Santol (Sandoricum koetjape)

Santol tree. Photo and copyright: Forest and Kim Starr via flickr | https://www.flickr.com/people/starr-environmental/

Description and Characteristics

Santol, also known as cotton fruit, is a hardy, vigorous tree growing up to 50 meters high with a diameter of up to 100 centimeters. Its outside bark is smooth but sometimes flaky with greyish to pale pinkish-brown color while the inner bark is pale brown or red-brown to pink and is exuding a milky latex. Its leaves are arranged spirally usually in a group of three leaflets. Leaves are green elliptic to oblong-ovate in shape, 10 to 25 centimeters long, with pointed tips and round bases. Santol grows numerous flowers about one centimeter long, in greenish or yellowish clusters. It is a hermaphroditic tree meaning it has male and female reproductive organs within the same flower and pollination happens through the help of insects and birds. Santol usually starts growing flowers after five to seven years but propagated trees through cloning may flower as early as three to four years. The tree yields an edible fruit that is popular in parts of the tropics. It is a round fruit that’s four to six centimeters, turns from green to yellowish-orange as it ripens, and has a sweet-sour taste. Inside the fruit are the seeds surrounded by a translucent or pale, acidy, edible pulp of good flavor, with a soft cottony-like texture. Fruit maturation takes about five months and in the Philippines ripe fruits are present from June to October. 

Location and Sources

Santol was only introduced in the Philippines but is now thoroughly settled in the country. It is well-known in the Philippines and is located in almost all provinces. It is planted or semi-cultivated, and abundant in secondary forests. Insects, birds, and bats help in the propagation of this tree as they disperse the seeds after they consume the fruit and once it lands in a favorable environmental condition, the seeds grow effortlessly.  It also grows in river banks and wet tropical lowlands to elevations of 300 meters. Oftentimes, it is planted in lowland forest together with other timber-producing and resin-producing trees for the export trade. Santol can also be grown in backyards and is guaranteed to mature even with minimum management as it flourishes in a wide range of soil types and in both dry and humid areas of Philippine lowlands making it available throughout the country. 

Application and Product Output

In almost all provinces in the Philippines, when the word “santol” is being mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the sweet-sour yellowish-orange fruit that can be eaten as it is or by dipping in salt. Through time, different foodstuffs were invented using santol fruit. It was fused with local dishes such as tinola and sinigang, and in Southern Luzon, the grated rind is cooked in coconut milk (with bits of pork and hot pepper) and served as “sinantolan”. It can also be dried, candied, used in making jams, jellies, and marmalade. Santol marmalades in glass jars are available in many stores and supermarkets in the country and some are being exported from the Philippines to oriental food dealers in the United States. Santol rind can also be processed into vinegar. 

Oftentimes, santol trees are grown for its fruits but what most isn’t aware of is that the tree is also an ideal wood alternative. When properly cured, santol wood becomes easy to work with and polish. Most importantly, it is moderate in density and santol wood is difficult for most types of insects to infest making it highly resistant to wood-borers and ideal for use as protective covering or skeletal framework. It is popularly useful for construction and can be employed for house posts, interior construction, light framing, barrels, cabinetwork, boats, carts, household utensils and carvings. Leading real estate website Lamudi included santol wood as one of the indigenous materials homebuilders can use for greener and sustainable designs especially in a place with a tropical climate like that of the Philippines. 

Besides being planted for its fruits and woods, it is also planted for aesthetic purposes and as a shading in parks and avenues. Furthermore, the seed of Santol is known to have insecticidal properties that’s why some locals sometimes use its extract as insect repellent. In a study conducted by Strinnie Kaylif Turco regarding The Feasibility of Santol Seed (Sandoricum koetjape) as an Insect Repellent, it was concluded that though santol seed have the said property, compared to other commercial insect repellent products, santol seed extract is less effective. But it can be an eco-friendly alternative for getting rid of destructive ants especially that it is organic.

