Trees of the Philippines

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I’m not a tree hugger, but I have hugged trees before. Though I meant that literally, I also figuratively embrace trees. Ever since I was younger (as in, a wee lil’ fellow), I’ve had an interest in nature. I guess you could say my childhood somewhat reflected a simplified version of Darwin. Later when I became interested in cultures, plus being socially outcast, I had an interest in things that were out of the norm. An example would be my interest in Asian cultures, as I grew up in the Western world.

Sometime a few years ago, I also fell in love with the beach. Still, today, the southern coast of South Carolina, in my mind, will always remain a place that I love to death. There, besides the southern live oaks with Spanish moss on them, are cabbage palmettos and other tropical plants. Those became an icon of feeling happy in my mind, and it fused with my other interests that I mentioned in the paragraph before this one.

Being in a city here in the Philippines is cool, but I grew up living in the country. But every now and then, on rare occasions, I get to see groups of plants as I ride out from the inner-city. It’s really exciting! How I wish I could go out in those areas and just observe those plants in admiration. Here’s a few trees that I commonly see here:


The Papaya Tree. The first time I saw these, I was confused at what they were. I thought they might have been some kind of Filipino fruit tree. My thoughts were far from thinking it was papaya though. I love how it’s branch goes up, and then the leaves sprawl out at the top.


The Banana Tree. It wasn’t my first time seeing these, but it’s nice to get to see ‘em every now and then. It’s interesting out the bananas grow off of the trees in a stack, and then a giant diamond figure (the blossom) emerges at the bottom as if it were a dragon’s tail. The blossom can be made into a salad (I’ve eaten it before). These tree’s leaves are commonly used on plates, as well as wrapped around food to cook.

Bisaya/Cebuano Language Course


The Coconut Tree, also known as the buko tree. These are what you see in pictures of island paradises. They differ a lot from the palms I’ve seen back home that covered the shore. Not only do these grow out on the beach sand, but also everywhere else in tropical islands. Here, it’s common to find dent marks in the trunk. Why? For people to climb of course. Young coconut, aka ‘buko’, is a popular thing to eat here.


The Traveler’s Palm. Personally, this is my most favorite tree I have seen. The first time I saw it was in a video of a local park in here in Davao City, one I watched back in Feb. 2009, before I came. I was curious of what it was. When I finally came here, I got to see it with my own eyes. I don’t see it producing any fruit, but to me it has an awesome appearance. The leaves reminds me of the banana tree’s leaves. Oh yeah, it ain’t a true palm by the way, nor is it in the banana tree family (but it is in the same order).

Here are some other trees you might see; ones bearing common Philippines fruit:


A jackfruit (aka ‘langka’) tree & durian tree


A mangosteen tree & rambutan tree

Post Author: Jawz (37 Posts)

Hi, I am Jonathan Watson. I'm 19 years old, living in Davao, Philippines, and currently attending the Ateneo de Davao University as a 1st year student. I am originally from the state of South Carolina, in the USA. I'm interested in many things such as cultures, theology, and writing. I am also known by nicknames such as "Jawz" (my online nickname 'cause of my initials; J.onathan A. W.atson + random Z). Others just call me "Jon".


Comments

  1. Roberto says

    Hi Jawz: Nothing wrong with being a tree hugger, life on this planet would be unbearable without them. Nice little post.

    • Jawz says

      Hi Roberto- I hugged a palmetto once. It stabbed me with those big wooden stabby things. I think sometimes being a tree hugger is unbearable depending on the tree. LOL!

  2. queeniebee says

    Hi Jaws, I love trees too, especially tropical ones. In my yard I have several that I’ve purchased and had planted, including your favorite, the Traveler’s Palm and many other palm varieties. Flowering trees attract me the most, for their color and fragrance. Growing up in New England with the long dark winters and very short growing seasons, one of my greatest pleasures is witnessing the ever-growing trees and flowers in the Philippines.

    • Jawz says

      Hi Queeniebee- I agree. THough, sometimes here in a tropical country, it feels the other way around at times. I’ve been curious when I see a random evergreen or naked-tree (like in the winter) standing tall over tropical plants. Some evergreens I have seen here are ones I never seen before.

  3. says

    Hi Jawz – Like you I also have an interest in trees of all varieties. In your post you mentioned the Traveler’s Palm which I saw for the first time in Sapele Nigeria in one of our company compounds. The lady who’s compound it was told me an interesting thing about this particular tree, that it tended to grow in an east-west direction therefore acting as a compass for the traveler. So it not only provided liquid to drink but direction as well.
    Next time you see one or even two growing together you can check to see if both face the same direction.
    Maybe others can shed a bit of light on the subject?
    Regards.
    Jim.

