Cambodia’s national flower

Fragrant – the scent of the Rumdul trees is a balmy feature of the Cambodian experience.

I grew up in Ontario, Canada, where the flower of the Province is the trilium – a white three-petaled flower.

Sharing this unusual three-petaled characteristic is the flower of the rumdul tree, (or Mitrella mesnyi,) which in 2005 was declared the national flower of Cambodia.

The rumdul is known for its gorgeous, waxy evening fragrance. In ancient Cambodia, women were often compared to the rumdul flower because of its powerful and lovely scent. Seen throughout Cambodia’s parks and in the wild, the rumdul tree grows from 7 to 12 metres high, and its flowers are small, and a creamy yellowish-white, not unlike a Frangipani – but with the distinctive three-petaled beauty.

The tree itself is quite attractive, and while the dark green leaves can hide the flowers, they also hide the clusters of deep purple berries that ripen to become edible, with a distinctive sweet-sour taste.

In February 2013, some 50 Rumdul trees were planted to commemorate those who perished in the killing fields of Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh. I cannot think of a memorial more fitting for spirits who miss their real homeland.

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