Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dona Aurora/Mussaenda Philippica

The Mussaendas are ornamental shrubs with one or more of the sepals or calyx lobes developing unusually into large, petaloid structures. The genus Mussaenda belongs to the family Rubiaceae and includes some 200 species found in Africa, Madagascar, India, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Polynesia and Australia. In the Philippines, it is represented by about 20 species. A few of these are M. philippica A. Rich, M. benguetensis Elmer, M. palawanensis Merr., M. pinatubensis Elmer and M. magallanensis Elmer. Most of the locally grown Mussaendas are colorful hybrids and their development began with the discovery of M. philippica var aurorae Sulit, popularly known as ‘Doña Aurora.’  Source

Doña Aurora was first found in 1915 in the vicinity of Mount Makiling as a spontaneous mutant of the species Mussaenda philippica.  Doña Aurora is named after the wife of the former president Manuel Quezon, and has been utilized as one of the parents in the development of the Mussaenda hybrids.  

It is a shrub or small tree, 3 to 5 meters high.  Leaves are opposite, broad-ovate, with short-pointed tips, dark green and glossy.  Calyx lobes are expanded into white or greenish-white, large, leaf-like, oval bracts; the green blade expanded with short-acute or blunt tip.  Flowers are small, tubelike, expanded into 5, ovate lobes, yellowish orange in color.


Rock 'n Roll Never Dies/Signs

A tarp spotted outside Galeria de las Islas in Intramuros last year.
A visual art exhibit that gave tribute to rock music.

Linking to Signs, Signs

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guava/ABC Wednesday

G is for Guava

Guava is a tropical fruit native to Central America and northern South America.  It belongs to the Myrtle family, genus Psidium (or pomegranate) with about 100 species of tropical shrubs and small trees.  It is known as Goiaba in Portuguese and Guayaba in Spanish.  Guava fruit is often bitter when unripe, soft and sweet when ripe---tastes something between a pear and strawberry, tangy with a citrus flavor.    The fruit is usually green before maturity, but becomes yellow, maroon or light green when ripe.  

Guava is one of my favorite fruits, and one of the first trees I climbed when I was a kid.  There were a couple of guava trees in our yard and I virtually lived on guava trees--my grandfather called me a guava-eating bat.  


The guava in our yard has small fruits, about the size of a lemon, and has a distinct aroma when it ripened.  The pulp also turned red when the fruit was ripe.  It's the kind of guava that is used as a souring agent in sinigang, a popular Filipino soup dish.

Guavas produce fruits all-year round.  My mother used to cook ripe guavas in sugar and coconut milk---it was my father's favorite dessert.

There  is  a  fruit  stand  a few blocks from my apartment  selling guapple, or  Apple Guava---I buy 2 kilos every 3 to 4 days.  From  cookies, chips and  chocolates, I've switched to guapple, a  healthier snack.  Guapple is an extra-large variety--a fruit weighs about 500 grams, about  5 to 6 inches long  It has a thick and white-fleshed fruit, and the crunchiness of an apple.

Guavas  are  a  good  source of  Vitamin C  and A,  dietary  fiber,  folic acid, potassium,  copper  and manganese.  It has a low calorie profile, and a  single guava fruit contains about four times  the amount of Vitamin C of an orange.  Fruits are usually eaten raw, ripe fruits can be processed to jelly, wine and jam preserves.  

Apple Guava, Psidium guajava

Guava leaves have been used in folk medicine for as long as I can remember.  Decoction of leaves in water is a good  cure  for  diarrhea---my mother still treats my dog with this concoction when he has the runs.  It  is  also used as an astringent,  mouthwash  for  swollen gums,  reduces fever and anti-spasmodic.  Bark  and  leaves  are  used  in  childbirth  to expel  the placenta.  The bark is recommended in making complex cosmetics.  Young tender leaves chewed or crushed applied to tooth cavity acts as eugenol for toothaches. 

