Best kept secret: abundance of native plants

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    About 984 plant species in the country are threatened.

    Of that, more than 700 are endemic or plants found in the Philippines.

    “We have so much biodiversity that not too many people know one of our best kept secrets,” said Dr. David R. Ples of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

    Ples conducts a walking tour of UP Diliman and other mini forests in Metro Manila for the public to see first-hand native and endemic plant species, including some of the most enigmatic ones like the jade vine, katmon, tangisang bayawak and lipang kalabaw.

    Raising consciousness and knowledge of native flora is one of the main objectives of the tour.

    “People won’t protect what they don’t care about, and they can’t care about what they don’t know,” Ples said during a virtual forum hosted by the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society of which he is vice president.

    Ples revealed the ongoing development of a digital application that collects, stores and analyzes data; monitors invasive species; locates species mentioned years ago and where they are now and so on.

    Using the app, “anyone can participate in conservation as citizen scientists,” Ples said. “It will empower individuals to contribute to plant conservation by protecting the plants that protect us.”

    “Protecting the plants that protect us” will be the theme of an international symposium in November organized by the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society.

    The Society was founded by Dr. Leonard L. Co, the Filipino botanist and pioneering collector, student and advocate for the conservation of native plant species. The Tetrastigma loheri, an endemic Philippine vine, is the host plant for the Rafflesia leonardii which is named after Co.

    There are 10,000 plus plant species of which 3,600 are native flowering trees, estimates the Society, one of whose projects is restoring patches of lost forests with native trees.

    The webinar was co-sponsored by Digital Pilipinas.