th Dynasty (ca. 2500 BC).
The only way to get a Copernicia alba to bend its trunk like a Coconut Palm is to tip it on its side.
Copernicia baileyana is one of my favorite palms when found well grown like below.
Dypsis lutescens ‘Shuttle-cock’ is a Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden original.
A forest of what most palm tree lovers will tell you is the most beautiful palm in the world – Cytostachys renda (Lipstick Palm).
Cheetahs keep watch over a perfectly grown Copernicia rigida. I have one of these palms growing in my yard, but it will take a lifetime to get to this size in my climate.
The last palm tree I will show is a very recognizable palm found at Nong Nooch. One of the most famous palm scenes in the world: Copernicia hospita lines the main road that cuts through the botanical garden.
This one particular Copernicia hospita in flower epitomizes the majestic beauty of palm trees and became my single favorite palm of the entire visit. This palm is grown to perfection without a single blemish or flaw. Remarkable.
That concludes the tour of Nong Nooch Tropical Botanical Garden. I hope you enjoyed it and that it might inspire you to visit someday, should you find yourself vacationing in Thailand. If you have already visited Nong Nooch, please tell me your thoughts about it in the Comments section below. I would love to hear from you.