But there's  one use  of  guava  leaves  that would make  you shudder.  In  far-flung areas of the country where traditional circumcision  method is  still  being  practiced,  pre-adolescent boys who undergo this procedure are given  guava leaves  to  chew  on to  distract them from the pain.   The  chewed  guava  leaves  is  applied to the cut foreskin with the dressing.  It is believed that guava leaves  have  antiseptic and  anti-hemorrhagic  properties. I  remember over-hearing  my  brothers  and male cousins  talking  about  some  boy  we  knew  in  childhood who swallowed the chewed guava leaves instead of spitting it out in the middle of traditional circumcision.  Poor boy!  But I couldn't help but laugh at the thought!  I hope I wouldn't run into the guy in one of our elementary school reunions.:p

Guava has been found to be beneficial to people suffering from asthma, bacterial infections, convulsions, high blood pressure, obesity, oral ulcers, poor circulation, prolonged menstruation, scurvy, swollen gums, toothache, and lung congestion.

Linking to ABC Wednesday

Monday, February 25, 2013

Thursday, February 21, 2013



These are Costus I spotted at my aunt's backyard.  Costus are easily distinguished from other commonly cultivated gingers because the leaves spiral around the main stem like a circular stairway, the reason why they are called "spiral gingers".  Costus spicatus is a species of herbaceous plant in the Costaceae family, although sometimes, they are listed with other gingers in the family Zingiberaceae.  A native to South America and the Caribbean, it grows in the sun if kept moist and reaches the height of 6 to 7 feet.  Leaves are about a foot long and about 4 inches wide.

It is known as Cana-de-Macaco, Spiked Spiralflag, Indian Head Ginger and French Kiss.

Costus spicatus produces a short cylindrical red cone with red-orange flowers emerging one at a time, long lasting and used as a cut flower. These plants often have close interactions with ants. The plant makes a sugary nectar which is attractive to many different kinds of ants. Ants protect the developing seeds which are under the bracts from insect enemies. Some plants have very specialized ants: they form an alliance only with one ant species, that not only get food from the plant but also get a place to nest.

“The saddest people I've ever met in life are the ones who don't care deeply about anything at all. Passion and satisfaction go hand in hand, and without them, any happiness is only temporary, because there's nothing to make it last.” ~ Nicholas Sparks, Dear John

Linking to

Signs @ San Miguel by the Bay

After dinner with friends on Sunday, we went out looking for a quiet coffee shop, if there was such a place on a post-Valentine weekend.  Coffee shops and restaurants at the bay walk were full and noisy.  So we kept walking and I noticed these signs---I've never been to Hooters, they opened their first branch here about 4 years ago.  Movie Stars Cafe is new to me, the marquee was blinding.  The interior looked interesting...will check them out next time.

We ended up having coffee at a friend's apartment.

Linking with Signs, Signs

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frangipani/ABC Wednesday

F is for Frangipani

Nothing evokes that tropical feeling quite like the Frangipani.  Its colors remind me of sunsets.  If you've been to Hawaii, I'm sure you would associate Frangipani blossoms and its sweet fragrance with the tropical paradise.  In the Philippines, we associate its heady perfume with death.  Death because Frangipani, or Kalachuchi as it is known locally, is mostly used in sympathy wreaths.  Frangipani trees are often planted in cemeteries, not because of any cultural significance, but because they are tough plants that can survive neglect, heat and drought, and still fill the air with wonderful scents.

My grandmother had an old Frangipani tree in the garden, and it was a source of my childhood imaginings of  ghosts and otherworldly beings when its perfume filled the night air.  Frangipani flowers are highly aromatic at night--the white flowers are more fragrant than the pink ones.

It is called Flor de Mayo in South America where it is a native, although there are claims that Frangipanis are indigenous to the Caribbean and were taken to the Americas by Spanish priests.  Frangipani is related to Oleander and there more than 300 species.  They are relatively small trees growing to only about 5-6 meters tall, with gnarled branches, long leaves and distinctive flowers.  Frangipanis are deciduous and sensitive to cold weather, spreading and sparsely branched. A cut made on any part of the tree will produce a milky, sticky sap that is poisonous to both humans and animals.  

