Sunday, September 25, 2011

May Diliman pa ba sa Diliman?

Diliman fern on a lattice.
Other ferns in collection
Did you know that Diliman in Quezon City was named after a fern? I only found out about it a few years ago. I always thought that Diliman was named because it always rains there, always getting too cloudy. But I was corrected as the place where U.P. stands is named after Stenochalena palustris, a climbing fern once abundant in the area.  But Diliman, the district, being too developed, I am not anymore expecting to see a wild diliman fern growing in its vicinity.

The leaf fronds
But this afternoon I went to a private garden in Quezon city and rediscovered the diliman fern.  Fern man Anthony Arbias, who was with us, identified the species.  The specimen was healthy and growing profusely on a lattice trellis in one quiet corner.  It is not a wild specimen but nevertheless, it was the original diliman growing in South Triangle, Diliman. So there is indeed still some diliman ferns in Diliman district!  

Nepenthes Overload!

Nepenthes ventricosa green
Nepenthes alata
There seems to be a renaissance for pitcher-plant hobbyists nowadays as more and more Nepenthes and carnivorous plants are becoming available in cultivation.  Before, the only Nepenthes species I see are alatas and ventricosas. Now even the big Nepenthes truncata is very much available.

Nepenthes truncata
I went to Manila Seedling bank last week and discovered that some of the plant stalls were selling garden grade Nepenthes, already adapted and reared for garden use.  They have nice looking and established pitchers and have better chances growing in Manila.  The only other problem is that whether the sought-after species is highland or lowland.

Probably N. mindanaoensis
The Philippines has about more than 20 species of native pitcher plants, but only a handful are lowland dwellers.  Most grow in high humidity and full sun in high altitude areas like mountaintops, which is hard to duplicate in Manila. I only saw specimens of Nepenthes alata, N. merrilliana, N. ventricosa green, and N. truncata being reared in gardens around  the metro.  There are probably more but given controlled conditions by their patient owners.  
Cultivated nepenthes with numerous pitchers

Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Momentum for Orchid Sketching

My latest orchid sketch
I just went back to orchid sketching.  I found this journal book with grid dots instead of lines.  The paper is smooth and would accommodate the fine strokes of hard colored pencil. I could now draw complete plant profiles.  In my previous sketch book, I could only do blow ups of flower details.    

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cut Fruits!

Freycinetia fruits
The guys checking out the fruits
Quick Post: I was with the PNPCSI guys last Fricay attending Jim Cootes' book launch. On our way home we passed by Dangwa and saw a stall selling a bucket of bariw fruits.  Immediately Ronald parked his car and we all went down to check out the fruits. There were other stuff there which was to our delight.

We got seeds of bariw of course (Pandanus copelandii) and a Freycinetia which Uly identified. There were also Schefflera berries and Alpinia. It is always a treat to go to Dangwa.  It is like a box of chocolates - you'll never know what you would get! 
The other berries

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

At the Edge of City Existence

The Makati Stock Exchange Building
Bats taking refuge
Quick post: Mike Asinas showed us this unusual thing happening in Makati. In the absence of caves, trees and other natural habitats, life does find a way to exist.  Fine example are these bats in the Ayala Triangle, trying to get refuge from the shade provided by the deep eaves of the Makati Stock Exchange Building.  The bats take their sleep hanging from the rough texture of the sun baffles and the concrete overhang. That is how animal adaptation works for you in this age of urban concrete jungles!

The urban bat 'cave'

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Makiling Bounty

White lauan seeds
I was with some botanists and members of PNPCSI last weekend and we toured areas around the UPLB campus.  Some of the trees were in fruit and we managed to see some seeds which were lying around on the ground.  I took pictures of them for documentation.

Round tamayuan seeds
Seed no. 1 is tamayuan or Strombosia philippinensis.  This is a shrub to a small tree and appears to be abundant in the campus and Mt. Makiling.  I got the seeds under a tabon-tabon tree, but there were no tamayuan trees in the vicinity.  Dennis Pulan and Pat Malabrigo said that the fruits of tamayuan are fondly eaten by bats, which is probably why we found the seeds away from any tamayuan tree as they were carried out by the bats and deposited there.  Shows you how effective animals are as seed dispersal agents.

Tambalaw seeds
Seed no. 2 is from a nutmeg.  There are a lot of species of nutmegs in the Philippines and they are distributed in several genera including Myristica and Knema.  The nutmeg that I picked up is said to be from Knema glomerata or tambalaw.  The nutmeg spice is derived from the seeds of these nutmeg trees.  So what I pictured is actually priced for its flavor.  But hopefully these particular nuts would not be grind down to bits but rather grow into new nutmeg trees.  

