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Discover The Philippines’ National Tree: The Narra

Welcome to the Philippines, a country known not just for its breathtaking beaches and rich history, but also for its unique and diverse flora. Amongst the numerous tree species that flourish in its lands, one stands out as a symbol of strength, resilience, and cultural importance: the Narra Tree, or Pterocarpus indicus.

Often referred to as the national tree of the Philippines, the Narra Tree holds a special place in the hearts of Filipinos, intertwined with traditions, art, and the fight for freedom.

Curiously, this tree also has a captivating fragrance that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who encounters it. Join us as we delve into the world of the Narra Tree, exploring its features, significance, and the role it plays in both the ecosystem and the Filipino culture.

Discover The Narra Tree, National Tree of The Philippines

Pterocarpus indicus, more commonly known as the Narra Tree, belongs to the Fabaceae family, and is celebrated for its impressive size, longevity, and beauty. On average, a Narra Tree can reach heights ranging from 30 to 40 meters (98 to 131 feet), with a trunk diameter of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet), making it a true giant in the plant world.

The leaves of the Narra Tree are compound and pinnate, measuring between 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 inches) in length, and consist of 5 to 11 leaflets. Each leaflet is ovate or lanceolate, with a leathery texture and a glossy surface, showcasing a vibrant shade of green.

The tree’s flowers are equally impressive, arranged in panicles and boasting a bright yellow color with a sweet, fragrant scent. As for the bark, it is rough, deeply fissured, and has a reddish-brown hue, providing a striking contrast to the lush foliage.

One of the most distinctive features of the Narra Tree is its fruit, which is a pod with a unique, wing-like structure that aids in seed dispersal. These pods are initially green, turning to brown as they mature, and contain one to two seeds each.

This unique fruiting characteristic not only adds to the tree’s aesthetic appeal but also plays a crucial role in its reproduction and survival.

Where Does The Narra Tree Grow?

The Narra Tree is indigenous to the Philippines and thrives in a variety of environments, from lowland forests to mountainous regions. It prefers well-drained soils and is commonly found near rivers and coastal areas, benefiting from the ample sunlight and moisture these habitats provide.

Outside of the Philippines, the Narra Tree’s presence extends across Southeast Asia, Northern Australia, and the western Pacific region, showcasing its adaptability to different climates and conditions.

However, it is in the Philippines where the tree truly stands out, serving as a living testament to the country’s rich biodiversity and the resilience of its natural landscape.

Large Narra in the Philippines

The Narra Tree in the Ecosystem

The Narra Tree plays a vital role in the ecosystems where it thrives. Its large, dense canopy provides ample shade, creating a microhabitat for various species of flora and fauna underneath.

This tree serves as a habitat and source of food for a plethora of birds, insects, and small mammals. Its flowers are particularly attractive to bees and butterflies, which aid in pollination.

The roots of the Narra Tree help to stabilize soil and prevent erosion, particularly important in its riverside and coastal habitats. The leaf litter from the tree further contributes to soil fertility, enhancing the growth of surrounding vegetation and maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Furthermore, the Narra Tree is known to have allelopathic properties, meaning it can release chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of other plants nearby. This can help to reduce competition for resources, allowing the Narra Tree to dominate its surroundings and create a unique ecological niche.

Why and When Did The Narra Tree Become The National Tree of The Philippines?

The Narra Tree was declared the national tree of the Philippines in 1934 under the governance of Governor-General Frank Murphy. The choice of the Narra Tree as the national symbol was deeply rooted in its characteristics and what it represented for the Filipino people.

The tree’s robustness and longevity symbolize the strength and resilience of the Filipino spirit. Its ability to thrive in diverse conditions reflects the Filipinos’ adaptability and endurance through various challenges, including the colonial past and the quest for independence.

The Narra Tree also holds a significant place in Filipino culture and traditions. It is considered sacred in many parts of the country, playing an essential role in traditional ceremonies and community gatherings. Its presence is seen as a connection to the ancestors and the divine, providing protection and blessings to the people.

Despite its revered status, the Narra Tree has not been without controversy. With its hardwood highly sought after for furniture and construction, illegal logging has become a significant issue, leading to concerns about the tree’s conservation status.

The Philippine government has implemented strict regulations and conservation efforts to protect the Narra Tree, emphasizing its importance not just as a natural resource but as a national symbol and a vital part of the country’s heritage.

The designation of the Narra Tree as the national tree of the Philippines is a testament to its profound connection to the country’s identity, history, and cultural heritage, embodying the strength, resilience, and unity of the Filipino people.

Philippines Narra large tree

Where is The Narra Tree Featured in The Philippines?

