By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao

Japan is famous among tourists for a lot of things: their sights and features such as Mount Fuji and their bullet train, the vast selection of products they offer, and their famous cherry blossom or sakura

Sakura trees are characterized by the small, delicate pink flowers that bloom during the spring, thus signifying the start of the season in the country. 

Filipinos who want to see the breathtaking sight, however, need not book a plane ticket to Japan just to see cherry blossoms since there’s a local counterpart to famous blooms. 

The Palawan Cherry (Cassia x Palawan Cherry), locally known as balayong, is the Philippines’ very own cherry blossom tree that also produces light pink flowers similar to the ones in Japan. 

It is a small to medium-sized tree that can grow to a height of 15 meters or taller. The timber of the Palawan Cherry was widely used in the Spanish colonial period as a material for building furniture because it’s easy to work with and is similar to narra, acacia, and ipil. 

Nowadays, the Palawan Cherry is being grown as an ornamental plant. 

Balayong is widely distributed in the province of Palawan where the locals hold a Balayong Festival to celebrate its bloom between March and April. Although believed to be native to Palawan, the balayong can also be grown in urban conditions. 

In Manila, some balayong trees are planted on the Malacañang Palace grounds facing the Pasig River. Several trees are also planted within the area of the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation in Quezon City. 

Cultivating the Palawan Cherry

The Palawan Cherry is primarily propagated through seeds. In growing the trees, first sow the seeds in trays or a seed bed, allowing it to germinate three to four days after planting. To enhance germination, seeds can be pretreated with concentrated sulfuric acid for 15 minutes then wash in running water to remove traces of acid. 

After two weeks of germination, prick the germinants and transplant the seedlings in plastic bags with a measurement of three by three by seven. Seedlings should then be cultivated in a nursery, spaced four to six feet apart, and watered every other day. 

Balayong are usually low maintenance, but the young plants require extra phosphorus to encourage good root development. Soil quality can be normal to moist and application of nitrogenous fertilizers can enhance its growth. 

Once seedlings grow to be a foot or so, they can be replanted in a field or garden where they can be fully exposed to sunlight.

The information about balayong was published by the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.