Blooming Pitahaya in Our Garden

It is blooming time for our pitaya/ pitahaya or more commonly called dragon fruit. This cactus species was given to my father by his Taiwanese friend way back in 2003.

He brought 2 cuttings which was planted in a small terracotta pot and was growing very slow because of poor lighting, lack of fertilization, sluggish condition with ordinary driftwood as stake or support for the plant.

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pitahaya flower

In 2007, He decided to plant some cuttings on a vacant lot which had a lot of old fruit trees, damp condition and water logged area. Most of the pitahaya cuttings rotted away.

I managed to convince my father to move some of the bigger cuttings and replant them in a brighter condition, changing of planting medium to more sandy mixture and with regular fertilization program, Most of the cutting thrive and flourish and within 1 year time, it manage to produce its first set of flowers by July 2008.

We would also trim the side stems once in a while. Sometimes giving away the excess cuttings to neighbors and friends.

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Pitahaya blooming ( notice the two pollinated flowers)

This photo was taken about 9:00 pm when the flowers remained open until about 4:00 am. The peak for hand pollinating the flowers must be between 11:00 pm to 12:00 midnight, when the flowers are at its peak.

We manage to hand pollinate 2 flowers before 12:00 midnight. We expect some dragon fruit to form within this week. The fruit is oval to ovate in shape and 10 to 15 cm long and forms 30 to 50 days after flowering.

I think we have two varieties of  Hylocereus undatus ( white ) and Hylocereus Hylocereus costaricensis ( pink ) type. 

Here is a small tip for those who wanted to grow them

Pitahaya plant is actually a climbing cactus and needs sturdy support to climb on ( preferably concrete wall or some support) . As the plant becomes mature it forms aerial roots from the branches and find something to climb. It is best, if you are growing dragon fruit find something to support your plant. ( something stable )

Dragon fruit is a sub- tropical plant and it can survive in tropical climates condition. It loves heat and sun . At least 5 to 7 hours of almost full sun exposure. It is better to plant it in a spot that remains dry and receives only partial sun.

Avoid planting the cuttings in water logged conditions. Try a mixture of sand, garden soil and small part organic compost would be appropriate.

We do not water the cactus during the rainy season from June to late November, But we would add organic compost soil once a month and apply  water soluble fertilizer ( 20N-20P-20K ) once every two weeks, trace elements ( once a month) , calcium nitrate ( once a month).

Do not apply any other types of home style fertilization program like apple cider vinegar, msg or any form of milk whether skim milk, mother’s milk, pasteurized milk etc. This will only kill your cacti. Plus these are not proven effective and quite expensive.

Remember that fungal diseases and root and fruit rot is possible, if plant is over watered or exposed to too much rain for several days or weeks.

It is better not to water until the media or soil becomes dry. This prefers drying in between watering.

Happy Growing !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of the Philippines Los Baños Tree Walk

University of the Philippines campus , Los Baños , Laguna – Philippines

I saw this event invitation via face book group  in the middle part of July and after checking my schedule. I quickly sign-up and confirm a slot for the UPLB tree walk  and organic farm tour via face book after exchanging few calls and test messages from the organizers.  Mrs. Moje Ramos-Aquino gave me the contact information of   Mrs. Agnes Del Rio who is from the Quezon City area.

It was a wet day when I met Ms. Agnes del Rio in Cubao , Quezon City . Together with her husband , our group went to the SLEX Station and met a couple of people who are also going to Laguna and an over night trip to Candelaria , Quezon province. From the initial few people, the crowd swell to more than a dozen. Everyone took time taking pictures and sharing stories.

We then headed our way to University of the Philippines in Los Baños , Laguna. The group waited for a few minutes and our small crowd suddenly swells to more than 50.

Dr. Roberto E. Coronel under the Royal Palm – Roystonea regia

Roystonea regia or Royal Palm was introduced and planted within the campus around 1933 and 1934 . Most of the palm are almost 80 years -old !

We were then met by Dr. Roberto E. Coronel and he proudly displayed his hat with UPLB batch 1960 . Which means that he is an alumnus of the University for more than 5 decades or a Golden Jubilarian !

Dr. Coronel together with the participants within Majestic Palm Promenade

He acted as our tour guide for UP Heritage trees walk. Most of the trees that were listed in the leaflet played a major role in the development of the campus,  molding its alumni. These living trees are silent witness  of UP campus history.  According to the UP Heritage marker,  UPLB is the only known campus in the country with an avenue of Majestic Royal Palm , UP president Mr. Rafael V. Palma expressed his interested and pleasure for having planted in this campus as president of the university in December 15, 1933.

Campus Notes :  (The Makiling Echo, Volume XIII, No. 1 January  1934 issue)

Kapok Tree or Ceiba pentanda from Tropical America

This kapok tree with hundreds of seedlings is said to have originated from the tropical America. This tree specimen was tagged by UPLB community in 2008 , However according to Dr. Coronel , this tree is still young when he was still studying in the area. He estimates that the tree is no more than 70 years -old. Kapok tree can grow up to a height of 150 feet or more and its puffy whitish cotton like fiber can be used as stuffing for mattress and pillow.

website: http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/kapok.htm

Some of the trees were more than a century –old, while some trees played an important part of the campus life, while others are prized for their rarity and beauty! Although according to Dr. Coronel not all of these trees are century-old.

