For every second that ticks at least five plant species are permanently wiped off the face of the earth becoming extinct forever. Scientist are alarmed at the rate that valuable genetic material is getting lost. In other parts of the country the number of plant species disappearing is not yet documented.
In the Philippines, a team of researchers from Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) found that 113 plant species in Ilocos Norte are vanishing: 16 vegetables, 31 fruits and forest tree species, 43 ornamentals and medicinals, 7 rootcrops and 16 other plant species.
This was revealed in a study that documented the province’s vanishing plant species in an effort to save the region’s valuable genetic resources.
Initially, the survey was conducted in four municipalities and one city in Ilocos Norte, Batac, Laoag City, San Nicolas, Pasuquin, and Dingras. These municipalities have a high diffusion rate of new varieties, widespread use of agrochemicals, and landscapes that have been altered by extensive development projects.
Vegetables in danger of becoming extinct are balinsoek(Phaseolus sp.) red cowpea (vigna sp.) cayenne pepper (capsicum frutescens), wax gourd/ kundol (Benincasa hispida), kapas-kapas, sugod sugod, himbabao (Broussonetia luzonica) and wild sponge gourd (luffa cylindrica).
Both legumes, balinsoek and red cowpea are resistant to weevil and have good eating qualities. Aside from being a favourite spice, cayenne pepper is used to treat ringworm and rheumatic pains. Sugod-sugod can be used as laundry soap while wild sponge gourd can be used for scouring kitchen utensils.
For fruit and forest trees , the scientist identified the following : dalayap (citrus aurantifolia), caburao (citrus macroptera), darukis (Citrus sp.), custard apple (anona reticulata), starfruit (averrhoa carambola), mansanitas (Sysyphus mauritiana), selery, antipolo (Artocarspus blanchoi), balayang (Musa errans). Pomegranate (Punica granatum), bignay (ANtidesma bunius) Carissa (carissa carandas), zapote negro (Diospyrus ebenaster) and panalayapen/aping.
Most of these fruit trees are medicinal, often used to treat common ailments. Dalayap and caburao leaves can be used to treat cough and headache. Custard apple leaves can be used to treat indigestion, while a decoction of its green fruits, leaves and bark can be used to treat kidney trouble, dysentery and diarrhea. Fresh leaves are also a good dewormer. The rind of the pomegranate fruit and its root-bark are anthelminthic or good dewormers. The pomegranate fruit is used to treat diarrhea and dysentery.
Bignay helps reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. Carissa berries can be used as astringent, antiscorbutic and for biliousness.
Vanishing ornamental species include: marigold (Tagetes erecta), bachelor’s button (Gomphrena globosa), sampaguita (Jasminium sambae), cock’s comb/taptapingar (Celosia cristate), cattail (Typha angustifolia), kataka-taka (Kalanchoe mata), Periwinkle/San Vicente (Catharanthus roscus), Zinia (Zinia sp.) cosmos (Cosmos catudatus) native calachuchi (Plumeria acumnata), rosal (gardenia florida) dama de noche (cestrumnocturnum), ilang ilang (canagium odoratum), camia (hedychium coronarium) and white kayangan (hibiscus sp.)
Marigold is used to treat convulsion and is a popular insect repellent. Kataka-taka leaves can treat dysuria (difficult discharge or urine) and is used to treat sprains, burns, eczema and other skin infections. Periwinkle has anti-cancer property while native calachuchi is used to treat Athlete’s foot.
Other plants with medicinal properties that were identified include: disol (kaemferia galangal), prayer beads (Abrus precatorius) and tsa (Ehretia microphylla). Disol is used to treat stomach ache bloated stomach and itchiness. It is also an expectorant, diuretic and stimulant.
Samac/binonga (Macaranga tanarius), anis ( Foeniculum vulgare), ballang , tigue, maguey (Agave cantula), lipai (entada phaseoloides) arrowroot (maranra arundinacea) and indigo (Indigofera tinctorea) are also likely to be engangered.
It is imperative that the government speed up effprts to save these species before it is too late. Saving these vanishing species today may feed and save millions of sick Filipinos in the future.
Source: BAR Today January-March 2002 Volume 3 No. 1
“Documentation of Vanishing Plant Species” by ME Pascua, MA Antonio, DS Bucao, EO Agustin, MLS Gabriel and SMA Pablico of Mariano Marcos State University, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Tel no. (077) 7923131