In the field of medicine, santol also offers a variety of health benefits and has been used by locals for different treatments. Indigenous groups (IG) in Ifugao used santol to treat diarrhea while IG in La Union, used the fruit for fever and diarrhea, and they also placed santol bark inside the casket as material for embalming. On the other hand, Ayta people of Porac, Pampanga apply mashed fresh leaves throughout the body as repellent against hematophagous insects. Its bitter roots, bruised with vinegar and water, is used for diarrhea and dysentery. Other applications and properties of Santol including its stem’s anti-cancer property and its wood’s application in perfumery, are still subjects of on-going studies and research.

The criss-crossed pattern showcased on the sofa is made of santol wood which is ideal to use as skeletal frameworks for furniture because it’s easy to work with and is highly resistant to wood borers or bukbok.Photo and copyright: Homify International – Philippines | https://www.homify.ph/ideabooks/5050548/6-popular-indigenous-materials-used-in-the-filipino-home
Costa del Sul kitchen and dining set made out of either recycled or upcycled wood from lauan, apitong, santol,and  yakal . Photo and copyright: realliving | https://www.realliving.com.ph/shopping-services/shopping-guide/shop-of-the-week-costa-del-sul

Production and Sustainable Consumption

For a more practical and eco-friendly approach, the Department of Science and Technology – Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) together with its team who developed the FPRDI Wine Barrel Technology, promotes and innovates wooden barrels made of locally available wood species such as Santol and Mango as an alternative to much expensive oak barrels and other plastics and drum storage containers for storage and fermentation of fruit wines. Usually, santol are being planted together with timber-producing trees if they are to use for commercial purposes and so far, the production and consumption of santol wood is not as in-demand as other trees such as narra and mahogany that’s why the tree is still in abundance throughout the country. Also, given that santol does not require much management in order to propagate, locals are able to grow the species in their respective areas for its fruits and wood. Furthermore, its natural propagation through the help of insects, birds, and bats is a great factor to its sustainability.

The FPRDI Wine Barrel Technology serves as an alternative to expensive Oak Wood barrels. These barrels are made from locally available wood species such as  Santol and Mango. Photo and copyright: Lester Angelo D. Alfonso, DOST-TAPI | TECHTRANS, 
https://techtrans.gov.ph/how-we-serve/news-and-updates/dost-fprdi-internship-team-scouts-fprdi-wine-barrel-technology

Supported by the Connections Through Culture programme of the British Council, our Materials Library Expansion Project is the first collaboration between UNESCO Creative Cities of Design #Cebu and #Dundee#MATIC#CreativeDundee#BritishCouncilPh#BritishCouncilCTC

Works Cited

“DOST-FPRDI Internship Team Scouts FPRDI Wine Barrel Technology Applications”. TECHTRANS, https://techtrans.gov.ph/how-we-serve/news-and-updates/dost-fprdi-internship-team-scouts-fprdi-wine-barrel-technology. Accessed 22 February 2021.

“Health benefits of Santol Fruit”. HealthBenefitsTimes.com, https://www.healthbenefitstimes.com/santol-fruit/nggallery/image/11810. Accessed 22 February 2021.

“Production Guide For Santol”. http://bpi.da.gov.ph/bpi/images/Production_guide/pdf/Production%20Guide%20for%20Santol.pdf. Accessed 22 February 2021.

“Sandoricum koetjape”. Useful Tropical Plants Database, http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Sandoricum+koetjape. Accessed 22 February 2021.

“Use of Indigenous Filipino Materials and Methods in Building Green Homes”. BUENSALIDO+ARCHITECTS, Oct. 2015, https://www.buensalidoarchitects.com/2015/10/use-of-indigenous-filipino-materials-and-methods-in-building-green-homes/. Accessed 22 February 2021.

Orwa et al. “Sandoricum koetjape”. Agroforestry Database 4.0, http://apps.worldagroforestry.org/treedb/AFTPDFS/Sandoricum_koetjape.PDF. Accessed 22 February 2021.

Stuart, Godofredo Jr. “Santol”. StuartXchange, http://www.stuartxchange.org/Santol.html. Accessed 22 February 2021.
Turco, Strinnie Kaylif. “THE FEASIBILITY OF SANTOL SEED (Sandoricum koetjape) as a Insect Repellent”. Prezi, Sep. 2014, https://prezi.com/8itwrfwyqjd3/the-feasibility-of-santol-seed-sandoricum-koetjape-as-a-in/. Accessed 22 February 2021.

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