Germinating seeds of white lauan
Seed no 3 is from the famous white lauan or Shorea contorta.  White lauan is one of the members of the dipterocarp family which is known to be the Philippine mahoganies.  The unique seeds have wings which help it glide under the tall tree canopies and establish themselves far from the mother tree.  Dipterocarp seeds should be grown in moist and shaded areas to mimic the rainforest undergrowth.  Seedlings should be shelterd from direct sunlight to grow healthy and strong.  If it survives the competition with other forest trees, it will eventually overtake any other species and dominate the forest canopy, hovering over the crowns of other trees.

Pangnan acorns
Seed no. 4  is from a native tree species related to the famous oaks of the temperate countries.  This is pangnan or Lithocarpus sulitii.  The seeds resemble the iconic acorn which most cartoon squirrels and chipmunks tuck into their winter stash. I previously tried to plant seeds of this species before in Metro Manila and some managed to germinate.  But eventually I neglected the seedlings and they eventually wilted.  I hope these seeds would germinate and not end with the same fate as my Manila seedlings. 

I wish that pangnan trees and the other 3 species would eventually be introduced into the Diliman campus and the rest of Manila.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ang mga Namumutakte sa Galamay-Amo

Schefflera leaves
The flowers attracting some ants
Quick Post:  We saw this Schefflera sp. flowering profusely at the Makiling Botanic Garden.  It was amazing! And apparently its beauty did not only attract us, but also an array of different insects, ranging from ants, wasps, butterflies and beetles.  I wonder why such beautiful plant with gorgeous flower clusters would hide its inflorescence underneath the very wide leaves?   Probably if it was exposed, more pollinators can be attracted to it.  And of course more predators would also be lurking, waiting for the pollinators to be caught of guard. The host of feeding animals seemed contented while rummaging through the blooms for pollen and nectar. They were oblivious that bigger species like us are examining them.  Good thing we don't eat these kinds of insects.  We were more enticed and salivated by the spectacular blooms of this Schefflera.  
The impressive inflorescence
A different species attracted to Scefflera
Collectively Scheffleras are called galamay-amo in the Philippines.  But there are numerous species, some with particular vernacular names like sainat, etc.  This species in particular have large simple whorled leaves.  There are other native species that are much more ornate and foliage-attractive.   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Mud Spring Ordeal!

The dirt road to the mudsprings 
After an hour of walking
I first tried to climb up the Mt. Makiling mud springs in 2008. I came with my MTLA classmates and went up riding with one of two vehicles, trying to brave the impossible dirt road across the mountain's rainforest reservation. Sadly the owner of the vehicle I was in gave up and everyone in that car readily agreed to go back.  After all I said to myself, what could we ever see in the mudspring beside the mud.

The sari sari store on the mountain
It is not an easy route to follow
This morning, the possibility of climbing up Makiling to the mudsprings presented itself again and this time I was coerced by the members of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society to join.  Ma'am Elisa's pick up truck took us to about a third of the way up the mudsprings.  When it proved to hard to manage for our vehicle, all of us decided to make the rest of the way on foot, through a non-paved dirt road, generously laden with loose rocks. Of course all of us started on even ground but eventually an hour's walk found me lagging behind from the rest of our group.  After all the complaining and self pity, I managed to catch up with them in the sari-sari store at the top of Makiling (yes, there are sari-sari stores there). The buko sold there is not exactly the sweetest and the most delicious, but at that time it was the most refreshing.  I ordered two because the Sinigang they were selling was already finished off by my companions. Sigh!
The mysterious mudsprings
692 meters seemed forever!
A rattan blocking the way
I was ready to hang my walking shoes and just wait for them under a makeshift tolda. But these guys are hardballs. They would not let me be to just enjoy sitting away my time in the sari-sari store.  They sweet talked me into descending down into the actual mudsprings.  They said it was only 800 meters away. They were all liars, hahahaha! Even the signage on the crossroads said it was 600 meters.  Do not be deceived as the 600 meters is pure unadulterated trekking evil! The reason they probably called it mudsprings is that the path going there is completely covered with mud.  It is not flat and straight but rather uneven and winding. The surface is slippery and booby trapped with gnarling roots and stones. As if the challenge was not enough, they added the twist of  spiny rattan stalks and sleeping vipers! And my sinister companions kept on telling me that it is already near, but it probably took much more time than what they painted in my mind. As a result my shoes, pants and especially my butt was completely covered with slimy mud because of balancing, squirming, crawling and treading through mud puddles.   Felt like a really old man in the end, hahahahaha!

Steam-hazed tree canopies
Just a venomous viper sleeping beside the trail
But my sarcasm and complaints aside, I secretly enjoyed my ordeal to the mudsprings. Yes, there is only mud to see in this part, but the hazy springs presented the mystique of Makiling. It showed a very unique landscape which is far from my known images of U.P. Los Banos and Mt. Makiling since I was a kid. It also illustrated that this part of the mountain is still wilderness which is hard to be accessed by most people like myself. My PNPCSI friends probably deceived me to motivate me to partake with them the experience getting there.  

Oh and I managed the trip back with much greater ease. That is after sipping and downing another buko juice at the sari-sari store.