Virtually daily, I receive an email from someone asking if the "Rare Thailand Parrot Flower" is real. And the next question is almost always, "do you sell the plant?"
The answer to the first is "yes", and the second, "no".
The species is Impatiens psittacina
and is a very rare Impatiens
sp. from several small geographic regions in Asia including northern Thailand, Burma and a neighboring state in India. Some sources claim it is found in Vietnam, the Himalayas and neighboring countries but that cannot be confirmed scientifically. The Thai people know it well and sometimes send email (often difficult to read and comprehend) wondering why so many people in North America think it is a "hoax". They have a name for the plant and call it "Dork Nok Khaew". Literally translated that says: Dork or Dok = flower, Nok = bird, and Khaew = green or the word for parrot. So the translation would be Flower Bird Parrot. In addition to the scientific documents below, it has also been published in other scientific books including Flora of India, Volume 4
I've located a total of two people who have attempted to grow the plant. One in the U.S. and one in England. Neither wishes to be identified since they don't want people climbing their fences trying to "borrow" a specimen. The reasons are explained on my website if you'd care to find out.
The plant was originally published in 1901 in the Curtis Botanical Journal Magazine, Tab 7809 and was credited as having been discovered in the Shan States of Upper Burma in 1899 by a British officer named A.H. Hildebrand who was working on a new boundary agreement between Thailand and Burma, then known as Siam. In that publication botanist Joseph Dalton Hooker described the species as resembling a "cockatoo suspended by a string from its shoulders". (You can read Hooker's description below). Hooker lived from 1817-1911 and is the botanist of record who gave the species its name. The Latin name Hooker chose, "psittacina", fittingly means "parrot like".
So, just in case you're one of the folks who still believes this plant is a hoax, here is the original drawing/painting by Hooker. These were copied from an original of the Curtis Botanical Journal in London. You may find them difficult to read since the type is quite frail. But this one is real. If you think these are not a good match to the photos, please remember these inks are over 100 years old. And botanists back then often drew from dried specimens.
I've also published these pages along with numerous additional photos and a great deal more information on my own website. People from Thailand have sent more photos of the plant than I have room to publish. But next time someone tells you this "flower" is a fake, send them over to this link on UBC. It's real!