27 December 2011
Practically everyone I know has some childhood recollection or even a favorite story about Arátiles (Muntingia calabura, also known as Dátiles or Sarésa, from the Spanish Ceréza [cherry]). Every visitor who comes and sees it waxes romantic and chuckles at some memory of simpler days from yore, with dreamy eyes and a silly smile and soon, they'll be pulling the end-branches to pick the reddest fruits and nibble on them straight from the tree!
Though it sounds omnipresent in Philippine culture and heritage, it is not a local tree but instead, was transplanted from the Americas via the Galleon Trade (thus explaining the Hispanic-sounding local names). It grows very fast; in my experience, a seedling with enough sunlight grew tall and started fruiting in just around twelve to fourteen months. Though the leaves are light-colored and the crown does not look dense, it is an excellent shade tree especially for young gardens where your hardwoods and other fruit-bearing trees will take ages to cover half-sun ornamentals.
The fruits are a bird's favorite, though the seeds which they drop can sometimes be a nuisance once it starts germinating where you don't want them to.