More than 100 plant species in Ilocos Norte deemed endangered

- Sosimo Ma. Pablico -
More than a hundred plant species are now considered endangered in Ilocos Norte, but genetic conservationists in the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU) have started to collect planting materials from the few remaining plants to avert genetic erosion and loss of biodiversity.

Dr. Miriam E. Pascua, dean of the MMSU College of Agriculture, and her five co-workers claim that these plant species are fast disappearing and are likely to become extinct unless something is done to reverse the situation. They assert that the following scenarios have led these plant species to near extinction:

• Newly developed modern and high yielding crop varieties have spread across many places and are replacing native varieties with unique characteristics.

• The loss of genetic biodiversity could be due to the intensification of the agricultural system, over exploitation and excessive gathering of wild plants that are useful for food, medicine and ornamentals, inadvertent introduction of insect pests and diseases, and establishment of commercial plantation of industrial crops.

• Increasing population pressure and the resulting urbanization of the environment have greatly increased the demand for raw materials to meet basic necessities and support emerging industries.

Elderly folks asked to identify plants that are hardly seen nowadays asserted that some of the vanishing species have superior characteristics, such as good eating quality, low input requirement, adaptability to different ecological niches, and resistance to pests and other biotic and abiotic stresses.

Thus, these species could be tapped in the development of new cultivars, strains and hybrids, as well as in restructuring varieties that lack some attributes.

These species could also be tapped for the production of natural products, such as medicines and health foods in response to the growing health consciousness of people.

Considered vanishing among the vegetables are the following: Balinsoek, red cowpea, cayenne pepper, kundol, kapas-kapas, sugod-sugod, himbabao and wild sponge gourd.

The legumes balinsoek and red cowpea are resistant to weevil and have good eating quality. Unlike most legumes, the seeds of balinsoek are hardly infested by weevil. On the other hand, cayenne pepper, a wild Capsicum species, is a favorite spice, especially when soaked in vinegar (inartem). A strong infusion of the fruits can be applied as a lotion for ringworm control, while a warm liquid extract of both the leaves and fruits can be applied as an ointment to relieve rheumatic pain.

Kundol, kapas-kapas, sugod-sugod, himbabao and wild sponge gourd are eaten as vegetable. However, they have other uses. For instance, sugod-sugod was used as laundry soap during the second World War. When dried and crushed, its vine produces a lathery effect when soaked in water.

Among fruit and forest trees, the following are considered vanishing: dalayap (Citrus aurantifolia), caburao (Citrus macroptera), darukis (Citrus sp.), custard apple or anonang (Anona reticulata), mansanitas (Zyzyphus mauritiana), antipolo (Artocarpus blanco), balayang (Musa errans), pomegranate (Punica granatum), bignay (antidesma bunius), carissa (Carissa carandas), zapote Negro (Diospyrus ebenaster), and pannalayapen or aping.

The tops of pannalayapen, a woody forest Plant, are consumed as green leafy vegetable.

Most of the vanishing fruit and forest trees have medicinal uses. For example, dalayap and caburao are commonly used for treating cough and headache. Their leaves are crushed Or softened and then applied as poultice over the forehead to treat headache.

On the other hand, fresh leaves of anonang are applied on the stomach of children who are suffering from indigestion. Likewise, a decoction of its green fruits, leaves and barks is used for treating kidney trouble, dysentery and diarrhea.

Pomegranate fruits are also used for treating diarrhea, advanced stages of dysentery, and other cases requiring the use of astringents. The juice of the fresh fruit is likewise used as a cooling, thirst-quenching beverage for one who has fever. (To be continued)












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