Baguio is a city in the Philippine island of Luzon. It is about 130 miles north of Manila as the crow flies. It is a sizable city in the province of Benguet.
From Burnham Park in the center of the city, it is possible to walk to the Baguio Botanical Garden. However, because of the distance, most people take a taxi or a jeepney. Its spacious grounds contain a variety of plants, a few of which are of special interest. Informative signs give their names and a few other significant facts.
From the sign and from the specimens planted around it, we see that Leea magnolifolia has large lanceolate leaves, on account of which this shrub is commonly called elephant ear. The sign also tells us that this species belongs to the family Leeaceae, that it is endemic to the Philippines, and that it bears flowers from March to June.
Some of this information is verified by Forest Treasures, which displays an excellent picture of this species.
The common name might be confusing to some, since other more familiar plants, such as Colocasia esculenta of the family Araceae, are commonly called elephant’s ear.
Forest Treasures also displays pictures of two other endemic Philippine shrubs that belong to the genus Leea: Leea manillensis and Leea philippinensis.
Not all authorities accept Leeaceae as a valid family name. For example, ITIS believes that Leeaceae is only a synonym for Vitaceae, the grape family.
The plant labeled “LOHERIA SP.” is an ornamental plant with attractive foliage. The sign also tells us that this is a new species that does not have a common name and that it belongs to the family Myrsinaceae.
ITIS does not accept Myrsinaceae as a valid family name, and assigns its members to Primulaceae, the primrose family.
Forest Treasures presents several pictures of plants of the genus Loheria that are endemic to the Philippines.
The sign tells us that this species has not yet been described, that it belongs to the family Melastomataceae, and that a decoction of its leaves is used to treat malaria. The sign actually reads “PHYLAGATHIS SP.” and calls the family Melastomaceae, but these are errors.
I have no way of knowing whether this species has been described since the time when the sign was posted. It sometimes happens that a supposedly new species proves to be identical with a species that has been discovered previously.
Whoever wrote this sign was not sure about the specific name of the plant labeled “ELAEOCARPUS SP.” The sign suggests that it might be a new species. With more confidence, the sign identifies the plant as a member of the family Elaeocarpaceae, tells us that the plant is commonly known as talisay gubat, and assures us that this slow-growing tree is good for landscaping because of its attractive pink to bronze foliage.
I cannot find the word talisay in my Tagalog dictionary, but a Philippine native showed me the tree that they call by this name. It is virtually the same as a tree that I saw in the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, which was identified as Terminalia catappa of the family Combretaceae. Its fruit was a type of almond.
Gubat is a Tagalog word meaning “forest,” so talisay gubat means “talisay of the forest.” Of course, the talisay and the talisay gubat are not related to one another. As you can see from the above data, they are not even in the same family.
Forest Treasures offers a picture of the talisay gubat.
The plant labeled CYATHEA CONTAMINANS is obviously a tree fern, and the sign gives the following information concerning this species. Its Tagalog name is pakong buwaya. It is a species indigenous to Southeast Asia, and reaches a maximum height of seven to fifteen meters. It serves as an ornamental plant, and its young fronds are used for food. The sign also explains how the plant is used to treat rheumatism and other problems.
The Tagalog name is interesting. Pako means “fern,” and buwaya means “crocodile.” The -ng is a connective.
The sign tells us that the plant labeled MEDINILLA MAGNIFICA belongs to the family Melastomataceae, that it is endemic to Luzon and that it is commonly known as kapa-kapa or pink lantern. It serves as an ornamental and flowers from March to May and from October to December.
According to Wildlife of Hawaii, this plant is also known as the rose grape or chandelier tree. This website has some good pictures of the flowers.
The sign gives copious information concerning this species. It belongs to the family Araliaceae and is commonly known as malapapaya because of its resemblance to the papaya tree. It is also known as the ginseng tree. It is indigenous to Southeast Asia and flowers at any time during the year. Its wood is used to make such objects as matches, pencils, and chopsticks. Its leaves are used medicinally to treat fever.
A sign also gave copious information concerning Diospyros philippinensis. It belongs to the family Ebenaceae and is commonly known as Philippine ebony, kamagong, or mabolo. It grows slowly and may reach a height of 18 to 30 meters. Its fruit is edible, its bark makes a red dye, and its flowers are a cough syrup ingredient.
According to Forest Treasures, this species is endemic to the Philippines. However, it has been planted elsewhere as a fruit tree and an ornamental.
I myself have had the opportunity to eat its tasty fruit. It is known as the velvet apple, but it is actually a persimmon.
Note that some sources call this species Diospyros blancoi and treat D. philippinensis as a synonym, while others seem to think that D. blancoi and D. philippinensis are two different species. I shall not try to solve this problem at present.
The foregoing notes may give you the impression that the Baguio Botanical Garden is designed to help you identify plants. However, the Baguio Botanical Garden appeal to the eye rather than to the mind. The plants are arranged in an aesthetically excellent manner. Every plant seems to grow exactly where it belongs.