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The Blooming of the Narra
For the past months, if everyone haven’t noticed, a lot of our Narra trees planted around the city have been blooming profusely. Though the flowers are short lived, they are quite noticable as the whole narra tree canopy becomes filled with fragrant tiny golden yellow flowers. It is only for a few days in each year that you tend to appreciate the floriferousness of our national tree, majestically displaying a profusion of golden flowers, which easily fall to the ground after being pollinated by bees. After which, hundreds of flattened dry fruits are formed for seed dispersal. Narra or scientifically known as Pterocarpus indicus, belongs to the family Fabaceae, is a native of southeastern Asia, northern Australasia, and the western Pacific Ocean islands. Aside from the Philippines, it is also found in Cambodia, southernmost China, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Ryukyu Islands, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Narra is one of the most useful tree in the country as it provides both timber and also shade. Because it is being used for timber, its conservation status was placed under “vulnerable” by the IUCN. It is a large deciduous tree growing to about 30–40 meters in height, with a trunk that can grow up to 2 meters in diameter. The leaves are green, about 12–22 cm long, pinnate, with 5–11 leaflets. The fragrant and yellow flowers are produced in panicles, about 6–13 cm long containing a few to numerous flowers. The flowering season is from February to May in the Philippines. Once pollinated, the flower form into a dry flat fruit or a semi-orbicular pod, about 2–3 cm in diameter, surrounded by a flat 4–6 cm diameter membranaceous wing which aids dispersal by the water, as it falls off the tree during the typhoon months of July & August. It contains one or two seeds, and does not split open at maturity. It was observed that it ripens within 4–6 years, and becomes purple when dry. The central part of the pod can be smooth (as in indica form), bristly or with small spines (as in echinatus form) or intermediate. The Narra produces timber which is a hardwood, purplish in color, rose-scented and is termite resistant. Freshly cut wood or its saw dust characteristically produces a green sap when poured with water. The flower is used as a honey source while leaf infusions are used as shampoos. Both flowers and leaves were said to be eaten.The leaves are supposedly good for waxing and polishing brass and copper. The tree is recommended as an ornamental / shade tree for avenues and parking lots in the city, as its branches are strong and then tree wouldn’t easily be toppled during a typhoon. It is also a source of kino or resin. In folk medicine, it is used to combat tumors. This property might be due to an acidic polypeptide found in its leaves that inhibited growth of Ehrlich ascites carcinoma cells by disruption of cell and nuclear membranes. It is also known as a diuretic in Europe during the 16th and 18th centuries. Its reputation may be due to its wood infusions, which are fluorescent. It is widely planted as a roadside, park, and carpark tree. The tall, dome-shaped crown, with long, drooping branches is very attractive and the flowers are spectacular in areas with a dry season.
It is very easily propagated from seed or large stem cuttings, but suffers from disease problems. For large scale production of seedlings, seeds are usually collected during months of July and are planted in plant nurseries. After germination, seedlings can be individually transpanted in polyethylene plastic bags and given a regular spray of dilute complete fertilizer with micronutrients for optimum growth, aside from the regular watering and weeding. As its is often attacked by defoliating insects, its is regularly sprayed with insecticides if insect infestations occur. Use a temporary shade tree to nurse Narra seedlings when planted in the ground. Seedlings grow very fast when in soil, and immediately grows into a tree in 4-5 years time. Knowing the Narra’s uses and beauty, we would now appreciate why it was chosen to be our national tree.
Growing the Katmon
One of the favorite tree among Philippine tree species lovers is Katmon or scientifically known as Dillenia philippinensis. It is endemic to the Philippines and can be used for urban greening. The fruit is also known as Elephant apple. Katmon is a medium sized evergreen tree about 10-15 meters in height, its trunk is erect and branches usually starts midway of the trunk. The tree is characterically buttress-forming, evergreen and shade tolerant. It is also
tolerant to occasional water-logging conditions. The bark is smooth with shallow fissures. Leaves are leathery, shining, ovate, elliptic or oblong-ovate, about 12 to 25 cm long, and coarsely toothed at the margins. Flowers are white, large, showy, about 15 cm in diameter with reddish pistils and stamens. The edible fruits are rounded, about 6 to 8 cm in diameter, with large fleshy sepals tightly enclosing the true fruit, and tastes like sour apple. Katmon is often found growing at low to medium altitude forests throughout the Philippines and are not often found upland where temperature can fall down to 10 oC as the tree is sensitive to cold temperature. Katmon is valued for it edible fruits which contain a soft, fleshy, green and edible pulp, with the flavor of a green, sour apple. It is locally used for making sauces and jams and also used for flavoring fish. Young shoots and flowers can also be used to flavor sinigang or fish soups. The fruit can also be used as a vegetable. Studies shows that extract from fruit have anti-leukemia and antioxidant properties.
