December 7, 2023
BANGKOK – The yellow Phuttharaksa flower or Canna lily takes centre stage in Thailand every December 5, as the country celebrates Father’s Day.
The flower symbolises the birthday colour of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej the Great, who was born on a Monday. The Thai name for the flower is also considered auspicious. “Phuttharaksa” translates as “A Buddha who protects”.
People around the country know it by many different names, however.
In the Central region it is called “Sakhu Hua Kha” or “Sakhu Mon”, while people in the North call it “Phutthasorn”. Lampang and Lamphun locals, meanwhile, know it as “Bua Lawong”.
Apart from being used to decorate homes, many parts of the flower are said to have medicinal properties:
Seeds: Relieve headache
Flowers: Refresh the mind, reduce blood pressure, heal wounds and cure abscess
Rhizome: Relieves cough, toothache and irregular menstruation, and remedies tuberculosis, chronic dysentery and diarrhoea
Leaves: Relieve vomiting, colic and diarrhoea
Thais also use flour made from Phuttharaksa’s rhizome to create a traditional dessert called Sakhu.
The Hmong people boil or steam the rhizome for consumption, while the Karen people boil it with sugar to make sweets.
Phuttharaksa: The flower that blooms on Thai Father’s Day
Canna or canna lily is the only genus of flowering plants in the family Cannaceae, consisting of 10 species. All of the genus’s species are native to the American tropics and became naturalised in Europe, Asia and Africa in the 1860s.
Although they are native to the tropics, canna cultivars have been developed to adorn gardens and parks in temperate climates, too. They are easy to grow in most countries of the world, requiring at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day during summer and warm shelter over winter.
Cannas are not true lilies, instead belonging to the Zingeberales group of plants along with gingers, spiral gingers, bananas, arrowroots, heliconias, and birds of paradise.