Pili (Canarium ovatum Engl). is an indigenous nut tree in the Bicol Region and known for its pili confectioneries which are sold in different product forms and in various packaging containers.

The tree is about 20 meters tall and 50 cm. in trunk diameter or more with age. It is dioecious, the male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. The leaves are large compound and arranged alternately. The leaves are thick, smooth green to dark green with prominent veination. Female flowers are bigger than the male flower. The fruit is oblong. It consist of a thin, shiny, purplish black skin, a fleshy thick, fibrous pulp and a thick, hard shell. Inside the shell is the edible white kernel. The peak season of harvest for pili is May and ends in September. Fruits are harvested when fully mature. (Source: Department of Agricutlure, Date accessed 25 March 2014)

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  • Shell
  • Pulp
  • Leaves
  • Trunks/ Branches

Cultural Management


Climatic and Soil Requirements

Pili thrive best in areas where rainfall is almost evenly distributed throughout the year and in sandy loam soil rich in organic matter and in volcanic soils. Being a hardy tree, however it can also grow in marginal lands. It can grow in steep hillsides and even under coconuts.

Propagation Practices

There are two ways of propagating pili seedlings, sexually or asexually such as marcotting, grafting and budding. Pili is generally propagated by seeds. It is a delicious tree, meaning that the male and female flowers are not present in the same tree. The female productive trees are only known at fruit-bearing age and the seeds from the bearing trees will not necessarily be totally female.

Seed propagation is being discouraged for the following reasons:

  • Being a dioeciously specie, 50% of the resulting trees would turn out to be male
  • The long juvenile period of the seedling trees and high degree of variability in many horticultural characters among seedling trees;
  • Pili seeds take an average of 57 days to germinate, about 70 days after sowing the seedling has a pair of mature leaves
  • Average seedling trees start fruiting 5 - 6 years after seed germination.

Asexual propagation on the other hand is preferred because it ensures uniformity and true-to-type characters of the selection. It is early maturing 2-4 years. This method also assures uniform plant structure to facilitate cultural management operations. It also enables planting of more productive trees per hectare. Cleft grafting and inarching are recommended for propagating pili asexually. Success ranges from 50-85% depending o the physiological state of mother trees and propagators skill. Grafting operation is usually done in November to February Cleft grafting technique is now proven successful, relatively easy and is gaining popularity for large-scale commercial propagation.

Land Preparation

In backyard planting, farmers dig holes just wide enough to give ample room for seedling and to prevent trapping water, especially when soil is heavily textured. In utilizing second-growth forests (less the stumps and existing trees), holes are aligned in all directions as mush as possible. If open lands previously utilized for other crops are to be used for planting pili, deep plowing is done to expose and loosen the soil followed by several harrowing until the desired tilth is attained.
For newly opened areas, the following standard land preparation procedures are recommended:
Underbrush tall shrubs and grasses and remove big stumps and fallen trees to facilitate plowing, harrowing. Fallen trees serve as alternate host of insect pest and diseases.
Plow once and then harrow once or twice depending on the prevalence of weeds. Remove stumps of big trees or shrubs, especially if they obstruct in the laying out of the area.
Row clear if the pili orchard is to be established under coconut in addition to plowing and harrowing.

Crop Establishment

Planting system and distance of planting

Plant seedlings when the diameter has attained the size of a pencil. Plant at least two seedlings 30 to 40 cm apart per hill. Some male trees are needed as sources of pollen for pollination. Grafted plants/seedlings are planted in the field as soon as the first flush is matured. Hardening of seedlings require at least three-to-six month period prior to planting

Care and Maintenance (Source: The Philippine Recommends for Pili, PCARRD Philippines Recommend Series No. 81, 1997)

Periodic underbrushing and ring weeding must be done whenever necessary. Usually these are done once every quarter in areas with frequent occurrence of rain. The size of cleaning around the tree should be as wide as the spread of the crown.

Training/Pruning (Source: The Philippine Recommends for Pili, PCARRD Philippines Recommend Series No. 81, 1997)

For orchards which used seedlings, it is advisable to top cut the plant 1-2 years after planting to induce the growth of lateral branches. Top-cut trees usually grow low and more bushy and afford easy harvesting. Orchards with asexually propagated plants do not need to be top cut. Only occasional pruning of damaged branches should be done. After cutting or pruning, paint the wound to protect it from being invaded by wood-boring insects. It will also prevent the entrance of unnecessary moisture.

Intercropping (Source: The Philippine Recommends for Pili, PCARRD Philippines Recommend Series No. 81, 1997)

Intercropping is practiced while the pili trees are not yet productive. Small fruit crops that are adapted in the area are planted such as banana, papaya, pineapple or annual field and vegetable crops. These crops will provide income that can be used to maintain the area, while the pili trees are still unproductive. Furthermore, cash crops require cultivation such that clean culture of the orchard is ensured. Residual effect of the fertilizer applied to the cash crop will also benefit the pili trees. Intercropping, however, should be stopped when the canopy of the trees are already close to each other that it might interfere with orchard operations.

