Philippine Flowers

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The month of May brings to mind two things: feasts and flowers. In different parts of the world, celebrations are held commemorating flowers, signifying nature's rejuvenation after the cold sleep of winter. Here in tropical Philippines, colors abound in the greenery when flowers finally bloom. The traditional Santacruzan sees its participants' arches gaily decorated with handpicked flowers, creating an atmosphere of beauty and warmth. Here are some flowers that Filipinos regard as their favorites.

Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata)

Its name “ylang-ylang” originates from the Tagalog word for “rare,” as this flower possesses a fragrant scent unlike any other. In fact its essential oils are quite useful in aromatherapy, and are believed to relieve high blood pressure and normalize sebum secretion for skin problems. The ylang-ylang tree is a native of the Philippines and prefers to grow in slightly acidic rainforest soil. Its flowers are yellow-green in color and shaped rather like starfish.

Sampaguita (Jasminum sambac)

The sampaguita, a native of tropical Asia, is the Philippines' national flower. These petite but very fragrant flowers are made into garlands and used as welcome offerings or honors for dignitaries and achievers. Sold on the streets of Manila, the flower necklaces usually adorn vehicles, or are taken home by Catholic devotees to decorate their altars. Aside from the ornamental value of the sampaguita, the flower is used by some as alternative medicine. It has been used as a lactifuge, sedative, anaesthetic, and vulnerary.

Waling-waling (Vanda sanderiana)

The waling-waling is a rare epiphytic orchid endemic to the island of Mindanao, particularly in the foothills of Mount Apo in Davao, Cotabato, and Surigao. It flowers seasonally, and its two-week bloom occurs during the peak months of July until December. Hailed as the “Queen of Philippine Orchids,” the waling-waling is considered by many as the country's best orchid variety due to its many stunning colorful hybrids. This captivating trait led to hunters and orchid collectors from all over the world harvesting the species almost to extinction. The decline was stemmed, however, when tissue culture was performed in order to repropagate the orchid.


Gumamela is one of the most familiar flowers in the Philippines, as it is a favorite ornamental plant in many Filipino gardens. A native of the Old World, it is now pantropic in distribution and is widely cultivated in the country. The gumamela flower has been used as a poultice to boils, cancerous swellings and mumps. A decoction of the roots is used as internal medicine for venereal diseases and fevers, while the leaves are used as a lotion for fevers and headache.

Santan (Ixora coccinea)

Another ornamental favorite, santan is the familiar garden shrub adorned with little red flowers borne in cymes. The species originally came from India, but has since been cultivated in the Philippines. Children collect the little santan flowers and create necklaces with them. Adults, however, procure and use them for treatment of dysentery and other diseases.

Dama de Noche (Cestrum nocturnum)
Dama de Noche

Dama de Noche (literally "lady of the night") is famous for its unusual biorhythm which made it the subject of legend. Its flowers bloom at night and exude a very sweet scent. Although widely cultivated in the Philippines, the plant was introduced from tropical America.

Everlasting flower (Helichrysum bracteatum)
Everlasting Flower

Also known as paper daisy or straw flower, the everlasting is a famous bloom associated with Baguio City. Strings of these flowers are sold in the markets and streets of the summer capital. Due to its longevity, it is also a favorite of devotees who adorn their altars with these blooms.



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