I grabbed the chance to join the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society in their trip to the La Mesa watershed last September. This is not the part of the park that is open to the public but the one that has all the trees covering about 2700 hectares of land - being protected by Bantay Kalikasan to safeguard 1 of 4 watersheds serving Manila's water needs.
The watershed is already secondary growth with most of the trees young. But the etent of coverage is quite lush. In fact, the PNPCSI was there to assess the available native species, and ball out some dipterocarps for transfer to a possible nursery or botanical park development in Q.C. Balling out would be a welcome move to allow the dipterocarps to grow better as roots of the proximic trees are becoming crowded.
We actually went to the site early at 8 am but waited in the park for offices to open. Turned out our resource person was waiting for us in another part of the watershed. We found our right way and by 10 am we were already exploring the ins and outs of the vast wooded area.
It was a surprise to learn from the native plant enthusiasts that native species of orchids and other flora still abound La Mesa. There are areas where native lumber species like yakal, palosapis, tangile, white lauan and kamagong grow. The effort of Bantay Kalikasan is noble and they safeguard the watershed from threats like cutting and squatting. If you go to the area you'll be amazed how such thick growth could still be found in the metro. To further ensure supply of the native flora, a nursery was even established growing the likes of malaipil. ligas, betis, lipote, banaba, malapapaya etc.
Leonard Co was giving us identification especially the trees and vines. But the fern and orchid enthusiasts needed no coaching in identifying species, they were quick to exclaim the botanical names of plants as soon as they spot them. As for me, I got good photos of some native trees for my thesis, and an additional dozen plants to add to my growing list (I plan to reach 200 for my thesis). Anthony Arbias would utter uno shot for every tree pic I take. Long way to go till my goal but because of exploration trips like this one, I am confident I'll get there.