North Thailand Trees
North Thailand trees is a collection of trees that are prevalent in our area. Some of these you might encounter during your trip in North Thailand.
Pine Trees (Pinaceae)
Two pine species are native to Thailand: the Pinus Kesiya and Pinus Merkusii. Pinus Kesiya is the two-needled pine. The three-needled pine is the Pinus Merkusii. Pinus Kesiya is the most prevalent in North Thailand. You will find them in many national parks in the north, including Chaesorn, Doi Inthanon, Doi Suthep-Doi Pui and Huay Nam Dang.
These pines are a source of wood. The wood is of moderate strength. The wood of the pine trees is suitable for various uses as light and heavy structural timber, ship and boat building, flooring, furniture, joinery, turnery, etc..
Local people extract the resin of pine trees, which is of excellent quality, perhaps the most valuable of any in the genus.
Cassia Fistula is also known as the golden shower or golden rain tree. The species is native to the Indian subcontinent and adjacent regions of Southeast Asia. It is a medium-sized tree, growing to 10–20 m tall with fast growth. The tree has strong and very durable wood. Cassia fistula is famous as an ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical areas. It flowers in Thailand in April and May. It is one of the most colourful and recognisable trees in Chiang Mai. Flowering is profuse, with trees covered with yellow flowers. It will grow well in dry climates. Growth for this tree is best in full sun on well-drained soil. Various species of bees and butterflies are known to be pollinators of Cassia fistula flowers. It is the national tree of Thailand, and its flower is Thailand’s national flower.
Teak (Tectona Grandis)
Teak (Tectona grandis) is a tropical hardwood tree species. Teak trees are native to India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar. It is one of the most well-known trees in Northern Thailand. It is a large, deciduous tree that occurs in mixed hardwood forests. It has small, fragrant white flowers and large papery leaves that are often hairy on the lower surface.
In the past teak was a significant component of the deciduous forests in Northern Thailand and Burma. Teak trees don’t grow at high elevations but in the lowlands and on moister lower hill slopes. In the last two decades of the 19th-century companies such as the Borneo Company, the Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation, The Siam Forest Company and the Louis T.Leonowens Company, all from Great Britain, became involved in teak logging. Teak was one of the major exports of Thailand in the first half of the 20th century. British India was often the destination for boat construction. By the 1960s teak had almost disappeared in its natural state. You might encounter a teak tree in the forest, but practically all teak trees are now in plantations.
Dipterocarpus Alatus and Tuberculatus
The most well-known trees of the Dipterocarpus family are the Dipterocarpus Alatus and the Dipterocarpus tuberculatus. Giant Alatus (Yang Na) trees line the old road from Chiang Mai to Lamphun. These trees are protected. They are not rubber trees, as some people think. The Tuberculatus doesn’t grow to the height of the Alatus and is the more common tree species in Chiang Mai province. You will see this tree with its big leaves on Doi Inthanon.
In the hot season, many dipterocarps drop their leaves and become completely bare for some weeks. Often fires rage through these forests, but species like the Tuberculatus with their thick corky bark are very tolerant of them. The resin from the tuberculatus is used in traditional medicine. It is used traditionally for caulking boats and for making torches. It can also be blended with paint. The resin is obtained by cutting a hole in the trunk near the base and then dipping out the resin with a spoon as it collects there.
Local people use the large mature leaves of young trees thatching roofs. The leaves are not flammable, nor susceptible to insects, and can last for up to three years. The wood is used in general construction, for making beams, boards, furniture, and for building boats.
Bamboo is a grass plant with hollow circular stems. It is not a tree. We have included it here because most people think it is a tree and because we don’t have a page for grass only.
Some bamboo varieties grow up to 30 meters high forming by far the most significant members of the grass family. Some people think it is a tree which it is not. It is a grass. It is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. There are 91 genera and about 1,000 species of bamboo. Bamboo serves as food for people and animals. Bamboo shoots are used mainly in Asian food preparations. In Japan, the antioxidant properties of the bamboo skin prevent bacterial growth and are used as natural food preservatives.
Bamboo leaves and shoots are also the staple diet of pandas and elephants. People in Asia and forest dwellers in particular use every part of the bamboo: for construction, support for buildings, simple housing, bamboo furniture, musical instruments, and paper production. Bamboo is one of the most utilised and versatile plants on this planet. On our trek to Ban Mae Sa Mai, you will see these giant bamboos. In Chiang Dao, you will also see plenty of bamboo.
Local people have used bamboo to make rafts, amongst others. Bamboo rafting is still a popular activity.
Bamboo shoots are used in Thai food.
Brugmansia are large shrubs or small trees, with semi-woody, often many-branched trunks. They are also known as Angel’s or Devil’s trumpet. Brugmansia Candia has been named after Dutch naturalist Sebald Justinus Brugmans (1763-1819). They are extinct in the wild, but you might encounter them in villages. We took this picture in the Hmong village Doi Pui in Doi Pui-Doi Suthep National Park.
Raintree (Samanea Saman)
Samanea saman is also known as the rain tree. It is a species of flowering tree. This tree is native to Central and South America. Its range extends from Mexico south to Peru and Brazil, but it has been widely introduced to South and Southeast Asia, as well as the Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.
They are spectacular trees and offer lots of shade. Probably the most famous raintree of North Thailand is the one at the Gymkhana Club in Chiang Mai. In Thailand, this tree is known as Chamchuree.
Shorea Roxburghii (Payom)
The Payom (Shorea roxburghii) is a large tree species. it is named after Scottish botanist William Roxburgh (1751-1815). It is native to the mixed dipterocarp forests of Cambodia, India, Laos, Peninsular Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The species is assessed as Vulnerable. There has been at least a 30% population reduction in the last three generations, leading to overall population decline and potential future species decline. This is a consequence of habitat loss as forests are cleared for agricultural expansion and due to logging for timber. Agricultural clearing for agriculture and logging remain a threat to the Payom.
The tree is harvested for its timber. It is used for construction, bridge building, furniture, agricultural implements and other tools. The species also produces a resin which is used as a stimulant for fumigation.