Xanthostemon fruticocus

Where is this tree found?

Xanthostemon fruticocus is a large tropical tree, also known as the ‘Sierra Madre mangkono’, which is endemic to the Philippines – found nowhere else on Earth. The most recent IUCN assessment of this species lists it as Endangered with a range restricted to only three locations in the remote municipalities of the province of Isabela.

This tree is almost exclusively found in ultramafic forest formations. In its natural habitat it grows very slowly due to the nutrient deficient, heavy-metal rich soils on which it lives. Most ultramafic soils in the Philippines, including those in Dinapigue Isabela have been covered with mining operations which has resulted in the natural habitat of this species being dramatically reduced in the last 100 years.

Despite its slow growth, this tree reproduces very quickly – flowering at a very early age while still a mere short shrub. This early reproduction means that even in the immediate vicinity of mining operations seedlings and small saplings can be found growing in profusion, however these are not safe from destruction. Large, mature individuals of this species are becoming increasingly scarce in the wild.

Why save this tree?

This is one of the five ironwood (Xanthostemon) species endemic to the Philippines. The valuable wood is considered the hardest of the Philippine timbers – this is how it earned its name as the ironwood tree. The wood is best used in the making of high-quality furniture such as chairs and tables. Despite total bans on logging this species being implemented in the Philippines illegal poaching is still very common. The hardness of the wood gives it its value but also offers some protection against logging however local people continue to cut trees of a smaller diameter, primarily for piles and posts. Being an ultramafic species its survival is always threatened by mining activities. This tree was only published as a new species in 1998 when it was named by the late Filipino botanist, Leonard Co.

How to save this species

Building local knowledge is important for the long-term conservation of this species. Local communities will be equipped with the skills to grow the species in community nurseries. Selling saplings will also provide an additional and sustainable source of income. Working with local authorities, local ordinances for the protection of the species will be prepared. Natural populations will also be increased through reinforcement planting and facilitating natural regeneration. In order to raise awareness and public knowledge of the importance of conserving this and other threatened Philippine tree species, educational material will be created and shared.

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A systematic, cost-effective, and rational approach

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Assessment and inventory of priority Philippine threatened trees

Carry out and assess population surveys of this species to identify previously un-recorded habitats, a vital step in the overall conservation process. The data generated will be important for updating any outdated information about this species, giving a more accurate body of knowledge which will guide researchers, academics, policy makers, policy implementers and community members in initiating local protection and conservation efforts.

Capacity building of local authorities, local communities and academics

Knowledge and skills are important elements in the conservation of this species. Increasing the knowledge of local communities will empower them to initiate local actions for conserving this species and benefit future generations. Building the capacity of local authorities, academic institutions and communities will translate into better local conservation policy, better conservation related academic curricula and more environmentally-aware communities.

Propagation of quality seedlings by local communities for habitat restoration

As local communities become more and more involved and engaged with the conservation process they will cultivate an ownership for these initiative which will prove more sustainable in the long term. Unlike other reforestation efforts where local communities are used as labourers on minimum wages, this project will fully involve local communities in the raising and planting of quality seedlings which will act as an additional sustainable source of income.

Establishment of ex-situ collections

Ex-situ collections such as arboreta and botanic gardens will serve as living showcases of Philippine native trees and as an insurance policy against their future extinction. These areas will also make threatened species more accessible to the public, promoting awareness of conservation issues and inspiring them to support local conservation efforts.

Improve local habitat protection

Improving the conditions of the natural habitat of this species will also enhance the provision of ecosystem services of the areas that benefit local communities in the medium and long term. Improved habitat protection will come from improved local conservation policy, capacity building of local communities to empower them in the enforcement of habitat protection and enhancement through enrichment planting and assisted natural regeneration.

Increasing public awareness

Produce educational materials such as interpretation signs, posters, social media content and pictorial guides to improve public knowledge of the species.

Partners for Xanthostemon fruticocus

Sponsors for Xanthostemon fruticocus