    • says

      Hi Jim, The lady that you spoke with was right–the tree does grow in that east-west position, and so could be used as a compass. We planted it by the side of the house because it’s unique, and I read that it can grow to make a very nice shade for your house when it reaches full size. It’s also a pretty fast growing tree, it can grow to about 10 meters or around 30 feet. Right now mine is all leaves in the big fan shape–I’m still waiting for the trunk to emerge from down at the base.
      The name Traveler’s Palm or Traveler’s Tree was given because the the sheathes that make up the fan shape hold up to one to two quarts of rainwater depending on the size. The only trouble is, is that you would have to be a pretty desperate traveler to drink it, as I’ve read that it’s a pretty murky and buggy water inside!
      Regards, Queenie

      • says

        Hi Queenie- Thank you for confirming that piece of information the lady gave me about the Traveler’s Palm. Another two palm trees I like are the Royal Palm and the Bottle Palm.
        Kind regards.
        Jim.

    • Mars Z. says

      Hi Jim, I was in my home province in Panay last January and took a grouping of of those Traveler’s Palm. Since they are planted in front of the building, most of them are facing based on the landscaping but one or two of them are not orienting the same way. I could send the pics but i have to figure out how to attach them.

      Mars

      • says

        Hi Mars _ Could it be because of the age of the palm that they are not orientated in the same direction yet or possibly they are not directly in the sunlight?
        Just a thought.
        Regards.
        Jim.

        • Mars Z. says

          Hi Jim, Don’t know how this palm grow but the ones that I took picture of have trunks about 2 ft above ground already, same size or bigger than Jawzs’ pics. If I figure out how to attach pic on the comment block, I’ll post. Thanks.

          Mars

    • Jawz says

      Hi Jim- Yeah, I read about the water thing, hence it’s name. I guess it’s a tropical version of moss on a tree. hahaha

  4. Mars Z. says

    Hi Jawz, congrats again for your continued exploratory excursion and observation. Some other common trees that might interest you: Starapple,Tangbis, Avocado, Cashew, of course Mango, Lanzones, Guava, Acacia, Philippine Mahogany, Ipil-Ipil, Cocoa tree, Coffee, Atis, and,Chico. There’s Pili nut that is almost like Pecan tree. Keep exploring-it’ll keep your mind healthy.

    Stay well and safe,

    Mars

    • Jawz says

      Hi Mars- I’ve seen a guava tree once in a different country. I ate one of the fruits right off the tree. Haha. Here, I don’t see guava as a major fruit being sold though.

      • queeniebee says

        Hi Jawz, We see a lot of guava trees in our area, growing and the fruits sold in market areas. Lots of different varieties, some small like a golf ball up to a baseball size. They’re sort of sweet pinky firm flesh inside, with a lot of edible white seeds. They’re great to eat, and high in vitamin C, but you have to be careful not to eat too many at one sitting—very constipating!

  5. says

    Yo, Nice pics. I particularly like that “Travellers Palm”. Never noticed theose before.

    BTW, how goes your student visa; was it around last Christmas you arrived in the Phils?

    Jim

  6. Jeff says

    Take one average size tuna cut slices into the meat, insert butter, garlic, and calamansi, wrap in a BANANA LEAF. Throw the fish on hot coals for about twenty minutes per side. Open the leaf, grab a chunk, dip it in a soy & calamansi mix and enjoy. Mmmm.

    • Mike says

      Oh, man, you’re killing me! How can I get any work done today, now that I’m thinking about this, while staring at my cold, processed tuna sandwich.

      • Jeff says

        Bob, you guys down in Mindanao are just like Texans…everything is supposedly bigger and better lol.

        Up north we get a lot of 2-3 kilo tuna at the market. I think there mostly juvenile, skip-jack and yellow-fin. Most are caught by small, family owned, banca fishermen with hand-lines or fairly shallow nets. Down in your area, I believe you’d be seeing a lot more commercial fishing boat operations who go a lot deeper and go after the big guys. I don’t know if it’s totally accurate but my wife’s tito (a fisherman) said that the juveniles from the north end up going deeper and further south as they mature.

        I’ve gone out hand-lining for tuna and have caught a few small ones. The guys would laugh and call me a woman for wearing leather gloves but believe me even a 3 kilo tuna with a hand-line is a battle. I can’t imagine hooking into a 300 pounder from a banca. That wouldn’t even be a fair fight. I’ll bet you boys down in Texas…I mean Mindanao hand-line those 300 pounders two or three at a time with your bare hands.

  7. Mike says

    “I’m not a tree hugger, but I have hugged trees before. Though I meant that literally, I also figuratively embrace trees.”

    I’ve done this a few times, myself. But, JAWZ, I thought you didn’t drink? (LOL)

    Hey, anytime you want to get away from the city for a day or a few, you are more than welcome to camp on our beaches. You can get my e-mail from Bob & I can give you directions to the family home in Obrero. Someone there will be happy to take you & friends over to one of the Samal properties or lend you a car or van. There is an old “native-style” eating area there, though you’ll probably have to add some new fronds to the roof to stay dry, or set up a tarp, but you’re most welcome to use it as your own, whenever you like. One of my brothers-in-law also has care of a couple of our native pumpboats, & can set you up with some fishing gear. I’m an “outdoors” type of person, so my in-laws are used to Jeanne & I doing this sort of thing. Chances are, a few of my nephews & nieces would be willing to join in, if you feel the need for security, though I know that the Barangay Captain will ensure your safety. All I ask is that you pack out what you pack in and leave no cigarette butts, etc., on our beach.