Although there is no study yet on pili-based cropping system, the survey of existing plantation shows that pili trees are compatible with a wide variety of plants. Hence, intercropping pili trees with pineapple or other fruit trees will be beneficial provided that sufficient amount of sunlight could penetrate of both the pili and the intercrop.

Nutrient Management

Most of the trees in Bicol are allowed to grow untended. Agriculturists, however, say that if the trees are given proper care and adequate fertilizer, faster growth and higher yields will be realized. Apply about 100 to 150 grams of nitrogen fertilizer per hill at least twice a year after ring weeding within the first three years after planting, and apply complete fertilizer (14-14-14) from the fourth year onward

Pest Management

The most common pests are the twig borers (Niphonclea albata News) and (Niphonoclea capito Pasc.) and gray mealy bugs (Ferrisia virgata CK 11.). "Tiyangaw" a rice pest, was also observed. Borers hatch inside a stem eat anf grow there as caterpillars. The presence of borers is indicated by the sudden wilting of plant tops. Pest attack can be controlled by spraying with insecticide. Occurrence of pest attack and diseases is negligible so as to cause concern.

Harvest Management

Harvesting is usually done during the months of May to October. The maturity index for pili nut is the full purplish black pulp of the whole nut. Pili fruits in cluster do not mature at the same time. Therefore, harvest only the ripened fruits. Harvesting matured fruits is done by priming or picking only the ripe fruits. A long pole, a cutter or knife and a basket may be used. Harvested fruits are placed in baskets or sacks. If the pulp of the fruit is intended to be sold for food purposes, harvesting is done late in the afternoon or early in the morning and placed in a well aerated container to prevent softening of the pulp.

To facilitate the gathering or collection and for high recovery of fallen fruits, the following strategy can be done.

Clean the area corresponding to the canopy of the tree
Spread a straw mat or net around the tree

Postharvest Management (Source: The Philippine Recommends for Pili, PCARRD Philippines Recommend Series No. 81, 1997)

Pulp Removal - Four methods of depulping are practiced.

Hot Water Treatment (HWT)- Heat the water in a vat until 60°-70°C. Put off the fire. Place fruits in the vat and stir constantly to keep its temperature uniform. Leave fruits for about 15-30 minutes to soften the pulp. Drain water. Cool fruits and peel manually.

Pounding using a wooden mallet- The fruit is pounded until the pulp is separated from the shell. This is the simplest and most economical since the depulped nuts are no longer washed and are directly dried under the sun.

Retting method- This is used in a commercial scale, where the fruits are soaked in tap water from 1-2 days until the pulp softens.

Fermentation method- Fruits are kept is sacks or polyethylene bag and left from 1-2 days under shade to soften pulp. The pulp softens because of its moisture and higher temperature inside the sack.

Washing and Drying- After depulping, wash the nuts in clean water to remove the slimy material adhering to the shell. During this process, discard all nuts that float. Floaters are either unfilled or devoid of kernel.

After washing, nuts are dried under full sun for 2-3 days sufficient enough for pili nuts to be stored for at least a year. Nuts should not be dried for more than three days to avoid shriveling of kernels. During cloudy days, nuts may be dried longer for about 4-5 days.

Storage- Pili nuts can be stored either shelled or unshelled. Most processors place the nuts in clean sacks which have a capacity of about 50kg. Stack sacks in pallets and store in a well-aerated room. Sacks should not be in contact with the walls of the storage house to prevent contact with any moisture. A regular inspection prevents rat and insect infestation.

Indigenous materials such as cardboard boxes are more durable and result in lowest number of rancid and shriveled kernels after a year of storage.

Shelling- Kernel is extracted manually. Cut the shell crosswise at the middle portion with the use of a sharp bolo. After cutting the shell in two, remove the kernel carefully and place in a clean collection box or plastic basin. Great care and skill are required and the cutting stroke should be controlled to prevent cutting through the kernels.

Seed Coat Removal- The brown seed coat or testa sticks tightly to the kernel. To peel, blanch the kernels with the boiling water for about three minutes and cool for easy removal of testa. Squeeze the kernels carefully to slip off the testa. The clean kernels are air-dried and packed in plastic bags prior to processing into various food preparation.

Technology Option

Refrigeration to hasten germination of pili seeds

Refrigeration will hasten the rate of germination of pili seeds. This was found out by researchers W. C. Santelices and E. T. Tribiana of Catanduanes State College in Virac, Catanduanes.

Their study on the "Effect of Temperature on the Germination and Growth of Pili Seeds" showed that refrigeration of pili seeds 10 degrees centigrade within 24 hours will give the greatest number and fastest rate of germination.

Results of the study also indicated that different temperatures will have a corresponding effect on the growth of pili seeds in terms of plant height, length and width of leaf blade. It was found out that pili seeds soaked in tap water at 30 degrees centigrade within 24 hours had the best growth performance in terms of length and width of leaf blade.

Source: Bureau of Agricultural Research, Date accessed 26 March 2014