Khao Sok Park is a luxuriant garden. With its rich soil and high rainfall, is a place where tropical plants and fruit trees flourish. The farmers around the park grow coffee, rubber, oil palm, and exotic fruits such as rambutan, durian, and longong. Most farms are at least 10 acres (2 hectares) and some as large as 50 acres (9 hectares). The canoe trip down the Sok River takes you past some of these farms.
And if you like tropical flowers, stick a twig or a sucker in the ground and after a few months come back and find a healthy colorful plant, especially in the rainy season. Wandering around the village, you will see many colorful flowering plants.
Start with banana bushes with soft purple buds. Bananas, did you know, are members of the ginger family. Then there is the bright red ginger flower, with its highly inedible root. And a whole array of heliconia, commonly known as “bird of paradise.”
The tropical lily is very hearty and apparently endemic, whereas the bougain-villeas which bloom in the hot dry weather are introduced. Typical of South Thailand and Indonesia are the colorful leaves of the croton plant.
A much admired oddity is a large almost black flower known in Thai as “bat’s whiskers.” But the most famous of all, sometimes called the world’s largest flower, is the Raffleasia. This Raffleasia blooms in Khao Sok Park occasionally for about 7 days in the dampness of the forest and cannot be grown by man.
The Raffleasia is only one of the great variety of tropical plants thriving in the protected forest. Many varieties of bamboo, huge climbing vines (lianas), and rattan are also common. Rattan, commonly used the make cane furniture, grows to lengths of 100 feet, has very prickly thorns, and a sour red fruit which is refreshing to nibble on a hot rainforest trek. Walk slowly through the forest and appreciate the beauty of these plants. Notice too the various strange mushrooms, like the net mushroom pictured here.
Another fascinating oddity you will see in the Khao Sok Park rainforest here is the strangler fig. The strangler fig is actually a vine although after years of growth it looks like a tree. Its fruit, which is not much different from the fig we eat, is a favorite of the hornbills, gibbons, and other wild animals and birds in the forest. When these animals emit the seed and it falls on a tree, it eventually sends fast-growing roots to the ground. After many years, these roots become large enough to circle and strangle the host tree, which dies and deteriorates, leaving a hollow sometimes big enough to walk into.