Thursday, August 31, 2017

A wild orchid growing at home - Cymbidium Finlaysonianum

Dr Abe V Rotor 

 Inflorescence of C Finlaysonianum; close-up of  flower.  

Growth habit of the indigenous epiphytic orchid, and pods

It is a native orchid. I found it clinging on a fallen branch of a big tree in Mt. Makiling forest. Being an epiphyte I tied it on the trunk of a talisay (Terminalia catappa) at home in Quezon City. It was not difficult for the new transplant to find a new home - in our home. It is because just across the wall at the back of our house is the sprawling La Mesa Watershed. It must be the "forest climate" that approximates that of Mt. Makiling in Laguna, that this native orchid got acclimatized easily.

Among the five Cymbidium species, C. Finlaysonianum is the most widely distributed throughout the Malaysian area, It was collected by Finlayson in Chin-China in the ninetieth century. It was dedicated to him by Lindley, who originally described the plant in 1832. There is also a close relative, Cymbidium atropurpureum, its name taken from its dark purple flowers. Because of its closeness to C. Finlaysonianum in all morphological aspects, botanists consider it to be a variety of the latter.

The leaves of this species are leathery and coarse, 35 to 40 inches long and 1.5 to 2.5 inches wide. The raceme is pendulous, about two to four feet long and many-flowered. The flowers are two inches in diameter, sepals and petals rather narrow, long, and colored dull tawny yellow with a reddish-brown median line. The labellum is three-lobed, the center lobe being whitish with a yellow disk and purple-crimson apical spot.

Unlike most domesticated and hybrid orchids that bloom any time and for long periods, I observed that this wild orchid is sensitive to photoperiodism. It blooms usually in summer - in March and April - and the flowers last about two weeks. I like the characteristic mild fragrance especially in early morning.

Orchids are among the easiest plants to propagate, vegetatively that is, either by tillers (shoots), or by tissue culture, a specialized laboratory procedure. This compensates for the extreme difficulty in propagation by seeds. The seeds of orchids are the most difficult to germinate. Even if they do, survival rate is very nil. It is because the viability of orchid seeds is very short and difficult to monitor.

I have yet to succeed in germinating the seeds of C Finlaysonianum. Even if I fail, I am delighted to have a wild orchid luxuriantly growing in my home - its home. ~~

Reference:  Philippine Orchids by Reg S Davis and Mona Lisa Steiner

Monday, August 28, 2017

Firewood and Charcoal - World's most popular fuels

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog 

Firewood and charcoal are still the most popular fuels for cooking in the world. In fact they constitute at least 80 percent of rural households, and even in urban centers, they are preferred for specific uses such as pugon in making pandesal, and barbecue and broiling and roasting. Alternative sources of fuel have lately gained attention in the light of dwindling supply of fossil fuel and increasing cost of electricity, among them is charcoal.

For my students in Earth Science with Ecology: This is your assignment. I also invite followers and viewers of this blog. Write down the advantages of using charcoal. On the opposite side of your paper, write down its disadvantages. Which one weighs more? Write an essay of around 200 words, "To use or not to use charcoal, that's the question."

Truckloads of charcoal at Commonwealth Market, Manggahan QC.

Charcoal is the black residue consisting of impure carbon obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood, sugar, bone char, or other substances in the absence of oxygen. The resulting soft, brittle, lightweight, black, porous material resembles coal and is 50% to 95% carbon with the remainder consisting of volatile chemicals and ash.

Takip-kuhol (Centella asiatica) - a Panacean home remedy

Dr be V Rotor

Takip kuhol which means literally the operculum of gastropods or snails, grows wild, often as weeds in the garden and field where the soil is moderately damp.  It is easy to raise it in pots such as this sample (At home, QC)

Takip kuhol is a highly regarded plant of many uses; in fact it has a panacean reputation in folk medicine. Ask an herbolario, a bona fide housewife, or a village elderly. And they would say, "Takip kuhol lang ang kailangan diyan." (All you need is Centella asiatica, the scientific name of the plant.) 

Of course they are talking about common ailments, referring to ordinary colds, fever, flu, skin infection, sore throat, boil (pigsa), headache, constipation, blows and bruises.  The herbal may be prepared as decoction (boiled) or fresh.  It may be toasted and served as tea or infusion.*  For external use, the leaves are crushed and applied as ointment or liniment with vaseline or coconut oil. 

