NOT really knowing what it does to the environment or to the food forest, I grabbed balai-lamok by the neck. It was only later that I learned that it is named balai-lamok because mosquito-like insects stay on it. Ilocanos called it then balai-lamok. It is also called Alitaptap in Tagalog, kankanti in Pangasinan and I presume it is also called kankanti in Ilocano. By the way, my friend from Besao volunteers that it is plainly called “firefly’’ where she grew up.
If there was any good reason to plant native trees, I would go for those that would support wildlife. I have been an advocate of fireflies (mind you! Had there been any chance to see that movie again I will gladly oblige, albeit the location for fireflies watching is not really there.)
I had the chance to see fireflies in their number in Catanduanes and I have not returned for the blissfull sight that is almost magical. Never did I imagine planting a native tree that will house fireflies.
Our balai-lamok was already two-meter long at the mini-nursery when I uprooted it to be outplanted in a more spacious area. Sadly its main taproot stayed behind and the outplanted seedling wilted, as I had expected. All its leaves fell off but of all surprises, from where the leaves fell, new twigs emerged.
Next I balled out the taproot about a foot long and tried to plant it again. After about a month, new plants came out of the taproot. I think I had four new seedlings that I gave away, two of these to fellow native tree enthusiasts.
Wait, there’s more! Where it used to grow, more wildlings were growing. That is how prolific this native tree is.
Balai-lamok, also called salimbobog, is among Philippine native trees being marketed for its beautiful flowers.which Imistakenly said were red, because I mistook it for Mami-mali, another park tree. One writer likened it to Japan’s sakura but I doubt it. Salimbobog may be more beautiful. Ours is not yet flowering. But even the leaves, three pronged, are beautiful. By the time this balai-lamok blooms I am expecting more birds and butterflies to hover around it. I am trying not to sweep under it hoping some firefly larvae would be growing under the leaves.
Some claim that balai-lamok shoots and young leaves can be cooked and eaten. I have not pruned ours either. Also the fruits are edible.
Some say it is a slow-growing small tree that goes up to about 15 meters. So I have to prune our balai-lamok in time because the linemen had the electric cable pass the growing balai-lamok. If at all, it has to be tree-balled again to avoid the cable. The other wildlings are strategically placed where the garden needs them to perk up the area.
Looking at pictures of salimbobog or balai-lamok make me remember our own madre de cacao before. The flowers cover each strand of twigs and the smell is so sweet. Madre Cacao is not native and salimbobog deserves better. I just cannot help but compare the two flowering trees.
The flowering season for balai-Lamok is from January to March and I cannot wait to see mine in bloom.