Monday, December 24, 2012

The Season's Icon


Euphorbia pulcherrima is said to be now reclassified as Poinsettia pulcherrima. Unlike most Euphorbia species (from Africa), this species is found wild in Central America, but is now grown widely around the world. But also unlike a majority of Euphorbia, the Poinsettia grows better in cooler areas like Baguio and Tagaytay. It brings out reddish specialized leaves around the minute yellow flowers around December, which is why it has become the universal symbol of the yuletide season. Poinsettia pulcherrima is now in season. Sadly this is not native but a good intro for me to greet everyone a very merry Christmas! May we be more aware of our native flora in 2013!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Orchid Calendar for FREE!

Urban Orchids calendar
Art Post Asia printed a dozen of my sketches into a calendar for 2013.  They did not print much, only a few to serve as corporate giveaway.  Not even sure if it was sold to the public.  So you could say it is a limited edition, hehehe.
But I got a few copies and I am giving away one as prize for a small contest for Philippine followers of my blog. Just give me a unique christmas greeting as comment to this post. I will choose the most creative. On Christmas I will announce who won and I will LBC the calendar to anywhere you are (in the Philippines).  Goodluck and happy orchid-Christmas!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Late Year Bloomers

Quick Post:  I thought most plants flower in spring time. Then why is Baguio all in bloom at November. The following are pictures of the different ornamental plants in full blooming regalia, so close to the Christmas season!    
Pyrostegia venusta
Rose variety
Probably Medinilla pendula, and the only native in the bunch

Saturday, December 15, 2012

PMA Pines

Iconic PMA parade grounds
PMA'ers jogging in synchrony
The articfcial tree house
It is my fifth time in Baguio, but first time in the Philippine Military Academy grounds. My companions said it has much changed since their last visit but I do not have any comparison to make. We stopped by the Korean War Memorial (which my friends were wondering how come we have a memorial for the war - not sure what the participation of the Philippines in the war that happened in far away Korea). Of course it would not be complete without seeing the famous parade grounds, which I only saw from an old Pinoy movie. My friend Pinky also pointed out to an artifical pine tree with a concrete tree house mounted on it, which drew crowds going up its steep steps.
Age-old wide pine tree
Conical trimmed pine
Trimmed juxtaposed with the natural
But what really got my attention were the real Benguet pines or Pinus kesiya growing around the academy. They come in different ages and sizes. In an avenue in front of one of the main buildings, they had a few of the pine trees shaped in an iconic gymnosperm cone. Pine trees grow straight and upright, but unlike some gymnosperms like Araucaria and Agathis, the canopy shape is much random.  So it is unusual to see them shaped like Christmas trees. 

A few meters across the street, an older pine tree specimen is growing much more natural with ith branches untrimmed and spreading several meters across.  It is also unusual to see this one growing wider than taller.  The PMA seem to be growing its pine trees with peculiarity.     

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Ardisia on the Beach

Back beach with Chiquita Island at the horizon
Ardisia stand near the beach
Flower spike
Quick Post: Grande Island has a back beach.  It has white sand and a nice view of the West Philippine Sea and the nearby small island of Chiquita. And along the adjacent greenery, there were stands of flowering Ardisia. I am not sure what species this is but to me, it resembles the awnasin or Ardisia pyramidalis growing in the cool areas of Mt. Makiling.  Unusual if it is indeed A.pyramidalis, as it is growing wild in the hot coastal areas of the island. I once saw an awnasin growing in hot Manila and suffered greatly.  It probably is a different plant.
Profuse flowering

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Off the Subic Coast

Olongapo from the water
Free port
Ibay making snaps of the Subic shore
Grande Island clubhouse
Last November 9, I tagged along with Ibay Sicam and the Abas family on a road trip going to Grande Island in Subic Bay. It involved a boat trip and I grabbed the chance to get off Luzon mainland for the first time in a month. At 11 am we were picked up by the Grande Island ferry and for the very first time I saw the Subic coast viewed from the water.