In a research conducted, takip-kuhol leaf extract was found to be an antibacterial agent against three common infectious bacteria, which explains the efficacy on the plant against infectious diseases which these bacteria cause.
  • Escherichia coli, a type of bacteria that lives in our intestines. Most types of E. coli are harmless. However, some types can make us sick and cause diarrhea
  • Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium  frequently found in the human respiratory tract and on the skin. 
  • Salmonella enterica. Salmonellosis is an infection with bacteria called Salmonella. Most persons infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps
Pure extract of Takip-kohol leaves is effective against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella enteritidis. Boiled extract is not as effective, especially against E coli. 

Panacea is often referred to as cure-all, which is mythological, Panacea being the Greek goddess of healing. There is no single remedy for all ailments. As a caution, takip kuhol should not be used as a prescription to serious ailments and diseases, specially those that require medical attention.~ 

Botany of Takip-kuhol
Family: Apiaceae
Scientific name: Centella asiaticaa (Linn) Urb
Synonym: Hydrocotyle asiaticaa Linn
Other common names: Gotu kola, hydrocotyle, Indian pennywort
 Illustrated life cycle of Centella asiatica;  plant in bloom (Acknowledgement: Wikipedia)

Traditional Use:  Crushed leaves aare commonly consumed by Sri Lankanss as salad or hot beb\verage.  More rewcntly the herb acquired a conssiderable reputation as an aphrodisiacv, a agent that stimulates sexual vitality.


Other properties/actions: Hypotensive, longevity promoter, sclerotic, stimulant, tonic, treatment for abscesses, dysentery, fevers, headaches, high blood pressure, jaundice, leprosy, mental troubles, nervous disorders, rheumatism, skin eruptions, ulcer.

Plant Description:  Slended, creeping plant with stems that root at nodes.  Leaves are rounded to kidney- or heart-shaped at the base.  Flowers are 3 sessile.  Fruits are minute, ovoid, white or green and reticulate. 

             -  Reference: Rotor AV, De Castro D and RM Del Rosario, Philippine Herbs to Increase Sexual Vitality

*Infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time (a process often called steeping). An infusion is also the name for the resultant liquid. The process of infusion is distinct from decoction, which involves boiling the plant material, or percolation, in which the water passes through the material as in a coffeemakerWikipedia 

Books Written by A V Rotor

 "The humanities hold the greatest treasure of mankind."  Co-authored with Dr Kristine Molina-Doria, the book, in summary, makes Humanities, a basic 3-unit subject in college, interesting and attractive to students. The book is distinct from conventional textbooks by being experiential in approach - meaning, on-site, hands-on, and encompassing of the various schools of art - old, new and postmodern.  Learning is further enhanced by viewing an accompanying compact disc (CD), and by having easy access to a wide range of references principally from the authors' works on Facebook and Blog. [] It is a publication of C&E, one of the country's biggest publishers and distributors of books. Launched in February this year it is now adapted by several colleges and universities.

Don’t Cut the Trees, Don’t is a collection of ecology poems and paintings of nature. The tree is taken to represent the environment. Each poem and each painting is like a leaf of a tree each revealing a little of the many marvels of this unique creation. Each poem and each painting is a plea on behalf of this new vision and of this new ethics. Concealed behind each poem and each painting is the spirit of the author, Dr. Abercio V. Rotor, a man whose love and passion for the environment is well-known. (Armando F. De Jesus, Ph.D., Dean, UST Faculty of Arts and Letters)

It is a substantial collection, departing from the usual stale air of solitariness and narcissism which permeates most poetry today. It is therefore a welcome contribution to Philippine poetry in Engish, livened by visuals that add color to the poetic images.

The oeuvre is not only pleasurable because of this. The poetic ability of the poet himself enriches the whole exciting poetic experience, a blurring of the line separating man from the rest of the living creatures outside. Every poem indeed becomes “flowers in disguise” using the poet’s own words. (Ophelia A. Dimalanta, Ph.D. Director, Center for Creative Writing and Studies, UST)
Living with Folk Wisdom. Published by University of Santo Tomas, launched 2008 in the Manila International Book Fair, SMX Mall of Asia, 220 pp. "The book is a compendium of indigenous technical knowledge complemented with modern scientific thinking. The narratives offer an exploration into the world of ethno-science covering a wide range of practical interest from climate to agriculture; medicine to food and nutrition..: (Excerpt of Foreword by Dr Lilian J Sison, dean UST Graduate School).

Light from the Old Arch is a compilation of 18 essays about life and living, 216 pages. Published by UST in 2000 with the Preface written by Fr. Jose Antonio Aureada, regent of the Graduate School.

