THE last several days found us bringing in several pots of trees to be out planted at the onset of the rainy season.
Most of these are fruit trees with edible leaves or with fragrant or colorful flowers when they reach maturity. We usually receive donations of fruit tree seedlings from long-time friends, mostly from high-school classmates. We now have several seedlings like atis, mango, guyabano, citrus, caimito, kamansi, mulberry, sineguelas, himbabao, malunggay, avocado, sampaloc, duhat, and even several varieties of bananas. Some are rare and difficult to raise like Mabolo, calabash, lemonsito, manzanitas or aratiles, crab apple, and kamias. We lost some of those earlier donated to us, so we still do not have any guava trees at the moment.
Recently we bought grafted trees like macopa, cacao, guyabano, karnate (star fruit) caramay, banaba, and more kamias. We also received gumamela, roses, lantana, and kalachuchi.
Of the many trees we had brought in from the plant expo, we take pride in some native trees that we either bartered with our home-grown black zapote seedlings or bought from fellow native tree enthusiasts. We learned about these Philippine trees from colleagues – and on some of our trips and as we went along, we began our journey procuring seedlings to be out planted as soon as the rains come incessantly. In the process, we are slowly building our mini-nursery of native trees.
My favorite is lipote, which will bear fruits that look like duhat. Also lovable is the igio, a bird sanctuary. Then we have alibangbang with sour leaves that can be used for sinigang. Balitbitan is an ornamental tree, with young leaves coming in bright pink and then slowly changing hues until it becomes olive green. Balingasay, is a beach-front tree. It also attracts birds, besides being a windbreaker. Tui, is another species with edible leaves and fruits. Of several species, we are interested in native fig varieties. Obviously, there are several, but as of now we only have Tangisang Bayawak, tibig, or tebbeg and balete. These are water-bearing species and we are excited, as well as hopeful, that we can rehabilitate our own water table with these fig varieties.
Nitrogen-fixing species include native ipil and supa. Earlier we germinated bani and balitbitan and we transplanted a number of these last year. Tamarind seedlings were not as drought-resistant so that we lost almost all our seedlings to the hot arid weather. We have an ipil-ipil tree which is now fully grown with flowers and a few pods. It may not be considered native but it provides us with nitrogen-fixing bacteria and its leaves add to the soil fertility.
A fellow native tree enthusiast entrusted us with some of his narra and these have already adjusted well. Narra is also a nitrogen-fixing species and is considered a pioneer tree. Another friend brought us a lot of narra seeds and we are determined to sow these to build our nursery. Last mont, as we were fixing our black zapote seedlings, we got an invitation to join the plant exhibits for the provincial celebration of Pistay Dayat. It was where we also displayed our bani seedlings.
We are yet to do an on-site tour to be able to identify and do an inventory of native trees inside and around the property. We are familiar with talisay, which bats give us regularly. We recently identified matang-hipon I now call matay urang. We already have a fruit-bearing matay urang in the middle of a cassava patch and it has started to give out wildlings. This is a natural detoxification agent as it absorbs nickel in its leaves. It is also used in folk medicine as an herbal bath for newborn babies.
On one of my walking journeys. I found a lone botong tree right in front of the provincial capitol and I collected fallen seeds. Botong or palpaltak, is also known as bitoon. It is like talisay but its leaves and fruits are way bigger. The tree canopy is much wider too.
Last year I found a ripe fruit of a certain native tree but sadly, its seeds did not germinate.
Several other tree seedlings were equally interesting but we decided to take only a few and these are either water-bearing, bird refuge, bee and butterfly attractants, with edible parts or fruits or have medicinal use.
Since we are just starting our food forest, we might as well start with native trees for canopy, biomass sources, windbreakers, and nitrogen-fixing properties.
We are not very sure if we have native malunggay trees. Four moringa varieties are already bearing fruits.
We are yet to plant Madre cacao or kakawate. No cutting has found its way into our garden.
A friend once gave me a native macadamia seedling but it wilted
We also have ilang-ilang and buri seeds for sowing.
With native trees at our disposal, we can hope to replace invasive and exotic trees that are presently ruling over the whole garden. These include one gemelina, several neem, and Malaysian acacia trees.