According to studies by the DOST-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI), woody vines found in the Philippine forests are an important natural resource that needs to be taken seriously.
Most of us, however, are not well acquainted with forest woody vines. To some, they may be nothing but those amazing “ropes” Tarzan uses to swing himself across the jungle, while to others, they are the rustic raw materials for the handicrafts sold in tourist souvenir shops, or “gugo” for their Lola’s DIY shampoo.
According to DOST-FPRDI Director Dr. Romulo T. Aggangan, “Because of their many uses, woody vines are part of the daily life of tropical forest communities worldwide. They are used for medicine, food, handicrafts, furniture, house construction, oral hygiene, and hunting. They are especially useful in remote areas where synthetic medicines are not readily available. Among scientists, however, not much is known about these non-timber forest products.”
Aggangan says that forest vines are mostly under-appreciated as there have been few research efforts to get to know them better. This is why in recent years, the Institute has put in place a research and development program dedicated to studying local forest woody vines.
“Thru the program and with support from fund-donors, the Institute aims to collect information on the biology; inventory; basic properties such as anatomy, physical and mechanical, chemical and natural durability; treatability; and phytochemical properties of Philippine commercial forest vines,” he explains. The program also hopes to identify promising commercial species and improve the resource supply chain in selected areas.
In one recent study, researchers looked into the chemical content of five vine species and got encouraging results. The curare vine (Strychnos sp.) was identified as a promising material for pulp production and a source of cellulose for biofuels and nanocellulose products. Mulawing-baging (Symphorema luzonicum), lalapau (Hypserpa nitida), bulakan (Merremia peltata), abuhab-baging (Strophantuss p.) and curare, on the other hand, have high phytochemical content, and need to be further studied for their possible medicinal value.
“These results underline the importance of the woody vines that abound in our forests,” says Aggangan. “By giving ample research attention to them, we not only get to understand them better and help ensure a sustainable supply of materials for the handicraft industry. We also get to discover treasures hidden inside this under-utilized forest resource.”