Since ancient times, flowers have had quite an influence on Thai people. Flowers are commonly used in the country both in rituals and as house decorations, making residents happy and relaxed. The Rak plant (in Thai Rak = love – botanical name Asclepiadaceae) is a common wasteland weed in Thailand: it grows well in different environments and does not need any particular care. Its scentless flowers are called Dok Rak, and they come in two variations: a beautiful greenish-white (Dok Rak Kao) and a lavender-coloured Dok Rak Muong) flowers that stand out magnificently in Thai green grassy fields.
These flowers are called Dok Rak by Thai people generally, and Por Tuen is the name given to them by the Lanna ancient people, but they are commonly called Crown Flowers from the small, elegant “crown” that holds the flower stamen and that rise rise from the centre of the five pointed petals. These long-lasting flowers are about 1 cm across and have soft petals. Its seeds are usually dispersed by the wind.
There are immortal symbolic reasons in this magical Dok Rak flower. Thai people mainly use them in various floral arrangements, as well as strung into garlands used for wedding ceremonies. Dok Rak flowers also have incredible medical applications, and their use can help relieve problems of the alimentary system, skin diseases, cough and asthma. The plant milky sap yields a durable fiber useful for ropes, carpets, fishing nets, and sewing thread.
Despite the good name and reputation attached to it, the Rak plant also have some negative connotations: its useful sap can also burn your skin or get you blind if it gets in contact with your eyes, and Thai people refuse to use the plant in the household since it is said it can make your love life a mess and turn people into potential adulterers.
The Rak plant is like a two-edged sword: use it right, you will benefit from it; use it wrongly and you will hurt. One thing is sure: whatever the case, Dok Rak are in high demand in Thailand flower markets, and those selling them experience a great, profitable business.