Dau/ Dao ( Dracontomelon dao) ( Blanco )Merr. & Rolfe

This tree serves as an inspiration to National Artist Leandro V. Locsin , for the design of the student union building . The columns projecting from the ceiling to the ground is a mimic of  the flaring Dao trunk and buttress.  In April, 2005 the  National Committee on Monuments and Sites , National Commission for the Culture and the Arts  declared in its resolution 2005-07 recognizing the intrinsic cultural value of this tree.  More recently regent Romulo Davide in his letter be named the Centennial Tree after it had survived countless of typhoons  other than Milenyo last September 2006.

Dau tree leaning a few degrees toward the building

This tree had sparked a few debates in the past since there are threats and calls to cut this tree because it had been leaning towards the buildings and may cause havoc whenever a strong typhoon or wind can easily toppled this majestic tree. However environmentalists and alumni had express to preserve this historical tree which is said to be  hundred of years -old .

It is very sad to see that some of the old –trees were being cut down indiscriminately for development in some parts of the country.  Few other colleges and universities can boast of having at least one or two heritage trees like those of Far Eastern University (Akasya) , De La Salle University ( Botong )  , University of Santo Tomas ( Narra) and Metro Manila College ( Duhat ) . UP takes pride of their trees, and the university can claim of having the most number of heritage trees that can be found within their campus premises both in Diliman and Los Baños.

college of agriculture historical marker installed in 2009

According to Dr. Coronel , the UP centennial tree walk was launched in June 18, 2008 in time for the founding of the University. While a historical marker  installed by National Historical Commission of the Philippines  marked the centennial of UP establishment in Los Baños.

rows of santol tree ( Sandoricum koetjape ) with fruits

Some of the streets within the campus were named after specific fruiting trees like Mangga, Pili , Santol.  Explaining  “why” these streets bear the name.

In some parts of the country – streets, place or town that are name after the specific trees, plants that were found there – (or used to be found there?). Examples are Balete Drive , Kamuning ,  Santol, in Quezon City .

Fertility Tree of University of the Philippines- Los Baños

We pass several old buildings, and have seen a couple of  old rain tree more popularly called Akasya  (Samanea saman ) .The tree is a natural spreading natural landmark in the campus  which is contrasted by a tall vertical of the Rizal Centenary Carillion designed by National Artist Leandro V. Locsin .

UPLB version of UP Diliman carillion

Popularly , it serves as an umbrella to conceal dating sweethearts and lovers thus getting its humorous and popular name among locals as the ” Fertility Tree ” .


group picture under the fertility tree

Dr. Coronel and Mrs. Aurora Guanzon admiring the flowers of  Mussaenda Doña Aurora 

This is a tropical shrub or sub-shrub that will grow to 10ft tall in tropical areas, but more likely will reach 1-3ft tall in containers. Clusters (corymbs) of small, tubular flowers with five spreading lobes bloom in summer, however it is the large and colorful, ovate, leaf-like sepals (to 3” long) that provide the real ornamental display. Some individual flowers in each cluster will develop a single enlarged sepal. Elliptic to ovate, bright green leaves (to 6” long). Hybrids typically feature flowers in red and/or yellow with showy sepals of white, bright red or pink.

ordinary form

No other ornamental flowering plant  has gained wide acceptance in the Philippines as that of the mussaendas. Collectively known as Doñas, they are cultivated throughout the country. The mussaenda hybrids are considered a  breakthrough in Philippine horticulture industry . They are also very much sought after in the tropical countries.

This flowering shrub can reach 10 to 12  feet tall

Discovery :

The development of the mussaenda hybrids gained momentum when a mutant of the species Mussaenda philippica variety aurorae was discovered by Professor  Hugh Curran and Mamerto Sulit in  Mt. Makiling, UP Los Baños in 1915. This species was named ‘Doña Aurora’ in 1938 in honor of the wife of the late President Manuel L. Quezon . The late Dr. Dioscoro L. Umali, plant breeder and former Dean of the UP College of Agriculture, initiated the development of the hybrids in 1948 using M. erythrophylla, a species with single red petaloid and ‘Doña Aurora’ as parents. Continuous crossing and back-crossing resulted into the present colorful hybrids of mussaendas that differ in the number of petaloids depending on the parents used. The Mussaenda varieties is also called Kahoy Dalaga .

Source : www.uplb.edu.ph

larger flowers – preferred by plant collectors and landscapers

According to Dr. Coronel, the original Doña Aurora variety is different from the much preferred larger flowers ( due to selection and breeding )  by backyard and commercial farm growers. Now, the once rare flowering shrub is found in many parts of the country , tropical and sub-tropical areas in different parts of the world.

Dr. Coronel planted this tree sapling

Hylocereus undatus

Hylocerus undatus is commonly called Night Blooming Cereus, Queen of the Night, Honululu Queen , Cactus orchid . Cactus and Succulents is said to have come from Mexico and arrived from the late 16th century via port of Acapulco in Mexico .

Some cactus species and varieties had been naturalized and used as food  in  some parts of the country . commonly called  pitahaya , dragon fruit,  prutas na dragon , belle of the night , paniniokapunahoa ( Hawaii ) , papipi pua ( Hawaii )  had been widely cultivated in many parts of the country which was introduced from Central America, Taiwan , Thailand and Vietnam .

Adaptation:

  Hylocereus undatus has several adaptations that allow it survive in dry years including in short droughts.  ideal  rainfall is about 500-1500 millimeters annually, although too much rain, causing soggy soil conditions lead to rotted fruit and may cause fungal infections . However the plant can survive  waterlogged soil, H. undatus can grow in a wide variety of soil conditions including soil with relatively high salinity as well as nutrient poor soil. H. undatus is a hemi-epiphytic cactus; during a portion of its life the plant requires another plant or object to grow on while at another part of its life will be rooted in the soil.

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