There is a theory that Catholic missionary priests spread Frangipanis around the world as they traveled.  This may explain why the Frangipani is popular and common in the Philippines and Thailand but very rare in China and Vietnam.  Thailand and the Philippines welcomed the Christian missionaries while in China and Vietnam, they were persecuted until around the 1850s.

Little-known facts about Frangipanis:
  • Many Haiwaiian leis are made from Frangipani flowers
  • The colorful caterpillar Pseudosphinx tetrio feeds only on the leaves of Frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
  • Frangipanis are good hosts for dendrobium orchids
  • Frangipani is the national tree of Laos, where it is called dok jampa.  It is regarded as a scared tree and every Buddhist temple in that country has Frangipanis in their courtyards.
  • Frangipani is the flower of Palermo in Sicily
  • It is also the national flower of Nicaragua and is featured in some of their bank notes
  • Frangipanis won't burn except in extreme temperature (over 500 degrees)
  • Frangipani trees were once considered taboo in Thai homes because of superstitious associations with the plant's Thai name, lantom, which is similar to ratom, a Thai word for sorrow.  As a result, Frangipanis were thought to bring unhappiness.
  • In Caribbean cultures, the leaves are used as poultices for bruises and ulcers; the latex is used as liniment for rheumatism.
  • The Frangipani is associated with love in feng shui
  • In India, Frangipani is a symbol of immortality because of its ability to produce leaves and flowers even after it has been lifted from the soil.  It is often planted near temples and graveyards, where fresh flowers fall daily upon the tombs.
  • In Hindu culture, frangipani flower means loyalty, and Hindu women put flowers on their hair on their wedding day.
  • In Vietnam, it is used for its healing qualities
  • In modern Polynesian culture, the frangipani can be worn by women to indicate their relationship status.
  • A Mexican myth believes that gods were born from Frangipani flowers
  • In Malay folklore, the scent of frangipani is associated with a vampire, a pontianak

Frangipani names around the world:  Tipanier (Tahiti), Cocaloxochite (Aztec), Flor de la Cruz (Guatemala), Phool (India), Amapola (Venezuela), Pumeli (Hawaii), Kemboka kuning (Malaysia), Jepun (Indonesia), Pomelia and Frangipane (Italy), Kang Nai Xin (China), Kalachuchi (Philippines), Hoa Su Ma (Vietnam), Sacuanjoche (Nicaragua)

Linking to ABC Wednesday

Monday, February 18, 2013

Golden Coconut/Monday Mellow Yellows

A row of this coconut hybrid shields the beach resort from southwest winds.  This coconut species is about 15 feet tall, a dwarf compared to the common coconut trees found in the Philippines.  The meat and water are very sweet.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cimarron Dwarf Sage

 Leucophyllum zygophyllum, Blue Ranger, Cimarron Dwarf Sage, Silverleaf

This shrub grows across the street from my apartment, and it's my dog's favorite hangout.  Fritz loves the patch of grass beside this shrub, he comes back here everyday to pee.:p   I have been asking my neighbors what this shrub is called but no one seems to know.  The couple living in the apartment unit where this shrub is, told me it's been there since they moved in almost 10 years ago, and they never paid attention to the plant.  Since my dog pees here regularly, it's my mom who waters the shrub and the surrounding area.   I love the tiny lavender buds and violet flowers, and the silvery/gray, fuzzy foliage looks like it's frosted with snow.  I searched on line and found the name---Cimarron Dwarf Sage.

