6 of the most popular flowers in the Philippines

With countless beautiful and colorful tropical flowers native to the Philippines, it’s no wonder that even urbanites are getting into gardening and horticulture. We round up the most popular — just in time for Flores de Mayo:

Pinagka-pingakahan

Midnight horror

Oroxylum indicum (L) Vent

  • Common in thickets and forests all over the Philippines
  • Has enormous, strongly scented violet flowers

“Its strange-looking and foul-smelling flowers bloom only at night, attracting hordes of bats.” — Dr Domingo A. Madulid, botanist (2017)

“Its enormous violet flowers exude an extremely annoying odor that gives you a headache. The [locals] call it pingka-pingkahan, which is derived from the Spanish word penca (sword), because that is what the monstrous fruit resembles, growing to a length of over three feet and four finger-widths in thickness.” — Fr Manuel Blanco, botanist (1837)

Baino

Sacred lotus

Nelumbo nucifera Gaertn

  • Found in shallow lakes, the baino is an aquatic perennial herb with long, creeping roots
  • The flower is attractive, comes in pink, red or white and has about 20 petals, each measuring 7cm to 15cm in length. The flower itself measures 15cm to 25cm in diameter

“This plant is a native of Asia and was probably introduced to the Philippines during prehistoric times.” — Dr Eduardo Quisumbing, botanist (1951)

Kampanilya

Golden trumpet

Allamanda cathartica L

“Kampanilya is a smooth and hairy shrub… Its huge yellow trumpet-shaped flowers… need trellises for support. The kampanilya was introduced from tropical America, and is now widely cultivated as an ornamental plant throughout the country. It also grows in thickets near dwellings or settlements… In the Philippines, the kampanilya is commonly referred to as yellowbell.”  — Dr Domingo A. Madulid, botanist (2017)

“This is a shrub that was introduced by Mr Azaola. It grows in Calauan, Laguna. Its flowers are yellow.” — Fr Manuel Blanco, botanist (1837)

Sampaguita

Arabian jasmine

Jasminum sambac (L) Aiton

  • Sampaguita is cultivated throughout the Philippines for
    ornamental purposes
  • The flowers are white, fragrant and borne singly or in clusters of three

“On 1 February 1934, Governor-General Frank Murphy issued Executive Proclamation No 652, designating the sampaguita as the national flower of the Philippines. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts states that the flower depicts [the] ‘purity, simplicity, humility and strength’ of the country. To this day, Filipinos continue to string sampaguitas into garlands that are used to give honor.” — Dr Domingo A. Madulid, botanist (2017)

Kalatsutsi

Frangipani

Plumeria alba L

“It always bears flowers that are fragrant, though it scarcely bears fruit.” — Fr Manuel Blanco, botanist (1837)

“Frangipani is not native to the Philippines, though it is abundantly found in all parts of the country. It was introduced by way of Mexico and is now cultivated throughout the tropics.”   Dr Eduardo Quisumbing, botanist (1951)

“The frangipani is a small, deciduous tree… Its flowers are large [and] entirely white or white on the outside and yellow at the center… In the Philippines and in some other countries, kalatsutsi flowers are offered to the dead. They are used for funeral wreaths and bouquets. It is believed that the tree gives an unpleasant relationship to those living near the tree.” — Dr Domingo A. Madulid, botanist (2017)

Banago

Portia tree

Thespesia populnea (L) Sol ex Corrêa

  • Banago branches and the dorsal surface of its leaves are covered in brownish scales; the leaves have a broad and slightly heart-shaped base and pointed tip
  • The flowers have yellow petals with dark purple marks at the base; the entire corolla turns purple as it matures
  • Found along seashores

“In the Philippines, banago was also traditionally used in making native musical instruments, such as the kudyapi.” — Dr Domingo A. Madulid, botanist (2017)

“This tree is called by the [natives] baboi gubat and reaches the second highest layer of the forest canopy. Its flowers are enormous. The plant flowers in February and August.” — Fr Manuel Blanco, botanist (1837)

This mixed-media piece, photographed by Toto Labrador from notebook illustrations by Sasha Martinez, would not have been realized were it not for the following invaluable resources: The fifth edition of Fr Manuel Blanco’s Flora de Filipinas: Volume I, brought to life once again by Dr Domingo A. Madulid and the Vibal Foundation; Irma Remo Castro’s A Guide to Families of Common Flowering Plants in the Philippines; Teresita Lantin Rosario’s Fragrant Ornamental Plants in the Philippines; and Ma Mercedes G. Planta’s Traditional Medicine in the Colonial Philippines: 16th to the 19th Century (the latter three all published by the University of the Philippines Press).

This article first appeared in the May 2019 issue of Smile magazine.

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