    • Jawz says

      HI Mike- LOL!

      Thanks for the invite ;) I’ll think about that when I have settled time. By the way, I don’t smoke so all things would be well :lol: I’m outdoorsy too. Back home I’d walk through brier patches in shorts. I’d end up with cuts all over my legs. LOL

  8. Jay says

    It reminds me when, I first went to Oregon for school. Seeing elm, oak and other trees, esp during fall was cool. Growing up in Hawaii, there is no fall, so that was nice to see.

    • Jawz says

      Hi Jay- Yeah. I went up to a mountain last year back home. Saw the colors of fall splashed all over the trees down below. I believe that is an awesome natural sight for someone to enjoy from a different climate :)

  9. Gary Wigle says

    I love trees also. Planted lots of them in Kansas and Michigan. They sure are different here. The Banana isn’t a tree but a plant. No fiber cells in it. In fact it is a “herb.” Have a bunch of them growing in the lot behind out apartment here in Tagum. Tagum is the “Palm Tree City” so you get to see lots of them here. The 2010 Mercury Drug calendar has photo of a tree grown here in the Philippines with a little story about it. Many drug uses from the trees here. I am sure some work very well.

    Cheers,
    Gary

  10. Bob New York says

    I am not really much into outdoors kind of things but I really have to admire some of the trees and foliage I have experienced on my visits there. Very beautiful, especially when you are not always exposed to such beauty to the point where it just blends in with everything else. Nice article Jaws !

  11. Jade says

    Hi Jaws,
    This is a great post. I like yourself am interested in learning of the native plants and trees.
    We, my wife and I enjoy going to the local nurseries in Laguna province and purchase plants for our terrace patio. We have no land to plant trees, though I wish we did.
    My favorite tree is the India Tree or also called the Monkey Tree “Polyalthia longifolia”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyalthia_longifolia
    Ashok or Asoka tree (English) names.
    It is a tall narrow tree with shiny dark green narrow leaves which cascade down from it’s weeping branches. It is found naturally in some higher elevation areas near where we live. It is most often seen as a decorative tree planted near shopping malls and new buildings.
    Do they have this tree in Davao?
    Jade

    • queeniebee says

      Hi Jade, I’m always looking for new trees, and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed this one. Jawz will have to look.. I looked up this tree in one of my garden books, and it says that it’s a favorite hiding place for bats. You’ll have to see if there are any around at night!

    • Jawz says

      Hi Jade- I think I have seen that tree, but not very often. It sure does look cool! Reminds me of trees choked with kudzu LOL!

  12. Jade says

    Hi queeniebee,
    If I was a bat I’d hide in one too. The way the leaves cascade down the exterior, the interior becomes a perfect dry shelter. Those bats are pretty smart critters. I haven’t seen any of those smart bats near ours yet though.
    Thanks for the comment
    Jade

  13. Reed says

    Nice post there, Jonathan.
    I love all kinds of vegetation, being a horticulturist for many years in the 70′s and 80′s. I will be very excited to see all this, and more, when I visit the Philippines for the first time since 1986. Trees are a very valuable part of nature and I sometimes wonder about man’s stewardship over trees and all of nature. BTW … I AM A TREE HUGGER!

    • queeniebee says

      Hi Reed, If you’re a horticulturist, you’ll never run out of wonderful trees and plants to enjoy! I hope that you can enjoy and ponder them soon too!

  14. Larry Custer Sr. says

    Hello everyone I’ve been in the PI for 8 mos now and live in Makati. I was looking for a web site that I could find a name for a flowering plant or tree and found this one. I have no yard as of now to plant anything in but I do enjoy gardening. That this is an interesting webb site is beyond question. Very nice postings love it.

  15. peter reyes says

    could you help me , where could i get free tree seedling to be planted in our sidewalk city of manila. we will help our nation to plant 1 billion trees in our nation. particularly our beloved city to plant 1 million trees 2011-2015 God bless pls contact me 022538301

  16. says

    I was in Manilla a few years back and saw a strange row of trees in the center divider of one of the roads in town. It was a tall slender tree with long slender leave shaped like a pointed lance. Do you have any idea what that tree is called? I would love to know more about it. Thanks.

  17. arman says

    nice post. continue being a tree hugger. We reaally need to protect our trees and even plant more. I hope you become an inspiration to many young people…

  18. says

    Hello Jaws: Interesting post. I stumbled upon it looking for information about Philippine trees. I understand that the Medinilla magnifica often grows in the soil pockets of Philippine trees. It is a rainforest plant and so I would assume that one would see an example of this in the rainforest, but on what tree or trees would that occur. Do you or any of your readers have any insight/information on this? Thanks for the help.

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