Monday, December 15, 2008

The Remaining Boracay Tree Flora

I got the chance to survey Boracay by air. My initial reaction is that it is not at all a pristine paradise but quite urbanized. The resorts are already jam-packed into the long stretch of white sand beach and behind them are grids of houses and establishments. And there are already lots and lots of settlers, formal or otherwise.

By my visual estimate, less than 50 percent is undeveloped. Yes there are still areas with green patches, like in the steeper elevations, the cliffsides and the periphery of Fairways and Bluewaters. So I was not expecting to find any species to include for my thesis.

The first tree that caught my attention is what they call ugayan. The tree I suspected was Alstonia macrophylla (which was later confirmed by Leonard Co). I saw this tree before in Mr. Sotalbo's UP tree tour and in Real, Quezon (both individual not-in-flowering trees). Immediately after our plane's touch down at Caticlan airport, I was entranced by the 2 trees in full bloom flanking the airport terminal. I barely had time to take pictures of the airport specimens - to my dismay - only to find out that there are bigger and more flowering ugayans over at the Bora helipad.

Alstonia macrophylla or the Visayan ugayan is called batino by the Tagalogs. The tree is very similar to the more common dita (Alstonia scholaris) but have bigger and more lanceolate leaves than the ovate to oblongate of dita. The residents say that the ugayan over at Bora was introduced from the mountains of Panay. I asked for any cultural or economic use for the plant and the natives could not recount any.

Alstonia scholaris or dita, which the Visayans call bita, is also very visible on the island. I had a chat with Bora resident Lolong Acosta and he said that bita is famed as wood for coffins because the wood is easy to cut and carve. Lolong said that he remembers bignay or Antidesma bunius to be abundant in the island but nowadays you could rarely see them.

A relative of pili is also quite common in the island. It is a Canarium species which I suspect to be C. asperum or pagsahingan. The Bora natives call it salong. Leaves are quite similar to Canarium ovatum but the tree is taller than it is wide. The extract from its trunk is used to light fires and fuel lamps.

The only new species I could add to my list is malabuyo, which I got to later confirm from Mr. Co is Pittosporum mollucanum. I saw this tree from Popototan collected branches and seeds (and from my classmate's pic) . I saw it again in Bora growing on limestone outcrops and steep areas.

The tree is quite attractive with its whorling ovate leaves, moreso when it is adorned with the bright red fruit clusters. Lolong said that the fruits have a certain stink but are a favorite of birds and bats.

Other trees in the native Bora flora mix include kalumpang (Sterculia foetida), binunga (Macaranga tanarius), bangkal (Nauclea orientalis) and tugas (Vitex parviflora). The cliffs are populated with agohos (Casuariana) and pandan dagat (Pandanus).

1 comment:

Medel Santillan said...

Thank you very much for this post. I am working in a hotel here in Boracay and we are planning to conduct tree planting to restore disturbed landscape affected by Typhoon Yolanda. This post will surely help us identify some species of trees suitable for our project.