Pena: Alocasias species

In my weekly environmental radio program, we have a segment that features native or endemic plants in the Philippines. I chanced upon an endemic ornamental plant in the genus Alocasia in the family of Araceae. I found out later that there are several species of Alocasia which are also endemic to us, meaning they only grow naturally in the wild in our country.

Here are some of them.

Alocasia sanderiana, commonly known as the kris plant or Sander's alocasia, is endemic to Northern Mindanao. It is classified as critically endangered in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is known as the kris plant because of the resemblance of its leaf edges to the wavy blade of the kalis or kris sword. Alocasia sanderiana is critically endangered in the wild. Harvesting wild specimens is illegal and is punishable with six to ten years imprisonment and a fine of P100,000 to P1,000,000.

Alocasia zebrina, commonly known as the zebra plant, is endemic to the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Leyte, Samar, Biliran, and Alabat. It was named after its distinctive striped leaf stalks. It is locally known as gabing tigre ("tiger taro") in Tagalog. It is nationally listed as a threatened species and collecting it in the wild is illegal with fines and penalties similar to harvesting of Kris plant.

Alocasia micholitziana, commonly known as the green velvet taro or green velvet alocasia, is endemic to Apayao, Benguet and Ifugao in northern Luzon. The leaf blades are a deep matte green in color with a velvety texture on the upper surface, and a paler green on the lower surface. They are sagittate (arrow-shaped). The leaf veins are white in color on the upper surface. It is classified as vulnerable in the wild by the IUCN. Like the kris and zebra species, harvesting wild specimens is illegal.

Alocasia nycteris, commonly known as the bat alocasia or the batwing alocasia, is endemic to the northwestern region of Panay Island from Nabas to Ibajay, Aklan and Antique. It grows in the lowlands and is common in shaded places along the roadsides, rocky areas, disturbed secondary forests, rice fields, and lowland forests.

Alocasia sinuata, commonly known as Alocasia quilted dreams or Alocasia 'Bullata', is endemic to the limestone forests of Samar, Leyte, and parts of Mindanao. It is classified as critically endangered by the IUCN.

Alocasia heterophylla is is endemic to the limestone-rich islands of Luzon, Mindanao, and Polillo. It is very similar to Alocasia ramosii and Alocasia boyceana, which are also endemic to the Philippines and are all grouped with A. heterophylla under the "Heterophylla Group" of the genus Alocasia.

Other species are Alocasia culionensis endemic to Luzon, Palawan, Basilan, Culin, Balabac, Mindoro, Mindanao, Leyte, Busuanga and Panay. Alocasia scalprum, the Samar lance, which is native to Samar island. Alocasia maquilingensis is named after Mt. Makiling, or Mt. Maquiling in Laguna and Batangas. Alocasia ramosii is endemic to Luzon, Negros and Panay.

Alocasia atropurpurea is endemic to Northern Luzon, known only from Mt Polis, and an unspecified locality in Bontoc Subprovince. Lastly, Alocasia boyceana is endemic to Luzon, Cebu and Negros.

This long list of endemic Alocasia species is a proof of the rich biodiversity of the Philippines. It is unfortunate that many of these plants are endangered. We should protect and preserve our endemic plants.


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