Sampaguita : Potential Dollar Earner
Our national flower’s huge export potential lies in the extraction of its natural oil whose medicinal and therapeutic properties have been attracting foreign buyers.
These days, if you ask the younger generations what the Philippine national flower is, they won’t be able to give the right answer. The reason: they really don’t know the answer.
For the uninformed, the answer is sampaguita which, according to legends, comes from the immortal words of star-crossed lovers. “Sumpa kita,” they told each other. In English, the words mean “I promise you.”
Sampaguita is an evergreen vine or shrub reaching up to one to three meters tall. The leaves are opposite or in whorls of three, simple, ovate, four to 12 1/2 centimeters long and two to seven-and-a-half centimeters broad. The flowers are produced in clusters of three to 12 together, strongly scented, with a white corolla two to three centimeters diameter with five to nine lobes. The flowers open at night, and close in the morning.
Sampaguita was imported into the Philippines in the 17th century from Himalayan areas. Today, the flower has become a naturalized part of the country’s landscape. Originally, it is native to India, where eight cultivars are generally listed including that grows as large as small roses.
Sampaguita is considered a symbol of fidelity, purity, devotion, strength and dedication. No wonder, it is also the national flower of India. In the Philippines, it is called by various names: sambac, sampagung, campopot, lurnabi, kulatai, pongso, malur and manul. Scientifically, sampaguita is known as Jasminum sambac.
The Chinese emperor of the Sung dynasty had sampaguita growing in his palace grounds to enjoy its heavenly fragrance. In the Philippines, Filipinos string the flowers into leis, corsages and crowns and distill its oils and sell them in stores, streets, and outside churches. The garlands may be used to welcome guests, or as an offering or adornment in religious altars.
In Cambodia, the flower is used as an offering to the Buddha. The season of the flower begins in June, the month that provides the most rain. During this month, many Cambodians thread the flower buds onto a wooden needle to be presented to the Buddha.
But what most Filipinos don’t know about sampaguita is that it can be a potential dollar earner. From the flower, a natural oil that has no equal can be extracted. Since ancient times, sampaguita has been cultivated for its essential oils.
According to the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), sampaguita is one of the flowers grown in the country from which researchers have extracted oil. Along with citronella and ilang-ilang, the BPI had been using sampaguita as a source of oil through extraction.
In the past, many traders have been asking BPI about big, steady supplies of lowers that yield essences, but there are no known large-scale growers. As a result of these inquiries, the government has given some attention to ornamental and flower crops.
Sampaguita leaf extract, BPI claims, can be used in making medicinal soap and has curative effect on skin diseases. The flowers also have medicinal value. These are given internally in decoction for fever, and are used as poultice for skin diseases and wounds. If boiled in oil, these give a balsam for anointing the head in eye-complaints.
Though sampaguita is not a key ingredient in top-price perfumes, its scent and makeup have given it important uses. Elizabeth Holli Wood shares some tips on how to prepare a perfume from sampaguita:
First, put the flowers of sampaguita, orchid, and ilang-ilang in a saucepan two-third full of distilled water. Then, bring to a boil on a hot stove. Strain the flowers and set the fragrant water in a bowl to cool.
Mix one-fourth cup vodka with twoand-a-half tablespoons of the flower water (“If you have essential oils in the flower scents, add a few drops to heighten the strength of the fragrance”). Let it stand for two days to one week. After that, pour into the perfume bottle of your choice.
A survey conducted by BPI showed that two types of sampaguita are grown in the Philippines. In San Pedro and Santa Cruz in Laguna, farmers commercially grow the single-petal type, which is less fragrant but flowers almost al year round.
The double-petal type is not grown commercially but is more fragrant, although it flowers only during the summer months.
Sampaguita is a very easy to care. It thrives on many types of soil. Well-drained soil ranging in texture from sandy-loam to clay-loam is ideal. Soil that stays for too long should be avoided.
In the Philippines, the plant may be grown in a wide range of climate except in highly elevated areas like Benguet where the temperature may be too cool for its normal growth. It needs to be planted in full sun.
The BPI shares these growing tips for sampaguita:
• The land should be prepared thoroughly. When transplants are set out, good tilth help in establishing close contact between the soil and the roots system of the young plants.
• Sampaguita is propagated by stem cuttings. Medium-matured stems (eight to ten inches long) are cut and these are planted in perforated plastic bags filled with soil. Daily watering is recommended. After a month, the seedlings will have already developed new shoots and roots and are ready for transplanting.
• A day before transplanting, the seedlings are thoroughly watered. The seedlings together with the soil after removing these from the plastic bag are transplanted at one by one meter distance. The seedlings are watered immediately after transplanting.
• The area where the seedlings are transplanted should have an abundance supply of moisture during the early stages of the plants’ growth. Water should always be sufficient to saturate the soil to the root zone.
• Weeding around the plants is recommended as soon as necessary. Cultivation may also be done to aerate the soil and to kill the weeds.
• Like most growing crops, sampaguita needs necessary nutrients for their growth. A bag of 14-14-14 fertilizer mixed with one of bag of 45-0-0 per hectare is applied three weeks after transplanting. The same application is repeated every six months. Fully decomposed organic fertilizer at the rate of 20 bags over one hectare may also be applied to increase the nutrients in the soil and to improve its texture.
• Growers often practice defolation especially when flower production is low. The entire leaf are removed or three-fourths of the leaf area are cut off, leaving only one-fourth of the leaf near the node portion of the stem where the new shoots may later develop.
• Another practice is smudging. It is done to minimize the attack of some insect pests, thereby improving the quality of the flowers.
By the way, the flower is processed and used as the main ingredient in jasmine tea in China.
By Henrylito D. Tacio