banaba narra philippines native trees

Banaba (Lagerstroemia Speciosa) and Narra (Pterocarpus Indicus), photographed at the UP Bahay ng Alumni in Diliman QC

Like many Filipinos I have marvelled at the beauty of the Sakura a number of times, but it was the Japanese pastime of “hanami” or flower viewing that struck a chord. How I wished for the same kind of enthusiastic public (or even global – though that might be stretching it) appreciation for our own flora. Picture it: local parks lined with rows upon rows Narra, Molave, and Banaba trees, all lush with their respective yellow-orange, light blue, and lavender flowers. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? The photo above which I took in UP Diliman last week is proof that yes native trees are around among the more well-known but exotic and invasive Mahogany, Flame tree, Acacia etc, it’s just that there aren’t too many of them, yet.

Native trees are not only beautiful (and yes, ‘grammable), they are also vital to the protection of our forests as well as the conservation of our biodiversity – sadly a lot of indigenous fauna are critically endangered because they are losing their homes due to diminishing forest cover.

In an effort to raise concern and also document some of their presence, I chose to showcase the beauty of our native flowers and birds in my creative business. And then last year, in a serendipitous case of passion points aligning, I had an opportunity to work with a purpose-driven team of forestry specialists from Forest Foundation Philippines to come up with materials and awareness activities. Because of its important message, I’m sharing below the introduction printed in the Philippine Forest Blooms Planner, one of the products born out of the collaboration.

eucalyptus deglupta bagras

Bagras (Eucalyptus Deglupta), photographed in Ateneo during @TheAteneoWild Project’s Nature Walk

Forests give us life. Not only do they give us essential products, like food, water, wood, medicine and other materials, but forests also provide critical ecosystem services, like air purification, water in catchment areas and soil conservation, among others. In addition, for indigenous peoples, forests serve as a foundation of their culture. Without forests, we clearly won’t survive.

In the last decades, however, there has been a steady decline in the Philippine forests. From the original 27 million hectares of forest cover, it has decreased to 7.2 million hectares (DENR FMB, 2011). Reforestation efforts have been undertaken to address this problem. However, because the country, at that time, prioritized reforestation for timber production, most reforestation efforts used foreign or introduced species.

This brings us the question: Why do we plant trees? If we merely want to plant trees “for greening” denuded areas, or to engage in sustainable tree farming, then, perhaps, tree growing using any tree species, including foreign or introduced ones, will suffice. However, if we want to plant trees to restore our forests and conserve local biodiversity, then we need to use native trees.

Do you sometimes wonder why, however tall or sturdy a tree may look like, it can get uprooted quite easily during a typhoon? This might be because the tree is an introduced species not adapted to our local climate. In contrast, native trees adapt better to our environment hence their resilience to extreme weather conditions. Native trees also conserve an area’s biodiversity by forming intricate networks with birds, insects and other species by providing them homes.

In the recent years, there has been growing support for “rainforestation.” It refers to reforestation efforts that promote the use of native tree species to conserve the biodiversity and ecological integrity of our forests.

Through the Philippine Forest Blooms planner and the #DrawNativeTreesPH challenge we launched in social media last September 2018, we hope to raise awareness on the importance of our native trees in conserving and protecting our forests, while also introducing a few of our own beautiful trees.

If you would like to help raise awareness about our native trees, please continue to draw them and share the artworks with your friends by using the hashtag above. You can also use #ForestBloomsPh when you spot native trees and do share them with us, @forestfoundationph and @arncyn.