Leucophyllum is a genus of evergreen shrubs in the figwort family, Scrophulariaceae, native to the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts of Arizona and northern Mexico. It is sometimes placed in the family Myoparaceae.   The dozen-odd species are often called "sages", although they have no relationship to the genus Salvia.  The solitary axillary flowers are bell- or funnel-shaped, with five lobes and two lips, and colors ranging from white to magenta to purple. The generic name is derived from the Greek words λευκός (leukos), meaning "white," and φυλλον (phyllos), meaning "leaf", referring to the trichome-covered foliage. These shrubs are found in sandy soils and have a high salt tolerance.  They have become popular for edge and area plantings in warmer areas and in xeriscaping;  they require minimal water, are easily shaped into hedges, and bloom over their entire surface. (Source:  Wiki)

Leucophyllum shrubs are legendary for their ability to "forecast" rain, usually blooming several days prior to a rainstorm, apparently in response to humidity. They are sometimes called "barometer bush" for this reason. It is believed to be a survival trait in the plants' semi-desert habitats.  They bloom intermittently throughout the summer.

Took these photos in a span of 3 days--from buds until the flowers bloomed.  The flowers are not fragrant but bees love them---bees were all over  I almost got stung.  The shrub is quite a looker when the flowers are in full bloom.  From the tip of every branch, a cluster of tiny vibrant violet flowers dance with the cool February breezes.

Love is, above all, the gift of oneself. ~ Jean Anouilh

Only in love are unity and duality not in conflict.  
~ Rabindranath Tagore

If grass can grow through cement, love can find you at every time in your life. ~ Cher

We don't believe in rheumatism and true love until after the first attack. ~ Marie Ebner Von Eschenbach

An old man [woman] in love is like a flower in winter.

Mission Accomplished/Signs

A sign at the wall of Army Navy - Burger + Burrito.
I walked out definitely happy after demolishing a huge Carnitas Burrito with a dollop of sour cream.

Linking to Signs, Signs

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


E is for Euphorbia

Consisting of 2008 species, Euphorbia is one of the largest and the most diverse genera in the plant kingdom, commonly referred to as spurges.  Eurphorbias are mostly found in tropical and sub-tropical regions of Africa and the Americas, and in temperate zones worldwide.  The botanical name Euphorbia derives from Euphorbus, the Greek physician of King Juba II of  Numidia (50-52 BC - 23 AD), who married the daughter of Anthony and Cleopatra.  He wrote that one of the cactus-like Euphorbia was a powerful laxative.  "Spurge" derives from the Middle English/Old French espurge ("to purge") due to the use of the plant's sap as a purgative.

These are  Eurphorbia milii also known as Crown of Thorns, Christ plant, a species of flowering plant in the spurge family Euphorbiaciae.   Various colors and cultivars grow all over the Philippines but it is endemic to Madagascar.  It's a succulent climbing shrub with dense spiny stems and straight slender spines of about 3 cm long with poisonous milky sap.  Legend associates it with the crown of thorns worn by Christ before his crucifixion.

Euphorbia milii

Another species of Euphorbia, locally known as tawa-tawa and gatas-gatas, (Euphorbia hirta) is believed to contain significant anti-thrombocytopenic properties that may increase platelet count of patients suffering from hemorrhagic fever like dengue.  This herb grows in grasslands and road sides all over the Philippines.  When I was a kid, we treated sore eyes with the milky sap of this plant.

A study about Euphorbia hirta conducted by Pharmacy students of  the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila won the 1st prize in the 2012 Philippine National Health Research System Week.

In the study, Euphorbia hirta was found to promote cell production, and prevents platelet destruction.  Further research on  the efficacy of this plant against dengue is now being fast-tracked by the government.  Dengue is a mosquito-borne viral infection that is killing hundreds of people, mostly children, every year.  There are no specific anti-viral drugs for dengue.

The popular Poinsettia, or Euphorbia pulcherrima, belongs to the diverse spurge family of Euphorbiaciae.

Euphorbias are tough plants and can take just about anything---both salt and drought-tolerant.  They're easy to grow, according to my aunt who used to cultivate all colors of Euphorbia milii.  I have been attracted to succulents and wanted to grow reds and two-tone Euphorbia milii but since I have a dog, I abandoned the idea. The thorns could be dangerous to pets and small children.

"A love that you withhold is the pain that you carry." 
~ Alex Collier

Linking to
NF Blo-Ma
 ABC Wednesday