Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Bodhi Tree, is this the one?

Near the main entrance of the Cambodian Royal Palace grounds is a unique tree which attracts every tourist's attention. It looks as if vines with spikes of flowers entertwined around the trunk. The flowers are in every stages of maturity. The flower stalks arise from the main trunk. The stalks lengthen and grow bigger in diameter, intertwines until the trunk is fully embraced by these branches. That was my first time to see that kind of tree, and that kind of flowers. I heard from a tourist guide that it is called the "buddha tree", and i said ah---ok! He said it is under this kind of tree where the Buddha got his enlightenment. (This morning I browsed from one Thai article that Buddha was born under this kind of tree and also where he attained Nirvana). After several pictures and some rounds of the palace grounds, another tree is again near the exit door. This time the scientific name is tagged on its trunk, and a common name is placed as well, Shorea robusta Roxb. - the bodhi tree. I just realized it is not "buddha" tree but bodhi tree. (The scientific name is not properly written. As was taught us in school, the Generic name starts with a capital letter, while the species starts in small letter. The name after it is the discoverer or the one who put the classification to satisfy what we call binomial classification. e.g. Linn. for Linnaeus. This time it is Roxb., the complete name i dont know!).

After arriving home i looked for the bodhi tree and the Shorea robusta Roxb. It turned out that bodhi tree is Ficus religiosa or sacred fig. A lot of discussion about this especially in Wikipeda, seems that it really is under the bodhi tree where Buddha got his enlightenment. Shorea, whose full name is Shorea robusta Roxb ex. Gaertn.f. turned out to be a dipterocarp, whose common name is sal or saal tree. Now i have a problem! Which tree really witnessed the enlightenment of Gautama Buddha? If i have more time i will research on that, but can anyone just explain this to me, please.

The label (left picture) under the scientific name says 'picking flowers is sinful', while the round brown shape at the bottom right of the label is the bodhi fruit (zoom it for clarity). Readings later showed me that the seeds from sal tree are powdered and eaten or used in traditional medicines.


  1. Okay, Nids. The 411 on your trees.

    First, chuck that Thai article away because according to Wiki (Wicopedia? hehe), Buddha got born under one tree and got reborn in another. Born under Sal, born again under Bo. Not Sal Mineo, not Bo Sanchez. Which begs the question, if one goes through seven stages to Seventh Heaven, which trees are the remaining five?

    Hehe, kidding aside. The Bo or Peepul tree (Ficus religiosa) is the fig tree with very pointy tips and whitish bark ( Lots of these in Loyola Memorial, Paranaque and lined up the property of EnZo, i.e. Punta Baluarte, Calatagan. I personally haven't gotten up close to a Sal tree but, interestingly, the Wiki pictures ( are different from yours. The tree in your blog seem to have palmate leaves; Wiki has whorled. Plus, Shorea robusta has not been reported as cauliflorus, as shown in the picture. Maybe I need to do more research.

    The flowers in your blog do seem to wend its way towards Dipterocarpaceae. I could only come as close as the Order Dilleniales...I noticed that the flowers are very similar to Katmon's (Dillenia philippinensis).

    BTW, if you ask a Sri Lankan if that is a Sal tree, he/she might say no. Traditionally, so this article says ( they had taken the Cannonball tree (Couropita giuanensis) as the Sal tree of Buddha. You could see a specimen of this atop the old Friday market space in Social Garden. Ang layo ng itsura.

    Inggit ako at nag-Angkor Wat ka. Do you remember Graham Hancock's theory that the plan of Angkor was a good copy of the constellation Draco SEEN AT THE TIME WHEN ANGKOR WAS BUILT? Similar to Robert Bauval's theory of the Giza Plateau being an exact replica of the constellation Orion SEEN AT THE TIME WHEN THE PYRAMIDS WERE BUILT!

    Hope your pictures had orbs to complete the discussion.

    We miss you.

    Weeko (with Nots checking out my post)!

  2. Haaay Wico i miss you more after reading your comment, not really comment but an article in itself. You write so well! But it left me more confused, which is okay, at least the confusion has sense. Intellectual talaga ang dating! You really searched for me and i appreciate it. I felt shame when i can't visualize the canonball tree in the social garden, even asked Lani but don't remember it too. Whatever they call the tree i saw in Phompenh Royal Palace, it is beautiful. I've almost forgotten your botanical terms, e.g.cauliflorous, palmate, etc. I am into IPR already, (not an excuse), but of course i know what you mean, haha. I am living for Ooty, India tomorrow and might see a lot of saal trees. My Indian friend just said that they have a lot of saal trees in India, which might turn out to be dipterocarps. I know naman that our narra is dipterocarp, hehe.

    About Angkor Wat being built re:constellation, that is correct. You can imagine i have those in mind when i was inside. I haven't read your authors but i've read about it somewhere. I bought 3 books there and amazed even more about the exactness of measurements according to some astronomical details, really awed by it all. I even want to go there again during the rainy season when the temples project a different perspective. You must go there soon, it might not be as good after a decade.

    I surely miss you and our talks, you are surely one of my 'normal' friends. That is how Beth's boyfriend call us. BTW, Flor told me to write a book and call it 'Romancing the Flora'. Of course i disagreed, or else a lot of people will think i have an unusual fetish! hahaha.


Your comments inspire me to post more, and our conversations make life and gardening more meaningful.

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