"What is considered a religion of disconnection betrays man's inability to see sensuality through divinity and divinity through sensuality... It was Victor Frankl, a Jewish psychotherapist-philosopher, who popularized logotherapy, a word of Greek origin which literally means healing through meaning. Dr Abe. the poet-musician-painter-scientist rolled into one, reminds us of the Franklian inspired principle: The unheard cry for meaning if only well-heeded in all aspects of life - from the least significant to the extremely necessary, from the most commonplace to the phenomenally sublime - can only restore authenticity back to living life beautifully.
A Sequel to the Living with Nature Handbook, it was launched at the Philippine International Book Fair in 2006. It won the National Book Award given by the National Book Development Board jointly with The Manila Book Circle and the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts. Published by UST Publishing House, the book has 35 chapters divided into four parts.
Winner of the Gintong Aklat Award 2003 by the Book Publishers Association of the Philippines. The book has 30 chapters divided into four parts, a practical guide on how one can get closer to nature, the key to a healthy and happy life. Second printing, 2008.
The book is in full color, 75 pages, written by a very young student of then St Paul College QC. In the words of Sr Mary Sarah Manapol in the Foreword, "Viva is a youthful poetess who thinks and writes about pain and loss, friendship, joy and love, music and the arts, nature, math and literature, war and piece - these belie her age of 17 summers."

Dr AV Rotor as co-author, provided the photographs and paintings that fits harmoniously with the poems. More than this, he encouraged the young poetess to write her first book which was launched on her debut.

"The authors have embarked on this task of providing people with more information about the many uses of some plants. While herbal plants have long been recognized because of their nutritional and medicinal qualities, their other uses are not fully exploited... May we continue to promote alternative medicine... The prices of medicine and health products remain unaffordable to most of our countrymen and herbal plants are the best alternative as most of these have been proven to be effective." (Excerpt from the message of Dr Juan M Flavier, former senator and secretary of health)

The principal author is Dr. Belen L Tangco who wrote the verses and prayers. Each verse or prayer is accompanied by an appropriate painting by AV Rotor. Full color and handy, it is useful as a prayer book and reference in the Humanities.

"Indeed, God speaks to us in the little details of nature - through the trees and the flowers, in the   drip of rain, in the blow of the wind. He speaks to us in all of His Creation..." (Excerpt from the Foreword by Fr Tamelane R Lana, UST Rector)

A Giraffe Book, it contains 72 verses, mainly four-liners, each verse accompanied by a photograph or painting. Most of the photos were taken by students in the Humanities at then St Paul College QC. The school president wrote the Foreword, an excerpt of which reads as follows: "It takes deep reflection to arouse one's inner child to take notice of the undistinguished buds, hyacinth, date palms... and it takes a trusting, affirming, and enlightened teacher-artist to lead and inspire..."

Poems, poems, poems, 72 pages, a handy book, colored and black and white, published by Megabooks 2000. The late secretary of justice Sedfrey A Ordonez wrote in the Foreword "... it is inescapable that after reading his poetry and after examining his paintings which accompany his verses one is led to the conclusion that the man who created the multi-disciplinary tour de force is a Renaissance man, one who reveals his reverence for nature by means of music, verse, and painting."

Presented to the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, on his visit to the Philippines in 1995 by Jaime Cardinal Sin. Messages by Fr James Reuter SJ, and Sister Teresita Bayona, SPC. Foreword by Dr Anselmo Cabigan.

Other Books of AVR

Our Generous and Fragile Earth
Taxonomy and Identification of Plants
Laboratory Manual in Economic Entomology
Ecology of an Old Pond

Home, Sweet Home with Nature

The Road Less Trodden
Light in the Forest
A Touch of Healing
Forest in Bloom 
Living in a Nipa Hut

Bromeliads form a unique aerial ecosystem

Bromeliads are nature's reservoir of miniature ponds that provide abode to many organisms from insects to fish. 
Dr Abe V Rotor
Brightly colored false petals of bromeliad attract insects and other organisms to fertilize its shy, short-live flowers. The bright pseudo flowers serve as markers in the dense and vast forest high up in the trees. Here bromeliads form colonies with connecting rhizomes, and with other epiphytes - ferns, orchids and lianas - make a unique aerial ecosystem. 

Domesticated bromeliads are popular ornamental plants in gardens and around homes. One disadvantages though is that it becomes a breeding place of mosquitoes and other vermin. It is because we have detached them from their natural habitat where they are part of a complex food web. Here mosquito wrigglers are preyed upon by naiads of Odonatans (dragonflies and damselflies), while the adults are trapped in spider webs. Tree frogs have their fill of flies and other insects.  Fish live in the axil ponds and can even transfer to nearby bromeliads and even to the water below to hunt and to mate.  While reptiles occupy the top of the food pyramid, hawks and eagles come to prey on them. Like a chain, just one link broken, and the system fails. 

