Endangered ‘Avatar’-like jade vine spotted in Masungi Georeserve

Images: Masungi Georeserve / Avatar
Images: Masungi Georeserve / Avatar

The Masungi Georeserve is home to an incredible range of flora and fauna — 400 documented species to be exact —, making it a home to some of the Philippines’ richest biodiversity.

Take the case of this endangered jade vine found within the heritage site, whose vivid hue and intricate form evokes the lush environment of Pandora from the movie Avatar.

“Masungi park rangers spotted the Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotyrs) at the peak of the Masungi Geopark Project, the same area that would have been leveled to the ground by quarries if not for citizens’ vigilance,” the site’s authorities wrote online.

According to Masungi, the jade vine, known locally as tayabak, is endemic to the Philippines and can crawl tall trees to grow up to 20 meters high. The endangered plant is considered a natural treasure and is featured on the back of the PHP5 coin.

“It is also notable for the pendulous, chandelier-like growth of its flowers,” it added.

“The presence of the Jade Vine in the Masungi Geopark Project underscores the importance of safeguarding the watershed against destructive activities. While quarrying agreements in the watershed have already been cancelled, threats to the project area and its unique biodiversity, such as illegal entry and professional squatting, persist,” authorities said.

Masungi Georeserve is a geological heritage site in Baras, Rizal that is home to 60-million-year-old limestone formations. The area is a joint conservation initiative between the Masungi Georeserve Foundation and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Conservation efforts began in 1996, after the georeserve became the site of illegal ecological activities and real estate speculation.

However, the protected area remains a target of intimidation and harassment, with park rangers’ lives put at risk from threats ranging from guns and booby traps.

In February, the Masungi Georeserve Foundation raised alarms after about 20 officers from the prisons bureau arrived at the heritage site with orders to conduct an “ocular inspection” for the supposed relocation of New Bilibid Prison.

The foundation questioned how the prison bureau could possess a title covering Lot 10, considering it is home to the georeserve’s fragile limestone formations and was already part of the conservation area reserved for the Masungi Geopark Project between the foundation and the environmental agency, as signed by then-environment secretary Gina Lopez in 2017.

In an interview with Esquire Philippines, Masungi Georeserve officials revealed that land grabbers, quarryers, and encroachers continue to pose threats to the heritage site because of its location in the Sierra Madre mountain range, an area rich in mineral deposits such as basalt — which, when you think about it, mirrors Avatar’s plot nearly to a tee.


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