The Narra Tree, being the national tree of the Philippines, holds a prestigious status in the country, and its image and symbolism are used in various contexts. However, unlike some other national symbols, the Narra Tree is not prominently featured on the Philippine flag or the country’s banknotes.

Its presence is more subtly woven into the fabric of Filipino culture, art, and literature. Artists and craftsmen often depict the Narra Tree in paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art to express national pride and a deep connection to the natural world. Additionally, stories and folklore passed down through generations highlight the Narra Tree’s importance and its sacred nature.

Educational institutions also play a role in promoting the Narra Tree. Schools teach students about the tree’s significance as a national symbol, and many campuses have Narra trees planted within their grounds, serving both an educational purpose and contributing to the greenery of the environment.

Names of The Narra Tree

The Narra Tree is known by various names around the world, reflecting its widespread distribution and importance in different cultures. Its scientific name is Pterocarpus indicus, but it is commonly referred to as Andaman redwood, Burmese rosewood, Amboyna wood, Malay padauk, and Papua New Guinea rosewood.

In the Philippines, the tree is most commonly known as Narra, but it is also referred to as Asana or Philippine Mahogany. These names reflect the tree’s versatility and the diverse contexts in which it is found and utilized.

Interesting Facts About The Narra Tree

  1. Symbol of Leadership: In Filipino culture, the Narra Tree is often associated with leadership and nobility. Many believe that a Narra tree will only thrive and grow in the yard of a person with a pure heart and strong leadership skills.
  2. Home to Mystical Creatures: Filipino folklore often depicts the Narra Tree as being inhabited by mystical creatures such as ‘diwata’ (fairies) and ‘kapre’ (a giant tree-dwelling creature). It is believed that these beings serve as guardians of the tree, protecting it from harm.
  3. A Source of Medicine: The bark and leaves of the Narra Tree have been used in traditional Filipino herbal medicine to treat various ailments. It is believed to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and anti-diarrheal properties.
  4. A Rosy Scent: The heartwood of the Narra Tree is known for its distinctive rosy scent, especially noticeable when the wood is freshly cut. This unique characteristic has made Narra wood highly sought after for furniture and carving.
  5. Longevity: The Narra Tree is known for its longevity, with some trees living for centuries. Their enduring presence has made them a symbol of stability and resilience in the face of time and change.
Philippines Narra seed podsSource: Wikimedia Commons

Other Beautiful Trees Found in The Philippines

  • Rain Tree (Samanea saman): Native to South America, it is famous for its wide canopy and is commonly found in parks and along roadsides. The tree provides ample shade and is known to “shower” before rain, hence its name.
  • Molave (Vitex parviflora): This hardwood tree is known for its resilience and the quality of its timber, which is used in furniture-making and construction. Molave forests are also rich in biodiversity.
  • Balete (Ficus spp.): Often associated with folklore and myths, Balete trees are strangler figs that can grow massive over time. They are considered sacred in some cultures and are known for their unique and impressive root structures.
  • Mangrove Trees (Rhizophora spp.): Found in coastal areas, mangroves play a crucial role in protecting shorelines from erosion and providing habitat for various marine and bird species.
  • Banaba (Lagerstroemia speciosa): Known for its pink-purple flowers, Banaba leaves have medicinal properties and are traditionally used for their anti-diabetic and diuretic effects.

What Is The National Flower of The Philippines?

The Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac), also known as the Philippine Jasmine, holds the title of the national flower of the Philippines. This small, white, fragrant flower blooms throughout the year and is known for its simplicity and elegance.

The Sampaguita symbolizes purity, simplicity, humility, and strength. It is often used in religious ceremonies and is a common offering to saints and deities. The flower’s fragrance is captivating, and it has become a part of Filipino culture and traditions, representing the warmth and hospitality of the Filipino people.

Frequently Asked Questions

How tall can a Narra Tree grow?

A Narra Tree can reach impressive heights, typically growing up to 33-66 feet (10-20 meters), though some specimens have been known to reach up to 115 feet (35 meters).

Is it legal to cut down a Narra Tree in the Philippines?

Cutting down a Narra Tree in the Philippines is illegal unless you have a special permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). This law helps protect the tree and ensure its preservation.

Can you find Narra Trees outside of the Philippines?

Yes, the Narra Tree is native to Southeast Asia and can be found in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, though it may be considered exotic or protected in these regions.

What is the wood of the Narra Tree used for?

Narra wood is highly valued for its quality and is commonly used in furniture-making, construction, and carving. It is known for its durability, strength, and distinctive rose-like scent.

Does the Narra Tree have any medicinal properties?

Yes, different parts of the Narra Tree, such as the bark and leaves, have been used in traditional Filipino herbal medicine to treat various ailments, including headaches, diarrhea, and skin conditions.

Other National Symbols of The Philippines

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