Salago is a shrub native to Eastern Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands, belonging to the Thymelaceae family, genus Wikstroemia Sp. The salago plant has a height ranging from one to three meters. The leaves are opposite, leathery, widest near the middle, rounded at the tips and 1.5 to 7.0 cm. long. The inner bark is light-colored and has a silky appearance and produces long and strong fibers.
Salago is found in the Philippines in thickets and primary or secondary forest at low and medium altitudes in Bontoc, Benguet, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, and Sorsogon Provinces in Luzon, and in Negros and Mindanao.
Salago, Wikstroemia spp., of the Family Thymelaeceae is a sturdy slow-growing shrub in primary and secondary forest throughout the Philippines at low and medium altitudes. The plant description varies according to species of which four are well-identified, growing successfully under local conditions. These are:
- Small-leaf Salago – Wikstroemia indica (L) CE Mey. 1-3m in height. Leaves opposite, leathery, widest near the middle, rounded at the top, pointed at the base and 1.5 to 7 cm long. Flowers are small and yellow; fruits are small and red. This genre grows from Northern Luzon to Southern Mindanao.
- Lance-leaf Salago – W. lanceolata Merr., 1-2 meters in heigh. Leaves opposite, smooth, pointed at both ends, and 4 to 8 cm in length. Flowers are small, light colored and borne in small clusters. Fruits are red and less than a centimeter long. This variety grows in Northern and Central Luzon.
- Round-leaf Salago – W. ovata C.E. Mey., 1-3 meters in height. Leaves are against each other, smooth, rounded at the base, pointed at the apex and 5 to 10 cm long. Flowers are yellow, borne in clusters and about 1 – 5 cm long . Fruits are red and about l cm long. This type is distributed from Luzon to Mindanao.
- Large-leaf – W. meyeniana Warb., 1-2 meters in height. Leaves are abreast with each other, smooth, rounded at the base, pointed at the apex and 5-10 cm long. Flowers are greenish yellow, 1.5-2 cm in length and borne in small clusters. It is widely distributed from Northern Luzon and Mindanao.
Salago plants thrive on any kind of soil in logged-over areas, hills, mountain- sides and along seashores. However, fertile lands with good drainage are best suited for salago production.
Being sturdy, salago grows well even under varying climatic conditions and can withstand long drought, rainy season and even typhoons.
Method of Propagation
So far, propagation by seeds has recently been proven to be the most effective. Mature seeds, usually abundant during the month of May, are first sown in seedplots. They are also sown in seed boxes using 50% sand and 50% lime-soil mixture as soil medium.
Salago seeds usually germinate at 7 to 15 days after sowing. After germination, seedlings are pricked to lower population density to enhance growth while at the same time prevent the developing seedlings from possible attack by damping-off (soil-borne disease). Seedlings are ready for transplanting at 2-4 months from pricking.
The best time for planting salago is at the onset of the rainy season. A planting distance of 1m x 1m appears as an ideal planting distance compared to 2m x 2m and 3m x 3m.
For the fertilizer requirements of cultivated salago further trials have to be undertaken yet
Cultivation and Weeding
Weeding is essential at the initial stage of the plant growth 10 prevent the occurrence of diseases. However, when the plants exceed the growth of weeds, weeding is no longer necessary except for heavy vegetation covering the plants.
Insect Pests and Diseases
1. Insect Pests – squash and grasshopper (nymph) are two prominent pests feeding on salago although sucking insects such as aphids and mites (non-insect) were also observed attacking the plant.
Control Measure: Spray the plant with recommended insecticides.
2. Diseases- Brown rot and leaf spot caused by still unidentified fungi are the only visible diseases of Salago.
Control Measure: Field Sanitation, remove infected plants and spray with fungicides.
Maturity And Harvesting
Maturity/harvesting non-cultured salago depends on the size of the stem and height of the plant. For cultured salago, the plants are ready for harvest when they reach two years but not older than three years after planting. Succeeding shoots after each harvest will again be harvested every two years thereafter. A first harvest of W. lanceolate gave as much as 4,282 kg computed dry fiber yield per hectare.
Method of Extraction
1. Direct or hand cleaned method – Peal-off half side of the bark from the butt end of the stem and follow the same with the remaining side bark. With bare hands or with blunt instrument, scrape the scales attached to the fiber until it is clean. Place cleaned fiber under the sun for complete drying.
2. Boiling or steaming method – Arrange stems in upright position in a drum filled with four (4) inches of water and provided wih a platform of bamboo slats to avoid the lower bark of the stern to come in contact with the boiling water to prevent uneven discoloration. Cover the upper portion of the drum with banana leaves and on top, place a suitable cover (plain GI sheet preferred) as weight.
Boil for about two hours or until outer scales become soft and easy to remove. To remove outer scales, grip the stem firmly with used jute sack or synthetic overlaps with one hand and slide it through the palm of the hand with the use of other hand. Place clean fibers under the sun for complete drying.
Grading and Classification
a. Hand-Cleaned Salago
- SG-1 Salago Superior
- SG-2 Salago Good
- SG-3 Salago Fair
b. Steamed Salago
- S-SG-1 Steamed Salago Superior
- S-SG-2 Steamed Salago Good
- S-SG-3 Steamed Salago Fair
- S-SG-X Steamed Salago Residual
Excellent material for the manufacture of currency paper, banknotes, check, documentary papers, stencils, handmade papers for art purposes, calligraphy papers, and other paper materials where a certain degree of permanence, strength and durability is desired. Likewise, for rope making, fishing lines and nets, clotheslines, sashes, strainers, wallets, colorful hats and other raw materials in making Japanese sliding doors (shoj), kimono, and components for radio and microcomputers.
For more information, contact:
Fiber Industry Development Authority
Asiatrust Bank Annex Building
1424 Quezon Avenue, Quezon City
photo from furniturecebu.com