Sunday, May 22, 2016

Arius - Batanes' Signature Plant

Arius Pastry - Batanes Delight
Dr Abe V Rotor

Living with Nature - School on Blog []
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday []

Here is a classical example of a "wild food plant" rediscovered for its many uses.
1. Pastries and other bakery products
2. Jam, jelly, "raisin"
3. Fruit wine, natural vinegar
4. Fruit juice, tea
5. Health food - rich in tannin, flavonoid, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, calories and vitamins
6. Enhancement of active long life.
7. Reforestation, watershed, windbreak, ornamental
8. Pesticide - volatile oil is a safe insect repellent.
9. Natural Christmas tree - saves cutting of trees during the Season.
10. Living fossil - helps trace evolution and phylogeny of living things. Gymnosperms are much older than angiosperms, they were the dominant plants during the time of the dinosaur (Mesozoic Period)) while the angiosperms dominated the Cenozoic Period onward to the present.

Pastry made from the mature berries of Arius 
Pastry is the name given to various kinds of baked products made from ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder, and eggs. Small tarts and other sweet baked products are called "pastries"

Arius (Podocarpus costalis) a relative of the pine and cypress is a gymnosperm, which is distinct from angiosperms or seed-bearing plants. Many gymnosperms like the redwood, bristle pine and our own Baguio pine are among the longest living organisms on earth. Although it may not live for one thousand to three thousand years like the Sequoia and Bristle Pine, Arius for one has a lifespan of 100 to 300 years for which it earned its name "century plant" in its native habitat - Formosa, now Taiwan and Batanes. To the Ivatans, it is Batanes Pine. 

One of the treasured plants at the former EcoSanctuary of St Paul University QC was a pair of Arius trees until tall buildings took over the garden.  Dr Sel Cabigan and I used to visit the plants when we were professors in the university.  Indeed the Arius is a very curious plant. 

First, it is unsuspecting as a gymnosperm. It does not have needle leaves like the pine. It produces male and female flowers, the female becoming the "berry" which ripens into dark purple, its seeds exposed at the bottom like the cashew (kasoy). 

Second, it is an evergreen.  The tree remains green throughout the year. It does not lose its leaves simultaneously or at a given time of the year, unlike the deciduous narra, talisay, and and many seed-bearing trees. Being an evergreen it protects the area from brush fire.  It is efficient as watershed cover to catch and store water, while protecting the soil from erosion and siltation. 

Third, it is photoperiodic.  It responding to specific day length that dictates certain blooming period, and maturing of the fruits or berries. It is climate specific.  Though it may grow vegetatively in the lowland, and at lower latitude, it does not produce cones - and these may not form into "berries" at all.  In Batanes and Taiwan the Arius undergoes the normal cycle, being indigenous in these places. 

Fourth, its essential oil is an insect repellant, as ointment, smudge (katol), or simply by applying fresh leaves where insects abound like in poultry houses, kitchen cabinet, and tents. Try crushed leaves mixed with water for watering garden plants.     


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