More pictures on the ruins
Eons ago, I only had the chance to view Grande Island standing at the very tip of the then empty Naval Magazine.  I was doing my undergraduate thesis in architecture and I selected the area to be my site for the theoretical exposition project (site is now the Ocean Adventure). We were told by our tour guide then that the island stands as a recreation area for American GI's stationed in the base. I always wondered how it looked like. That afternoon I had the chance to know what the island is hiding.
The old army hospital is now a hotel
Battery Flake
The disappearing gun
The hotel close up
Grande is still evident as an island resort with recreation `facilities.  But what I did not know was that it housed a few historical buildings and structures. We went up several times to hilly parts of the island and discovered the battery fortifications. The most interesting one is called Battery Flake, looking like a small version of Intramuros.  Ibay says it looked more like Corregidor but I have not gone to that island yet.
The guns share the land with grazing horses
Wikipedia states that Grande was previously called Fort Wint in the American period. It served as additional harbor defense for both Subic and Manila. The batteries were used as outlook and fortifications for gun defense.  Battery hall still holds the remnants of the disappearing gun, which we personally saw.  We hope the resort operators would take care and protect these wonderful heritage sites.   It is always quite awesome seeing Philippine history right in front of you and the resort could bank on th importance as additional attraction.

The Grande Island Resort
Thanks to my friend Ibay, the Abas women and the Grande Island resort for this rare opportunity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Month with No Blogs

Taal Lake on a bright day
Fish pens also as clear as the day
Flowering Melastoma
Sorry if November passed by with only two blog inputs.  In fact it was a month ago since my last blog entry. No, I did not get tired of writing the blogs.  But November was busy for me since it was the start of the second semester and we are wrapping up for 2 issues for Metro Home magazine. But I have lots experienced the last month to blog about.  I hope to find the time to write them.    
To start off again, I made several trips to Tagaytay for the magazine. In one of them I got a breather to eat and slurp some of the famous Leslie's bulalo, and enjoy the view of Taal Volcano on a bright clear day.  Since Leslie's is a popular stop, I am guessing that a lot of people have already glanced upon the view in Leslie's corner of the Tagaytay rim.  But I am sure not all witnessed the flowering Melastoma (probably M. malabathricum) or pure-tutungaw in a pot near the Filibeans Cafe. Melastoma is such a nice native to grow in the garden, high or low altitude. 
The flowering shrub is tucked near a cafe

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Cemetery Tree

Kalachuchi tree in North Cemetery
I heard that more than a million people visited their departed loved ones in the Manila North Cemetery today.  I was one of them. Indeed you could easily see that mobs would have reached the estimated number as there was literally a sea of people going in and out of the cemetery. We literally had to go with the flow just to get in, as the crowds were coming in tides.

The North Cemetery scene I saw was far from what I remember experiencing every November 1, when I was working for Heritage Park. The latter is still open space compared to the crowded and more ancient cemetery. But I found something similar between the two despite the great difference. It is the kalachuchi which was extensively used as street planting in both.

Kalachuchi sheds its leaves anually
Kalachuchi are several species or varieties belonging to the genus Plumeria. They are native to Central and South America. Internationally, the kalachuchi is known as frangipani. According to Dr. Domingo Madulid, the plant reached the Philippines in the Spanish period via the galleon trade.  Even its name is proof of it being introduced because it was derived from the Plumeria's Mexican (Aztec) name (from the book Flora Filipina from Acapulco to Manila - Alvina and Madulid) .

White kalachuchi flowers
The kalachuchi has become ubiquitous in Metro Manila and the rest of the Philippines because it was easy to propagate and has become popular as an ornamental.  You'll find various color varieties growing in street landscapes, public parks and numerous gardens.  But unfortunately, they can be seen growing naturalized along our coastal areas, dispersed among our native flora.  I personally witnessed a dense inaccessible cliffside in Puerto Galera splashed with white flowers, only to discover that the blooming trees were stands of kalachuchi.

Kalachuchi trees dispersed among Dracaena and other native flora in a cliff in Mindoro
Spoon-shaped Plumeria pudica 
A few years ago, I gifted a collector friend with a cutting of the new Plumeria pudica from my own garden. He brought it to his province and planted them in their house. Five years later I visited their house and he already had several small trees growing in their property. Not only that, the neighbor's house also was sporting a specimen. Illustrates how the kalachuchi probably had steadily spread around the country because of its revered beauty.

