Sunday, July 19

Alukon, white-eyes and dinengdeng

Ilocanos might be very familiar with the himbabao tree (Brousonnetia luzonica) whose flowers they use in a variety of vegetable dishes, like the yummy dinengdeng.

While I love the diluted saltiness (and the obvious healthy attributes of a leafy viand) of dinengdeng, it was only recently that I became familiar with this native tree.

On one birding outing I found myself seeking refuge from the hot summer sun under one such tree, and I was delighted to see a pair of lowland white-eyes moving around the canopy, ignoring the birder sheltered in the shade beneath them.

One of a pair of  lowland white-eyes on a himbabao tree.

Inspecting each and every leaf.

Careful scrutiny leads to success - is that some sort of insect pupa?

I then noticed that the tree was in full flower, with long, worm-like flowers (often described as spike-like inflorescence) dripping in profusion from its branches.  

The long pendulous flowers of the himababao or alukon
One of my birding companions, said that the Ilocanos called this alukon, and that it was actually the male of the species (female trees were distinct from males - in botanical terms, the himbabao is dioecious, and had flowers which looked different). During flowering season, they would actually cut down the branches of the tree to more easily harvest the flowers which can be cooked for personal consumption or sold in the market.

Sure enough, I saw alukon flowers being sold in the market, even back in Metro Manila!

Is this a good bird attracting tree then?  From my short observation, I suppose it could be. A quick internet search revealed it is recommended as a pioneer species for reforestation and for urban greening.  It is used in agroforestry as an intercrop, the wood for paper pulp, furniture and dugout canoes. Although not outstanding in its appearance, it can be planted in edible gardens.

Later in the day I also saw that the ubiquitous backyard bird which is the yellow-vented bubul also came to the tree to regularly inspect the leaves and flowers.

A bulbul grabbing onto one of the alukon flowers.

So, food for humans, food for birds and a native tree.  I guess you can't go wrong with that?


  1. There's an alukon tree in the compound where I work. I wanted to pick some flowers but the tree is soooo high!

    1. That's probably why they usually cut down the branches - to harvest the flowers! Instant pruning for the tree!