I have always loved nature. Growing up in the city makes me appreciate it more. Every time I get to have the chance to get away from the city, I always find myself soaking up the beauty that nature has to offer. Fortunately, the Philippines is nothing short of these riches, and that we can all be very grateful.
Along with the diverse and wide range of animal species that we have in our country, we also have a bountiful number of trees that are native to our country. I remember the school projects and assignments I had in grade school when my teacher would ask us to draw or bring a picture of a tree that can be found in the Philippines and write a paragraph about it. The next thing you know, almost half of the class picks out that one famous tree and then the teacher would suspect that they just copied each other’s projection.
Well, as I grew old, I have come to realize that we are truly blessed with many species of trees. Would you like a little crash course so you can get to know some of them?
The Narra tree is one of the most well-known trees in the Philippines. Almost every Filipino knows that it is the national tree of the Philippines. Scientifically referred to as Pterocarpus indicus, the Narra tree grows to about 30 to 40 meters in height with a trunk diameter of 2 meters.
Its leaves are about 12 to 22 cm long and it also produces flowers that come in panicles that are 6 to 13 cm in length. The flowering season of the Narra tree is from the month of February until May. The fruit of the Narra tree is a 2 to 3 cm pod that contains 1 to 2 seeds and splits open upon reaching maturity.
Because it is a sturdy and termite resistant wood, it is highly regarded as a premium timber and is often used as a high-quality material for furniture, plywood, and lumber. Aside from that, it is also used for crafting musical instruments and wood carving.
On the other hand, the flowers of the Narra tree can be used as a source of honey, while the leaves can be infused and used for shampoo. Additionally, Narra leaves can be a source of resin or Kiro and are also used as a brass and copper polishing agent.
Its leaves are also used for medicinal purposes. These contain Flavonoids which are antioxidants that provide anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory benefits. Furthermore, the same Flavonoids can help in preventing kidney damage.
Another tree that is native in the Philippines is the Banaba tree. Referred to as the Giant crepe-myrtle or Queen’s crepe-myrtle, this tree is considered as medicinal and ornamental. The Lagerstroemia speciosa or Banaba tree grows to about 20 meters and is considered as a small to medium-sized tree.
It has a smooth but flaky bark and its leaves are about 8 to 15 cm in length that is oval or elliptical in shape. Like the Narra, its flowers are produced in panicles which are 20 to 40 cm long. Banaba flowers bloom annually during the peak of the summer season in the Philippines.
Aside from its obvious use as an ornamental plant, it is also highly regarded for its medicinal purposes. Banaba leaves are actually one of the seven ingredients included in Pito-pito which is a combination of seven herbal ingredients usually used to treat fever, diarrhea, and asthma. The Banaba leaves on their own are said to be an effective help in lowering blood sugar to those who have Type 2 Diabetes.
Diospyros discolor also known in the Philippines as Mabolo, Velvet Apple, velvet persimmon or simply Kamagong is another native tree here in the Philippines. To avoid confusion, the term Kamagong actually refers to the entire tree, while the term Mabolo is referring to its fruit.
The Kamagong tree can grow to a height of about 18 to 33 meters with a furrowed trunk that is 50 inches thick. The leaves are around 15 to 22 cm long which is oval in shape and has a pointed apex. The fruit of the Kamagong tree which is the Mabolo is oval in shape and has a thick skin that is pink, brownish, or purplish-red in color. It has a velvety texture due to the short, coppery hair it is coated with.
Well, for one, the Mabolo is a delicious fruit. It has a meaty, white flesh that has a mild, sweet flavor that is closely compared to a banana. Aside from that, another popular use of the Kamagong tree is known as eskrima sticks or bokkens. The Filipino martial arts, also referred to as Kamagong is where these tools are used. The Kamagong timber is the perfect material for these tools since it is extremely hard and dense. This is also why it is often called “ironwood” because of its nearly unbreakable characteristic.
Meanwhile, the leaves of the Kamagong tree contains isoarborinol methyl ether and amyrin mixture that can help fight against Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Staph infections, to name a few. It also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The next endemic tree in the Philippines is the Yakal tree. Scientifically known as Shorea astylosa, the Yakal tree is considered as a medium to large-sized tree. This tree grows to a height of around 25 to 30 meters. It has a dark brown and hard type of wood. It also showcases branchlets that are slightly black, slender, and a little hairy.
The leaves of the Yakal tree can be described as ovate to lanceolate or oblong-lanceolate. It is said to have a rounded base, a glabrous top, and is slightly hairy underneath. Its length is about 6 to 9 cm long and 2 to 5 cm in width. It also has flowers that are short-stalked and is yellow in color.
Because of the strength and durability of the Yakal timber, it is widely used for high-grade construction, mine timber, bridges and wharves, and other installations.
Finally, we have another famous tree which is the Balete tree. Surprisingly, this tree did not become famous because of its use or because it was declared as a national icon. The Balete tree became famous as a part of local folklore. It was said that it is the dwelling place of supernatural entities like the kapre, diwata or tikbalang.
This could be because of its appearance. The Balete tree is actually referred to as strangler figs wherein as it grows it will entrap another tree, engulfing and eventually killing it. It also has several hanging roots that encircle and suffocate another tree.
In the Philippines, the Balete tree may have been made famous in a scary way, but it is also used as a great source of shade. They are usually planted along the streets and avenues to provide shade to people. There are also species of the Balete tree that are used for bonsai-making. Additionally, a few species are also used to cultivate rubber or be used as matchwood.