Sunday, July 19, 2009

Manila's Long Lost Resident

Ever since I was in grade school I have learned that the city of Manila (and the greater Metro Manila area) was named after a small flowering plant, the nilad. The term Maynila (Manila's Tagalog name) was derived from 'may nilad' or nilad abundant, resulting to maynilad. The 'd' was later omitted in time. I was told that nilad is a brackish or mangrove species. Unique Manila was after all a coastal city, thus having long coast lines supporting saltwater and brackish mangrove plants, pre-polluted Manila Bay and Pasig River era. But what it looks like eluded a lot of us NCR residents as the plant has completely vanished in Manila's coastlines in recent times.

Nilad is Sciphiphora hydrophyllacea from the family Rubiaceae. It is a cousin of the santan and was once named Ixora manillensis (Ixora is the genus of santans). Though the plant is Philippine native, the plant could be seen in other Southeast Asian nations like Singapore. I even heard of rumors of importing the plant from Singapore to reestablish in Manila. But these were farfetched as nilad could be found in other areas in Luzon. Ronald Achacoso told me of expeditions collecting the nilad in Quezon and Aurora to bring back to Manila. But I never got to confirm if nilad reached the metro.

Yesterday, I found the stories at least partially true when I visited the Flora and Fauna Expo over at World Trade Center. The Nilad was present in one of the DENR landscape installments, giving a picture to the obscure ideas we have of the plant. The oblong shaped leaves appear succulent and glossy giving an attractive appearance. The specimens did not have any flowers so it is hard to judge it they would compare to their more popular santan cousins in bloom.

Though nilad was included in a landscape display installment, questions of its viability for landscape use are still up in the air. Probably the most feasible in reintroducing nilad to Manila is bringing it to controlled garden settings. Since it is a brackish species, would it fare well in a garden in the metro? It once upon a time did, but its previous Manila habitats were lost to the obscurity of city development and degradation. It seems nilad has to still fight its way back into its old home like any other newcomer, the irony of welcoming back a long lost native species.

1 comment:

hechoayer said...

can i please post this photo of the nilad plant on my blog many thanks