Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Intimidating Appeal of the Native Anibong
I was flipping through the pages of William Warren's 'Tropical Garden Plants' when I saw my first images of the genus Oncosperma. It was a picture of O. tigillarium . That was almost 10 years ago. Imagine my thrill to see full grown specimens flanking the orchidarium when we visited the Singapore Botanic Garden 2 years ago. The palm was indeed exquisite and majestic, hovering over other plants planted near it. But at close up, the plant has a draw back. It was almost completely covered with long spines. But for an adventurous plant enthusiast like me, the spines appear intriguing rather than a source of danger.
Last year while doing my thesis, I read in Dr. Madulid's book that Oncosperma tigillarium is native to parts of Palawan. It was locally called the anibong. The book also stated that there were other Oncosperma species native to the Philippines including O. horridum which could be found in lowland forests. And when I spotted an orange trunked Oncosperma in Makiling Botanic Gardens, I immediately dismissed it to be O. horridum. I was wrong.
Last week I was again flipping through another book, Riffle and Craft's 'Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms' and once more I came across the genus Oncosperma. It was written in the book that Oncosperma has about 5 member species. It was also the only palm genus where the Philippines was mentioned first in roll call, meaning there are more Oncospermas native. And indeed there were 3 out of 5, Oncospermas horridum (widespread), gracilipes (Luzon and Biliran) and platyphyllum (Negros). The other 2 are O. fasciculatum (endemic to Sri Lanka) and the common O. tigillarium (which book says is native to a lot of countries but does not mention the Philippines). I cross checked O. tigillarium with other references, they claim it could be found in the Philippines like in Palawan and Polilio islands. So that is 4 out of 5 species native.
My new found knowledge about Oncosperma made me want to investigate about the Makiling anibong. Literature available about the Makiling Botanic lists the only Oncosperma in their collection is O. gracilipes, the smaller species in the group. Though it does not grow as tall and towering as the anibong, this locally called anibong-liitan has a reddish orange tinge to its long spiny stems, making them a more attractive and dangerous looking specimen for any garden.