The white kalachuchi or Plumeria obtusa is one of the most commonly seen in urban gardens.  It has also become a favorite to plant in cemeteries probably because of the pure color of its flowers and the lesser maintenance required. Based on this fact, most superstitious home-owners would not prefer to keep kalachuchi in the house garden. But even this did not stop it from becoming one of the most popular trees used in landscaping.  Too bad because it is NOT NATIVE

Kalachuchi is a member of the dogbane family Apocynaceae.  It includes beautiful natives like baraibai (Cerbera manghas), bayag-usa (Voacanga) and the stately dita (Alstonia scholaris), which are notable substitutes for this exotic.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My Sunshine Ground Orchid

Flowering leafless plant
In the last Philippine Orchid Society show, I was convinced by collector Ernie Alvaran to buy a flower-less ground orchid he claims to have yellow flowers. He said it is Spathoglottis vanoverberghii,  It was sold in the Purificacion Orchids stall with 3 small bulbs and the grasslike leaves typical for the genus. Gave him the benefit of the doubt and purchased a pot. And when I brought it home,the next day I found that my pet rabbits ate away the leaves leaving only the bulbs.  I was very much saddened.

Flower detail
But a week after I found the bare bulbs bringing out not leaves but two flower stalks.  A month after it opened with the very first yellow blooms. After a couple of weeks, the ground orchid still continues to bloom with delicate sunshine-colored flowers.  Good thing I listened to good old Ernie.

I was told that unlike other Spathoglottis spp., S. vanoverberghii does lose its leaves before it flowers.  Just not sure if my rabbite induced the plant to flower after turning its leaves into dinner.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Skyway Skyline

The Skyway skyline
Was riding the bus which passed by the Skyway. Brought out my camera to quickly capture two images of  Metro Manila, juxtaposed with each other.  Classic dilemma!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Boholano Banilad

Libaong Beach in Panglao is the home of a lot of native coastal trees 
The Amarela banilad
Another banilad tree
"My favorite Bohol tree stands at the center of Amarela Resort in Panglao Island. It is a lone resilient banilad tree (or Sterculia comosa) which I got drawn to because of its very prominent red berry-like seed pods. When I first saw those pods, I thought they were cherries. Sadly I learned that they were mere capsules and not fruit at all. But the seeds are palatable which is probably why the tree attracts an army of black glossy starlings (lansijang birds). But edible seeds or not, the tree looks very interesting, with a distinct form that stands out from the rest of the existing trees and flora on that beach. So every time I go back to Amarela, I check the tree and collect the seeds that fall to the ground. I am always lucky enough to get a handful which I bring back to Manila to plant in small pots. The seeds readily germinate and easily grow to good seedling size. And, in no time at all, they are young trees over a meter tall.

Unopened buds
Seed pod details
When I worked for the Heritage Park, I planted four two-foot high banilad saplings flanking an open parking lot in the memorial park premises. The area was extremely hot and had shallow soil. I thought the seedlings would have a hard time anchoring their roots onto the hard adobe base, but they did it! Then, after a few more months, the banilad specimens grew to considerable size, despite the extreme conditions they had been subjected to, and the minimal care they had received. This encouraged me to give away the rest of my seedlings to willing recipients. I have not heard about how those seedlings have fared, but the ones at the Heritage Park are already small tree-sized. 
Discarded flowers
Young green pods
In a few more years, my banilad specimens might prove to be very handsome trees to have in any garden, even outside Bohol of course. The banilad might even prove to be an ideal tree for urban-greening. We shall see."

Fallen seeds
I wrote this article for the book 'Philippine Native Trees 101: Up Close and Personal'.  But it the article did not make it to the final book: The reason was that the tree  I described in the article was misidentified.
I  learned from Ulysses and Mam Ime that the Bohol banilad is actually malakalumpang or Sterculia ceramica.Today I again got to see the Amarela banilad.  For the almost 7 years that I was observing it, it was only today that I saw it in flower.  And more good new: I also found two more full grown trees in the vicinity.  

Bohol the Nth Time

High-low tide beach
The quite narrow beach

View from Amarela balcony resto
The balcony resto
I arrived again in Amarela Resort in Libaong Beach, Panglao Island.  This time around our flight was in the afternoon so we got to the resort almost nearing sundown. There was still barely sun, enough to see that the plants are still lush, but some are overgrown.  The sea water was quite high for low tide. The exposed portion of the beach is narrow. It is always nice to come back here.