Bromeliads, which includes the pineapple (the only edible member in the family), are nature's reservoir of miniature ponds that provide abode to many organisms from insects to fish. The central receptacle collects water from dew and rain which spills over to the adjoining leaf axils, making a contiguous pond. The sequence, like a series of terraces, makes water collection and retention efficient, giving chance for the various resident organisms to complete - and repeat - their life cycles. And for transient organisms to have their regular visit.

In this pond system, detritus accumulates and fertilizes the bromeliad as well as other plants around and below it, including its host tree, in exchange for its foothold and other benefits. And being epiphytic and colonial in growing habit on trunks and limbs of trees, bromeliads  form a unique aerial ecosystem with other epiphytes, and the surrounding trees.~   

Family Bromeliaceae consists of monocot flowering plants of 51 genera and around 3475 known species native mainly to the tropical Americas. Only one species is edible and considered one of the most important fruits in the world – pineapple (Ananas comosus).
 Pineapple plantation in Bukidnon; 
Ornamental pineapple and varieties

Pineapple inflorescence, top and side view.

The largest bromeliad is Puya raimondii, which reaches 3–4 m tall in vegetative growth with a flower spike 9–10 m tall, and the smallest is Spanish moss. (Tillandsia usneoides) an epiphytic bromeliad. Acknowledgement: Internet source

Friday, August 25, 2017

Composting is an ancient practice; chemical fertilizers are a recent invention.

Composting is a traditional farm practice photos, passed on to us since the start of agriculture. Dr Abe V Rotor

Composting is a traditional farm practice, passed on to us since the start of agriculture on the Fertile Crescent, and most likely in other places like ancient China, many centuries BC. The principle involved is the same, although the technique has been improved a lot.   

There are three components to produce ideal compost: 
  • animal manure (and chicken droppings), 
  • crop residues (hay and stalks, weeds, fruit peelings, etc), and 
  • loamy soil.  
All you need to do is to make several layers of these materials one on top of another, either in the form of a pile (preferred during the rainy season), or in a shallow pit (for the dry season), of any dimension that is suitable. Install some bamboo tubes to serve as posts and  “breathers” to allow air circulation in the pile or pit. The breathers work like chimney.  Punch the nodes to make a continuous tube, and make several holes staggered along its length. Moisten the pile as needed.  Too much water is not advisable.

Composting also uses seaweeds (like Sargassum) that litter coastlines; scums and algae growing on lakes and rivers; rinds and peelings of cacao, coffee, pineapple, and the like; corn cobs and husk, rice stalk and rice hull ash in rice and corn lands.  Then we have a lot of coconut husk and leaves, and copra meal wastes in coconut areas; guano (bat droppings) in caves; and a long list of materials from wastes in fishery, slaughterhouses, food manufacturing.  Lest we forget, the biodegradable materials by tons and tons which urban centers are turning out every day. The biggest bulk is domestic waste which the Chinese have developed a technique to converting it into humanure for their farms and gardens. A recent composting technique is with the use of biological agents like the earthworm (vermiculture). 

To hasten composting, farmers practice microbial inoculation with Trichoderma (fungus), Rhizobia (bacterium), Anabaena, (Blue Green Alga),   Nostoc (also a BGA), Saccharomyces (yeast, an Ascomycetes fungus), and many other microorganisms ubiquitously occurring in nature.        

What really is the secret of compost in enriching the soil?  Here are the benefits.

1.  It contains both major and minor elements (chemical fertilizers are specific only to the elements they supply). 

2. The release of nutrients is slow but continuous, allowing both crop and soil to adjust properly. 

3. The organic content of compost improves tilth (ease in cultivation), as well as the physical structure of the soil. 

4. Compost enhances favorable microbiological condition of the soil.  Fifth, it improves retention of soil moisture. 

5. It makes working on the soil a lot easier because of its porous nature.   

6. It stabilizes soil acidity (pH). 

7. It is not only a good source of income; it is a dollar save.

8. Composting, sanitation and beautification complement one another. ~

With spiraling cost of chemical fertilizer and its cumulative residues that pollute the rivers down to the sea, and destroy the ecosystem, it is time to go back to this ancient practice of composting.  It is the solution to many of our problems in meeting our need for enough and healthy food, and in helping keep the balance of nature.~ 

Newly harvested compost ready for use; composting at home.
(Acknowledgement: Internet, Wikipedia)

Prehistoric Jaws

Today, the sharks are the hunted and no longer the hunters. Let's support the campaign: Stop killing the sharks.