For folk medicine, the acidic juice of the fruit, when mixed with sugar, or fruit decoction, is used for coughs. Fruit decoction can also be employed for cleansing the hair. Sweetened fruit juice is also used as a cooling beverage for fevers, and also as a cariotonic. The Katmon Fruit In Sabah, young leaves or bark from stem is pounded and applied as paste on swellings and wounds, or used as a laxative and astringent. A red dye is obtained from the tree bark. Katmon wood or lumber is used for a variety of purposes especially in constructions, poles, interior works, furniture, boards and panels, veneers, plywoods and wooden articles. New trees can be raised from seed. As a seedling, it prefers a semi-shaded area, but it can be slowly be trained to grow in full sun. Seedling need to be watered regularly until it grows into a tree. It will be benefit from a regular application of complete fertilizer for optimum growth. The tree is recommended for agroforestry, also for backyard planting; hedging; in homegardens and as a living fence. The floriferous bloom of the Palawan Cherry
Since it has white flowers, it can be planted as an ornamental tree for urban greening , especially for areas which are occasionally flooded. The tree can also withstand strong winds and can function as a windbreaker. The floriferous bloom of the Palawan Cherry
The Palawan Cherry Blossom
Photos by Patrick Gozon
One of the most popular flowering tree in Palawan is the Palawan Cherry. During its blooming season, it could probably be the nearest we could have to in comparison to the cherry blossoms of Japan. The locals in Palawan fondly call it Balayong and they even have a festival named after it as it is celebrated during its flowering season between March and April. The Palawan Cherry is a small to medium-sized tree, its height is about 15 meters or taller and its diameter about 50 cm. Its leaves are pinnate, about 40 cm long while the leaflets are ovate, with an acute tip, about 7 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, green in color and smooth on both surfaces. The flowering branches are usually drooping, about 30 cm long. The light pink flowers are arranged in loose panicles and about 5 cm across. The fruit is cylindrical, hard, smooth, about 30 cm long, and black when mature while the seeds are ovate, smooth and black when mature. This plant is widespread in Palawan, often planted in parks and gardens. Palawan cherry trees are also found at the edge of forests. Patrick Gozon, a landscape architect at UP Diliman, described the tree name as a paradox. First is its common name, which is a misnomer. It is said that the Palawan cherry is not a close relative of the Japanese cherry blossom, but taxonomically, it is nearer in association (including its wood texture) with the tree legumes like that of Acacia, Narra, Kamatchile, Ipil and Tindalo. It was given such a name because when it flowers, its pink blossoms almost cover the entire tree, much like that of the Japanese cherry blossoms. The true cherry blossom, which is composed of several species of Prunus, could not grow in tropical climates like the Philippines, though we have native Prunus but not as showy as the Japanese counterparts.
A second paradox is its scientific name. The late Leonardo L. Co, a field botanist, told us that Balayong is Cassia nodosa, a species native also to the island of Java, in Indonesia. In fact Mr. Co also states that Palawan cherry is not a native but rather prehistorically introduced to Palawan. But on the other hand, Dr. Domingo Madulid's Pictorial Cyclopedia of Ornamental Plants, states that it is Cassia x Palawan Cherry. The x means it is a hybrid between two or more species, and thus, not a pure species. Though it is really confusing which species are claimed to be the Balayong's parents, but most probably if this is factual, the Cassia nodosa is a prime suspect. It is probably of hybrid origin and highly ornamental. There are a lot of balayongs in Palawan which is why it is argued to be native to the island. In Manila, Palawan Cherry are planted within the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation along Quezon Avenue in Quezon City. There are also some trees planted lining Malacanang Palace facing the Pasig River.. The Palawan Cherry thrives in full sun and its cultural requirements is similar to that of the tree legumes like Acacia and Narra. It is primarily propagated through seeds. Seeds can be germinated in the soil or seed bed and can be transferred to black polyethylene seedling bags. The seedlings are hardened in the nursery, being exposed to full sun and watered every other day. Providing it with nitrogenous fertilizer like ammonium sulfate or urea will enhance its growth. When the seedlings reach a foot or 1.5 feet in height, they can now be planted in the field or in a location where your are intended to plant it. Make sure the roots are not disturbed during transplanting. Once transplanted it the soil it quickly grows into a tree, as it is fast growing. . Its timber is similar to Narra, Acacia and Ipil, which is light and dark brown in combination. It is hard but easy to work with and is a popular wood in making furnitures during the Spanish time. Balayong wood is sometimes used as structural members, flooring or cabinets in old Spanish houses here in the Philippines Balayong antique furniture is expesive too and is also rarely attacked by termites.
