Selasa, 04 Maret 2008

Rare flower reappears in Banahaw

Monday, March 12, 2007

Rare flower reappears in Banahaw

Three years after Mt. Banahaw was closed to trekkers and devotees, wildlife species began to flourish again, including “rafflesia,” considered the world’s biggest flower.


One of the rarest and most astonishing flowers in the world, including the very largest, is found only in Borneo and Sumatra! The Rafflesia flower starts as a small bud and can take over a year to flower. Rafflesia plants are parasitic, lacking both leaves and roots. The flower is not designed for beauty. In fact, the five fleshy, petal like lobes, marbled red and white, resemble dead meat and through chemical reaction the flower generates a strong odor of rotting flesh. This attracts carrion feeders drawn by the fleshy color pattern and the stench! After a few days, the Rafflesia flower turns brown and rots. Thus the world's rarest plant lives for a few days making it extremely difficult to see in the wild.

Jay Lim, program officer of Tanggol Kalikasan (TK), an environmental law center in Lucena, said they spotted the rafflesia late last year during an assessment hike of the mountain near Cristalino Falls where pilgrims used to put up their tents every Holy Week.

“Having been familiar with wildlife species, seeing rafflesia again after it disappeared for so long was an awesome sight,” Lim said.

One of their companions took photos of the flower that he described as not yet in full bloom.
Citing records of known Mt. Banahaw species, rafflesia has long been a part of the mystical mountain’s rich forest wildlife.

“But it slowly disappeared and became almost extinct after throngs of religious pilgrims and picnickers climbed the mountain in droves, especially during Holy Week, leaving behind widespread destruction,” Lim recalled.

Aside from Mt. Banahaw, rafflesia, which could reach up to almost a meter in diameter and weigh up to 11 kilograms when in full bloom, can also be found in Mt. Makiling in Batangas-Laguna, Mt. Isarog in Bicol and Mt. Apo in Mindanao.

It can also be found in southeastern Asia, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Sumatra, Kalimantan and West Malaysia.

Rafflesia is considered a parasitic flowering plant with a distinctive rotten smell.
Discovered in an Indonesian forest by a native guide working for an expedition in 1888, it was named after Thomas Stamford Raffles, the leader of the group.

Lim said there were also reported sightings of mountain deer, exotic wild berries, wild birds and beautiful rare butterflies in different spots of Mt. Banahaw.

“There are no more recognizable mountain trails due to the return of thick vegetation. It is again safe to drink the fresh water from the flowing river,” he noted.

Quezon Rep. Proceso Alcala, a noted environmentalist, has been introducing alternative livelihood projects for the hundreds of farmers who depend on slash-and-burn (kaingin) farming practice in the mountain.

In 2004, the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) sealed off with barbed wire several trails leading to the bosom of Banahaw to start a five-year rehabilitation program that aimed to resurrect the mountain’s natural resources.

The mountain suffered so much degradation not only from “kaingin” farming but also from the irresponsible practices of mountain climbers, modern pilgrims and urban nature trippers.
They left behind styrofoam boxes, empty water bottles and cans almost everywhere.
“Mt. Banahaw has long been being subjected to tremendous environmental pressure from religious pilgrims. Nothing is more divine than to let the environment return its pristine natural condition without human intrusion,” said environment lawyer Sheila de Leon, TK-Southern Tagalog executive director.

The mountain forms part of the Mt. Banahaw-San Cristobal National Park, declared as a protected area in June 2003.

The park covers Sariaya, Candelaria, Tayabas, Lucban and Dolores towns all in Quezon, and Rizal, Nagcarlan, Liliw, Majayjay and San Pablo City in Laguna.

By Delfin Mallari Jr.InquirerLast updated 09:31pm (Mla time) 03/07/2007

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