Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Our Version of the Elephant Apple

I have shown my tree lecture to the horticulture show and 2 landscape classes in UP Diliman. My presentation showcases about 80 species out of the 220 I am tackling in my thesis (there are about 3500 tree species in Philippine forests so my thesis is just the tip of it all). Of the 80, it was katmon or Dillenia philippinensis that got the best response as a landscape tree, soliciting more questions about the tree from my audience.

We have a number of Dillenia species (the genus of the elephant apple or handipara from India, Dillenia indica) native to our forests. Some of it, like the katmon, are endemic (not seen in any other place). Dillenia suffruticosa, which is a small shrub, is also native here (as well as a few other Asian countries). I saw it growing in brushes and slopes in Laguna and Quezon. In the PAWB Workshop last November, Dr. Edwino Fernando showed pictures of another Dillenia, D. caulicarpa (or cauliflora? this is what I remember the name mentioned by Dr. Fernando mainly because they saw it with flower on the trunk, cauli in Latin means stem, flora is flower and carpa is fruit - so stem flower or stem fruit). He said it is endemic in Samar.

Dillenia philippinensis could well be our country's pride and joy. It is very much endemic. I am not sure of its geographic distribution but I have seen it in forests and gardens in Laguna and Quezon. I was told of an anecdote by Emil Sotalbo about the katmon. In the 70's, then First Lady Imelda Marcos visited Bogor Botanic Gardens in Indonesia and saw the flowering katmon exhibit there. She was immediately captivated by its beauty and asked her entourage to acquire one to bring to the Philippines, not knowing it was indeed a Philippine plant.

The katmon is a very beautiful medium sized tree which may stand up to 20 meters at an average, but may grow taller. The trees I saw were bushy and compacted with leaves, despite their size. The individual leaves are rather large and thick, with prominent segmentations and serrated edges (typical of Dillenias). Probably what makes the katmon interesting is the display of large white flowers with a deep red center. They measure to almost about a foot in diameter. They bloom early in the morning and wilt by midday, when the sun is very hot and high in the sky. The fruits are big like in other Dillenias (that's why they are called elephant apples).

Some parts of the katmon are culturally used. The Bureau of Plant Industries website states that the fruit is sour but has a certain acid flavor. Though its flesh is not agreeably tasty, it is still used to alter fish taste and cooked to a jam. The bark is said to also yield a red dye for coloring. In the horticultural show, a participant stated that the fruit is grinded and mixed with gugo, tanglad and calamansi, used as hair perfume.

9 comments:

vicmayor said...

I was searching for Katmon in the internet and I stumbled upon your site. Thanks for the interesting facts about Katmon. I searched for Katmon using Catmon and yielded very few results, good thing i searched it using Katmon. Thanks!

metscaper said...

you are welcome

Pari said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pari said...

We need to save this species. if used in the urban environment... will it end up messy in the street? how often does it flower? please email me I have such found memories of this three and have tasted its fruit only once in my life. I thought it is extinct already as nobody I knew is aware we even have such a tree named so.

Kcal said...

thankyou :)) sir can i have your contact? where can we buy this fruit? is it available in the market?

soupfordinner said...

one of my favorite Philippine trees! I've seen this used extensively in the Singapore botanical gardens. Wish it would be used here more often!

joy olano said...

how many types of phil. catmon are in the phil?.

joy olano said...

how many type of Philippine catmon are present in Philippines?.

Ric Neil said...

what's the maturity indices of katmon?