• Collecting greens of nature: Nurture or torture?

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    THE discussions during the two-day 27th symposium of the Northern Mindanao Consortium of Aquatic and Agricultural Research and Development (NOMCAARRD) in early December 2015, made it obvious that our appreciation of nature could indeed take a turn for the worst. When we like certain plant varieties, we go to great lengths to find cuttings or seeds and coming home we settle them on a favorite patch. Those which need much sunlight, we plant them where they can have the full measure of sun. We painstakingly nurture these to grow them healthy. In no time, we enjoy the flushes of color that show they had enough of the care and nourishment they need. On waking up. We hurry outdoors fill our lungs with their scent.

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    Another form of liking is to have nature in-doors with us. If we can afford, we buy the kinds we like from the many commercial gardens outside the city. In those display gardens the plants have the full measure of air and sun. Nevertheless, we bring them inside our dwellings where we not only see them but also touch them. So, they are set at our favorite nook. And here comes the problem. They could be in a place where they starve for the nurturance they need. The first few months, we enjoy their beauty. Soon, however, the lush green or the myriad colors of their leaves fade away. To save them, we hurry them outside under full heat. Like anything that has been kept away from nature, the sudden exposure to sun and rain does not do the plants well. It is as it were, a traumatic experience for them. No matter how patiently we bring them back to health, that sad experience they had remains for them a painful past.

    This in similar words did Dr. Victor B. Amoroso of the Central Mindanao University express during the 27th NOMCAARD regional research symposium. This soft spoken internationally known fern expert, and a multi-awarded scientist showed photos of fern varieties displayed in commercial gardens. He also showed photos of “domesticated” ferns hanging circus-like on makeshift trellises. Is this nurture or torture? He asked his audience.

    His presentation in that symposium was on a research project that aimed to identify, describe, re-assess the conservation status of the threatened, endemic, rare and economic species of ferns in our country. In his backgrounder, he provided a worldwide count of how many species and to how many genera and families these species represent.

    Before we go further, let’s refresh ourselves of terminologies in taxonomy. Taxonomy is the science of systematically naming and organizing organisms, including all plants, animals and microorganisms of the world into similar groups which can potentially interbreed to produce viable off-springs that themselves can interbreed.<https://www.cbd.int/gti/ taxonomy.shtml> A species(abbreviated sp., plural form spp.) is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank based on similarity of gross morphology — that is, physical characteristics, such as flower form, leaf shape, fruit form, etc. Closely related species are combined into a genus, while closely related genera form a family.

    The term endemic is used to describe a plant that is characteristic of an area, and naturally present in the region. In biology, people usually use this term to describe a species that is unique to a particular area. “Endemic plants and animals characterize the region they live in, allowing biologists to identify specific regional zones. Endemic vegetation like endemic animals, are often vulnerable to changes in their natural environment.”. . . Endemic organisms have a limited range unlike organisms with “cosmopolitan distribution,” that is, “organisms found in many areas.” Expanded human activities, natural disasters, and climate change can threaten the well-being of a population. “Many endemic organisms are endangered, making their preservation even more challenging.”<http:/www.wisegeek.com/what-does-endemic-mean.htm>

    The research presentation informs us that there are a total of 1,100 species of ferns in 39 families and 142 genera in our country representing 10% of the 11,000 extant species in 40 families and 300 genera approximately worldwide. The last assessment revealed by Fernando et al (2008) is that there are “203 species [found]to be threatened.”

    The research presentation informs us that ferns have wide valuable importance — as vegetables — ten species of which are reported to be edible and are rich in high proteins. Ferns can also be used as ornamentals and as organic fertilizers. Medicinal use of ferns “cover a wide spectrum” ­— as anti-oxidants, analgesic, diuretic and de-wormer. They are also used to treat ulcers, chest complaints and blood disorders. Some ferns have rachises, that is, elongated petioles or strands which are flexible and are used in handicraft manufacture to make “hats, mats, baskets, and cigar cases,” while the stem and rachis of cyathea are “strong enough to be used as posts in the construction of huts.”

    As is often the case, human acts threaten the existence of certain ferns – such as the “conversion of lowland forests to agricultural lands,”. . . “over collection of ornamental species such as bird’s nest, tree ferns, spike and club mosses, ribbon ferns and giant ferns.” Also a threat is “over harvesting of tree fern trunks” which are used “as raw materials for handicraft and as substrate medium to grow other flowering plants.” Saving our endangered species should merit a priority advocacy for all of us!

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    Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon,PhD, is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.

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