Friday, November 14, 2008

The Plight of our own Philippine Teak

Have you ever seen a teak tree? Wikipedia states that teak is good quality lumber suitable for ship building because the wood is not susceptible to rot. Through out the years teak has been harvested in quantity for its wood and even now a lot of teak has been planted as reforestation species.

I heard a story that recent studies of ancient wood found from Mt. Ararat in Turkey, believed to be Noah's Ark, turned out to be teak (not acacia as documented). But i have not confirmed this yet.

The most common teak used is tekla or the common teak Tectona grandis. This has large leaves and showy sprays of flower. Its flowering season was just these past months. Maybe you could still catch some in bloom. If you get the chance to get out of Manila and spot trees with wide leaves along the countryside, good chance you are looking at a teak tree...or another species Gmelina arborea. But on a sad note, the grand common teak, and the gmelina for that matter, are not native species. This tree, though very much visible in our landscapes, is a native of India and Indo-China.

The irony is that we have our very own endemic teak, Tectona philippinensis. Endemic ... meaning it could not be found wild in any other part of the world, just here and only in the Philippines. Our Philippine teak or vernacularly called bunglas is a great find for the Spaniards when they arrived here in Manila. The tree was abundant in the forests around Manila. They discovered that the bunglas wood is not only good for ship building but is resistant to cannonball attacks. Thus the teak in the forests ranging from Cavite to Batangas were harvested. To date, there are only less than a hundred recorded full grown trees in the provinces of Cavite, Batangas, Lubang Island and Mindoro. So to some collectors and conservationists it is great joy and responsibility to rear a specimen of bunglas.

I first heard of Philippine teak from Swiss man Martin Zoller who maintains the Botolan Wildlife Park in Zambales. He takes pride in his 10 ft specimens (he had 3). It was from him that I learned the bunglas's state of existence. My second encounter with bunglas was in the UP Marine Science Institute where there are also 3 trees (of same size as Martin's) planted by the good Prof. Ed Gomez. I also saw a lone specimen in the Makiling Botanic Garden. I have not had anymore sightings of bunglas since then.


Francis Tandoc said...

You can buy teak seed at Manila Seedling Bank at 450 pesos per kilo. I bought 1 kilo today , this is around 800 seeds .

Bulan said...

Are the teak seeds in Manila Seedling Bank Tectona Grandis or Tectona Philippinensis? I would like to plant some of these. Do you know where one can find seeds besides Manila Seedling Bank?

adrian punzalan said...

Excuse me sir/mam where can i find a teak tree in the Philippines? answer me please!

Sam Johnson said...

(if a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around, does it make a sound?) MUHAHAHAHAHA! i very much look forward to growing some native philippine teak since i am now a philippine citizen! yeah!

Unknown said...

Sir. Mam. Teakwood tree is better for the high level of creatine