Sunday, August 30, 2009

Flora Tributes to Cory

I passed by the orchid show over at Quezon City Hall. After a short inspection of what was sold in the booths I decided to take a break and try the sumptuous looking palabok sold at the food area (which tastes as good as it looks). Halfway through my plate, the animated Lawrence Chan popped up beside my table saying the usual pleasantries and asking if I already saw the new plants timely named after the late beloved president Cory Aquino. Lawrence was insistent that I see it. But I was really interested to know what kind of plants were befitting to be named after the great Philippine (and international) icon. So I hurriedly scooped up the last noodles on my plate and indulged Lawrence in his 'tourist guide' role. The Cory plants were tucked into the landscape exhibits along with the beautiful blooming orchid displays.

The first plant was an Agloanema hybrid. It was included into Kevin Manubay, Jun Golamco and Lawrence's booth. There were actually two kinds, the other was named after Ninoy. Agloanemas are considered collectible. Their attractive contrasting foliage make them very sought after to a lot of enthusiasts. More importantly a lot of Agloanemas are Philippine natives. Lawrence said that the Cory Agloanema is a cross between a Philippine and a Malaysian species (would have to confirm).

The second Cory plant is an orchid, a BLC. BLC's are hybridized from at least 3 genera of orchids mainly Cattleya, Brasseo and laelleo (not sure if i got this right) but basically they are considered hybrid Cattleyas by common collectors. As expected the flowers were yellow, the colored identified with the Aquino family. The blooms were big and magnificent, but not native orchids. It would have been nicer to see a Philippine yellow orchid to bear the names of some of our important historic people, a much more fitting tribute to someone as great as the late president.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The National Flower?

I was asked by my dad to draw a picture of sampaguita or Jasminum sambac on a 1/4 piece of illustration board. It was for a son of a family friend, as a high school project. I assumed that the student would be reporting about the sampaguita, under the premise that it still is the national flower. I am not sure it still is.

Internet sources say that the sampaguita was instated as the Philippine national flower in the 1930's. But recently it got controversial of losing that status because sampaguita is not a native Philippine plant. In 2004 a law was entertained in the Philippine House of Representatives to change our national flower from Jasminum sambac into Euanthe sanderiana or the orchid waling waling, which is very much endemic in Mindanao (and very much in need of publicity to save it from extinction in th wild). I am not sure if that law got passed.

The sampaguita is said to be a native of India and some other neighboring countries. It got introduced into the country and later became a popular flower to be strung into leis or necklaces. It got culturally significant in the Philippines, earning local stories and legends about its origin and places in a lot of Filipino households.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Samuyao in Fruit

Quick post: My pet plant, samuyao or Citrus westeri, is in fruit. For the last few months I have seen minute white (sweet smelling) flowers appear. But only now I have noticed the fruit in its full size. They are about the size of the calamansi but with lesser juice. Plus the skin has the bumpy appearance reminiscent of the kaffir lime fruit (Citrus hystrix).

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Is That a Yucca Tree?

A lot of Metro Manila residents might tell you they have yucca in their backyards. But with all probability, only less than half of these do really have a real yucca. The rest probably have this plant in their homes and thought that it is a yucca. It's close, but no money!

I have long wondered about the identity of this plant, as I have encountered a few similar looking plants on the internet. The first suspect was Cordyline australis, as it was labeled on the Domingo Madulid book Pictorial Cyclopedia of Philippine Ornamental Plants. But I was corrected by Ray Ong (Philippine Star Philippine Gardens editor) that Cordyline specimens have stems or petioles on the base of the leaves where they meet the branches. This plant does not have it therefore it is not a Cordyline.

Speculation no. 2 was the genus Yucca. But then an old friend once told me that Yucca leaves are angled acute from the stem, thus pointing upward. The suspected plant occasionally have downward pointing leaves, thus it could not be a Yucca.

My third speculation was Dracaena draco, which internet photos are very similar to the plant in question. But Dracaena draco is said to be rare and raised only by collectors. The common plant can't possibly the very sought after dragon tree.

Then in February 2008, before an impending Popototan Island trip, Pinky Gendrano excitedly described to me what to expect from the beautiful Coron landscape. She described the limestone cliffs laced with yucca trees, which again baffled me. I knew that Yuccas are American natives. It is therefore unlikely that a Yucca would grow native in the cliffs of Coron and Busuanga. But when the trip came, I first handedly saw them growing there.

