Sunday, December 21, 2008

Not so Nuts about our Philippine Chestnut

My friend and colleague Cathy Fontanilla texted me today to read an article in the Philippine Star by the writer Rudy Fernandez (I am assuming just a namesake of the departed action star). It is about the endemic Philippine chestnut or Castanopsis philippensis. It was a short feature on how alarming that the native kastanias or talakatak is now absent as a Christmas fare in some Tagalog and Ilokano provinces especially Nueva Vizcaya. Ironically, earlier on I was discussing the talakatak with Mr. Emil Sotalbo and how it is becoming rare in our forests. Decades ago he could see fullgrown trees in Cavinti, Laguna but when he returned recently, he could not find any.

The Philippine Star article states that the talakatak is a very big tree reaching to about 28 meters in height and that the taste and color are very similar to the European variety available in the market. Some years ago, fresh and roasted nuts of Castanopsis were available in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya and some parts of Quezon province during the ‘ber’ months hence like the commercial chestnut it was associated with Christmas in local cultures. But according to the DOST-PCARDD this is no longer the case as lesser nuts could be harvested from wild trees as it is not popularly cultivated. Old trees in the forests are dying either by old age, logging and some other factors.

What was not mentioned in the article is that Castanopsis is a little bit difficult to cultivate due to the following reasons. Mr Sotalbo said that the fallen nuts (supposedly the source of wildlings) are readily eaten up by wild boars (because of its taste, it is a wild fauna favorite). Another thing is that the tree is dioecious (not sure if I spelled this right), meaning the tree has separate specimens bearing male and female flowers (with the understanding of biology, the female bearing the fruit and nuts). The probability of yielding the female tree is less if specimens are grown from seeds. Thus the surest way to propagate is by grafting the female specimen branch.


My only encounter with a specimen of talakatak is a sole young tree in the farm of Professor Roberto Coronel. Judging by the specimen, the tree has an attractive upright form and moderately fine leaf texture, making it a nice border tree in gardens and orchard candidate.

Incidentally the talakatak is recorded from Luzon to Samar and Leyte, then Basilan. If my geopgraphy serves me right, Leyte and Basilan still has Bohol and the whole lot of Mindanao in between them. That is still a big unexplored area. But it might be a lot of wishful thinking to think Castanopsis maybe found in the distribution gap. Probably the best thing to do is to bank on what is known and start conserving this disappearing Philippine forest commodity.

8 comments:

Barry said...

Fascinating! I had no idea there was a tropical chestnut, but looking now I see 99 species endemic to tropical Asia. I imagine they would grow here given a chance (I live in the warm subtropics). Thanks for your very interesting blogging.

metscaper said...

i did not know that either. thanks for posting your comments. i try to solicit more comments so i could learn more about these trees.

beck said...

wow d ko po alam na un money tree eh tropical chesnut tree..meron po ako sa haus sister ko tanim 3 puno un isa maliit pa un dalawa namumunga na...na excite naman po ako...

erwin said...

kalinga chestnuts are harvested during summer. i got seedlings around 2ft height from the wild last september. i hope someone would help me graft them so that we will try to produce philippine chestnuts commercially

Dennis Coronel said...

I have five 3-year old chestnuts inside my bedroom....

Dennis Sanchez said...

i was playing golf at camp aguinaldo and i noticed a fruit bearing chestnut tree which i happily pointed out to my golfmates. if you are interested in seeing this tree, please do not hesitate to contact me at 09175218822. i saw it just last week, so pls call me asap so that i can tell you where the tree is located. better still if we could go together to see the tree.

Dennis Sanchez said...

i was playing golf at camp aguinaldo and i noticed a fruit bearing chestnut tree which i happily pointed out to my golfmates. if you are interested in seeing this tree, please do not hesitate to contact me at 09175218822. i saw it just last week, so pls call me asap so that i can tell you where the tree is located. better still if we could go together to see the tree.

I The Person said...

We have two fruiting trees on our farm in Cebu and will plant six more in April