Dr Abe V Rotor

Carcharodon megalodon's jaws were big enough to hold these six men! (Warren Allmon, Prehistoric Oceans, Paleontological Research Institution, NY )

Sharks have been on earth for more than 300 million years. They became diverse and abundant in the Cenozoic Era, after the dinosaurs have become extinct. C. megalodon is one of the most spectacular sharks, ancestor of the white shark depicted in Jaws, the movie. This extinct ancestor was however very much larger, it reached 50 to 60 feet long. Mysteriously all the giant sharks disappeared.

Today there are 400 species of sharks, all predators with only very few attacking humans. They are Nature's housekeepers, feeding on the dead and weak, while trimming down oversized populations of sea animals that threaten to disturb the balance of the ecosystem.
Today, the sharks are the hunted and no longer the hunters because of the big and increasing demand for their fins in restaurants all over the world. And because they are the most hated and misunderstood creature of the sea, their mere presence incites man's fear and anger. This is of course exaggeration and misconception.

The truth is they comprise an indispensable link in the food chain - just as we, humans comprise another link. Because a chain is as good as its links, the loss of one destroys the integrity of the whole chain. Let's support the campaign: Stop killing the sharks campaign posters.~
 Acknowledgement: Internet photos

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Scenarios of Current Trends in Agriculture:

Dr Abe V Rotor 
Never in the history of agriculture, or the history of man for that matter, had we experienced five simultaneous and overlapping farming movements that constitute the Green Revolution in our Postmodern era: 
  1. Stem Cell Farming (SCF), the latest.
  2. Farming of GMO plants and animals 
  3. Single Cell Protein (SCP) farming 
  4. Hydroponics and aeroponics 
  5. Natural and Indigenous Farming
Here are ten scenarios on the current trend of agriculture

1. Stem cell farming will ignite rage and ethico-moral controversy. What with the wild thought of human stem cell hamburger! 

2. GMO farming has stirred worldwide controversy since its early stage. Worldwide, countries and organizations are calling for its restriction, if not total ban. 

3. Genetic engineering has given rise to a new and most destructive form of pollution to the living world - Genetic Pollution, which is destroying the integrity of natural gene pools of plants, animals, and microorganisms. 

4. Genetic pollution spreads through pollination in plants and mating in animals, albeit induced mutation. GM plants can pollute whole fields. The mechanism is true to animals, consequently populations. There is no way of stop genetic pollution once it has set in, unlike conventional pollution. 

5. Farming the sea will continue with harmful ecological consequences. Like deforestation on land, marine vegetation, from mangrove to seaweeds and sea grasses will greatly suffer, even as the cultivation of seaweeds like Eucheuma and Calerpa, is now a lucrative industry. 
6. Fish farming of marine and freshwater species has expanded into off shore floating cages and plantation-size fish pens. Wild species in captivity proved to be successful in groupers, mullets, and lately, the salmon which has virtually lost its homing instinct through genetic manipulation.  

7. Hydroponics (soiless farming) and aeroponics (farming on multi-storey buildings) continue to "bring agriculture into the city," as more and more people move into urban centers. 

 Aeroponics, farming in the city 

8. Home gardening and backyard orchards are back with the objectives of recycling, self-sufficiency and sanitation, not to mention aesthetic beauty. This trend goes hand in hand with the revival of traditional societies, as people are tired living in the city.   

9. People are becoming conscious of their health by avoiding chemically grown plants and animals, aware of the harmful effects of chemical residues, "Frankenfood"  (GMOs), toxic metals and antibiotic residues, among others.    

10. Wild food plants like Amaranthus, Portulaca, Corchorus and Mollogo have found their way to the dining table and market.  So with many native varieties of fruits and vegetables on one hand, and native breeds of animals and poultAry, on the other. 
cknowledgement: Internet Photos; Living with Nature AVR

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Stone Bird

  Dr Abe V Rotor      

Your wings that everyday flap
     are now in surrender,

And the wind that carried you up
      has left you down under.

Majestic and lovely, oh bird,
     lord of the open skies,
Across the land were once heard,
      your pleading, helpless cries.

Would a monument suffice
      to enthrone your life and deed,
Bestow a posthumous prize,
      to hide man's folly and greed?

The stone bird does not answer,
      its world too, shall soon depart,
And man takes pride in his power
      of make-believe in his art.

Philippine Eagle Monument. Marcos Highway, Agoo, La Union.