Light was shed on the matter by Ray Ong, giving me the exact identity of the so called Coron 'Yuccas'. The plant is indeed a Dracaena, D. multiflora. They are coastal species occuring in Southeast Asian countries. In the Philippines they occur in islands like Coron, Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate etc. In some case they are interspersed with similar looking coastal Pandanus species on steep limestone cliffs and outcrops.

In the 1970's, the native plant found its way into the Philippine commercial landscape scene. The late Ely Bardenas brought back specimens from Mindoro to be cultivated in Manila as an ornamental. To these we could trace most of the false 'Yuccas' we could see growing all over the metro.

A Follow-Up on the Mushrooms of UP

I recently blogged about edible mushrooms in UP campus but was not certain about the identity of the mushrooms. I inquired with Ed Tadiosa over at the National Museum who specializes in fungi, which mushrooms are. He emailed me back today with this response:

I was able to open your blogspot. As per your quiry on what kind of mushroom species you had encountered at the U.P campus? Actually, it is Termitomyces sp., a wild edible mushroom. You can see those kind in soil mounds, what we call "punso". The genus Termitomyces was coined from the word termite, because this mushroom grows on mounds or termite homes. I can't give you what kind of Termitomyces this is, unless otherwise you can collect a sample of this fungus. There are at least 8 species of Termitomyces in our country.

To sir Ed, thanks for the reply. I ll try to collect a sample next time I encounter one.

The Pine Trees on that Sandy Shore

In my trips to Zambales and Ilocos, I came across a lot of coastal settings and a surprise is to find some pine-looking trees growing along the sandy shores. This is one of the most unusual sights for a city dweller as we associate pine trees with cooler places like Baguio and Tagaytay. So to see those pine trees on the warm and harsh beaches were a bit baffling. But I learned they should't be.

The pine tree in question is Casuarina equisetifolia or agoho. Some of us would have heard of towns named after the tree like Agoo. Elmer Nochesaleda once mentioned there were a few more towns like Malabuhok or Maribojoc which were named after agoho. Unusually these are again coastal towns, which solidifies the fact that this particular pine indeed is abundant in coastal regions.

Agoho is in a different plant family than Pinus kesiya (Benguet pine) and Pinus insularis (Mindoro pine). I have not yet confirmed if it is related to it but most references like Wikipedia and the Bureau of Plant Industries label agoho as a flowering evergreen. But in terms of form and shape it is a pine mimic. Even up to the shape of its leaves and fruits which resemble pine needles and cones.

The agoho is native in the Philippines but is also common in coastal areas from Eastern Africa to Australia. In both the Zambales and Ilocos landscapes, the agoho growth patches standout from the rest of the vegetation. In the Bucao River they grow on the lahar-laden shores. In Ilocos they are the dominant greens found on the desert-looking sandy dunes (which Il earned was not at all a desert but an aeolean or wind landform-you have to take LArch 255) . The pine looking agoho somehow connotes a feeling of cool air amidst the harsh hot climate of our coastal areas. It gives an unexpected mountain ambiance to the beach landscape.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Friend's Flowering Medinilla

Quick post: I was asked by my friend Ronald Achacoso to drop by his house. He was proud of his magnificent feat, to make a Medinilla sp. flower in his Metro Manila garden. The medinilla he suspects as Medinilla magnifica or kapa-kapa (named after the cape like flower bracts) which is a common plant in Tagalog provinces. These grow and flower in the cooler mountainous parts, so to have it flower in warm and polluted Manila is truly amazing. Kudos, Ron! Keep it up.

But Ronald's Medinilla does not have the showy bracts or capes that M. magnifica has. Could it be that it is another species or the cape-like bracts disappear when they flower in lowland?

To other garden enthusiasts who are discouraged keeping Medinillas because of its non-flowering in the metro, Manila flowering is possible. Just be sure to buy cultivated specimens and not wild collected ones. For one the cultivated plants are already hardier and adapted to domestication.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Yes to a Philippine Trees Thesis

Last Thursday I got to defend my thesis proposal on the design use of Philippine trees in landscape architecture, in completion of a masteral degree in tropical landscape architecture (from the College of Architecture in UP Diliman). I was given the notice to proceed thus it would make me preoccupied with Pinoy trees stuff for the next few months. This means I will continue on logging about them in this blog spot for at least till early 2010. Hope you bear with me while I learn more about our native flora. i also hope to learn from you if you have tidbits to share about certain plants featured.

Pictures courtesy of Mimie de Jesus. Thanks, Mimie!