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Flora of Tropical Thailand

Submitted by on February 11, 2013 – 8:23 amNo Comment

thailand_orchidIt’s not too late to see the “Flora of Tropical Thailand” in the Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens, 3330 Atwood Avenue, Madison, Wisconsin (map).

Thailand covers an extensive area of about 198,456 square miles in Southeast Asia. It’s one of the most botanically diverse countries in the world, with an estimated 15,000 plant species (about 8% of the estimated total number of plant species found globally).

The country’s tropical flora includes an array of fruit trees, bamboo (more species than any country outside China), tropical hardwoods, palms, ferns, and over 2,000 flowering species, including orchids.

The exhibit, which opened last November, runs through March 24, 2013. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

While you’re there, be sure to visit the Thai Pavilion and Garden.

A pavilion, or sala, is a common structure in Thailand generally used as a shelter from rain and heat. Olbrich’s pavilion is more ornate than most roadside salas in Thailand and represents those found at a temple or on a palace grounds. However, Olbrich’s pavilion is not a religious structure.

The pavilion was a gift to the University of Wisconsin-Madison from the Thai Government and the Thai Chapter of the Wisconsin Alumni Association. UW-Madison has one of the largest Thai student populations of any U.S. college or university.

Olbrich was chosen as the site for the pavilion because of its garden setting and its proximity to water. Water is important to Thailand because of its implications for good health and prosperity.

The pavilion was built in Thailand, then disassembled and packed in shipping crates. The pavilion traveled seven weeks by sea, then by rail to Chicago, and to Madison by truck. Nine Thai artisans traveled to Madison to reassemble the pavilion after building it in Thailand. It took three weeks to reconstruct.

The Thai Garden surrounding the Pavilion emulates a lush, tropical garden with Wisconsin-hardy plants. Ornamental grasses, some reaching up to 12 feet tall, and several hardy bamboos are essential in creating a tropical look. Large-leafed shrubs and trees are pruned to give them the look of plants in a typical Thai garden.

(Photo of a Thai orchid courtesy of Yves Rubin)

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