The Multi-Purpose Banaba Tree
The Banaba tree , or scientifically known as Lagerstroemia speciosa is another important tree species from the Philippines as it is both medicinal, used in furniture making and at the same time important in landscaping. It belongs to the Lythraceae family and is also known as Giant Crape-myrtle, Queen's Crape-myrtle and Queen’s Flower. It is native to the Philippines as well as to tropical southeast Asian countries like in India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan. Banaba is a small to medium-sized deciduous tropical tree growing to about 20 meters in height, with smooth, flaky bark. The leaves are deciduous, oval to elliptic, about 8-15 cm long and 3-7 cm wide, with an acute apex. The flowers are produced in erect panicles about 20-40 cm long, each flower with six white to purple petals about 2-3.5 cm long. It is also widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical areas. Banaba leaf extract is used as a natural health supplement. Research studies suggests that banaba extract lowers blood sugar and thus effective in inducing weight loss. The hypoglycemic (blood sugar lowering) effect is similar to that of insulin The primary active ingredient is corosolic acid, and there are also numerous possible synergists including lager-stroemin, flosin B and reginin A.
The leaves of the Banaba and other parts are used widely in the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan as a medicinal tea preparation for diabetes and for weight loss. This tea is consumed as a natural means for a variety of reasons involving the kidneys, such as remedy for urinary problems, dissolving kidney stones, kidney cleanses, and kidney health in general. The tea taste pleasant and smooth. Research being conducted in Japan shows much promise for this plant and its potential uses in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Aside from diabetes and slimming, it was discovered by researchers from Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology that Banaba is also effective for cholesterol reduction and in controlling hypertension. Banaba roots on the other hand are used for stomach problems. Banaba also contains concentrations of dietary fiber and minerals such as magnesium and zinc. Aside from its medicinal properties, Banaba is also appreciated and planted because of its beautiful flowers which are moderately large with pink, purple or purplish pink color. It usually flowers during the summer. Thus, Banaba is used as an urban tree planted beside parking lots and in homes. Once the flowers are pollinated by insects it forms into an green oval fruit
which turns black when mature and splits in six pieces. The seeds are small and have winged flaps. The Banaba tree is also valued for furniture making as it has reddish brown wood. This wonder tree is propagated through seeds. It easily grows into a seedling and thrives well in full sun and can be planted on most soils as long as it is away from sources of sea water as it has low tolerance for salt. It can also flourish in areas where there is occasional floods. Young plants could benefit from regular application of organic or synthetic fertilizers for optimum growth but will become self sufficient and hardy when it grows into a tree. The tree can grow up to .40 to 60 feet in height and a diameter spread of 30 to 40 feet, thus, it is also an ideal shade tree in parking areas. The bark is thin and easily injured. With this, the Banaba tree is certainly is beautiful, medicinal and useful as a timber species and an urban street tree, and thus can be promoted as one of the suggested trees to be planted in and around the city. It is just proper for our younger generation to appreciate and value this multi-purpose tree species.
Bignay or scientifically known as Antidesma bunius is a species of fruit tree in the family Phyllanthaceae. It is native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines, and northern Australia. Its
common Philippine name and other names include bignay, bugnay or bignai and currant tree. This is a variable plant which may be short and shrubby or tall and erect, approaching 30 meters in height. It has large oval shaped leathery evergreen leaves up to about 20 centimeters long and seven wide. They are attached to the twigs of the tree with short petioles, creating a dense canopy. The species is dioecious, with male and female flowers growing on separate trees. The flowers have a strong, somewhat unpleasant scent. The staminate flowers are arranged in small bunches and the pistillate flowers grow on long racemes which will become the long strands of fruit. The fruits are spherical and just under a centimeter wide, hanging singly or paired in long, heavy bunches. They are white when immature and gradually turn red, then black. Each bunch of fruits ripens unevenly, so the fruits in a bunch are all different colors. The skin of the fruit has red juice, while the white pulp has colorless juice. The fruit contains a light-colored stone. The fruit has a sour taste similar to that of the cranberry when immature, and a tart but sweet taste when ripe. This tree is cultivated across its native range and the fruits are most often used for making jam. It is often grown as a backyard fruit tree in Java. While the majority of the indigenous population tastes bignay as sweet, people of European ancestry often find it bitter to the point of inedibility. This phenomenon is inversely linked to the taste perception of phenylthiocarbamide, and is likewise a dominant genetic trait The tree is often found at lowlands and low altitudes, in thickets in the towns and settlements, and occasional in forests. The berries are used as a nutritious fruit and can be processed into jam, vinegar and wine. Young leaves are edible, eaten either raw or stewed with rice. It is a good source of calcium and iron and has many medicinal properties – leaves used for snake bites, anemia and hypertension. Juice of fruit is used for heart disease. The wood is used for fense posts, tool handles and walking sticks. Fruit is source of blue dye.
The Urban Gardener is an official electronic publication (in PDF Format) of the Plant Biotechnology Project, Research & Development Center, Rizal Technological University, Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City, Philippines. It is published monthly. For more information, please inquire thru email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and landline (+632) 534-8267 Local 135 or Fax (+632) 534-9710. Edited by N.R. Bautista © June 2011 The Plant Biotechnology Project Committee is composed of: Alexander B. Quilang, Norberto R. Bautista, & Jovita A. Anit.