The geographic distribution of pili trees traces its origin in volcanic landscapes. Pili nut of the Canarium ovatum species according to the Philippine’s foremost fruit scientist Roberto E Coronel, most probably originated from the mountain of Bulusan, an active volcano in the southernmost part of the island of Luzon. Though there are around 75 Canarium species from around the world, the ovatum kind is mostly confined within this geographic range–the mountain of Bulusan as center spreading out to the entire Bicol region.
The only exact Pili species (Canarium ovatum) existing outside the Philippines are the Pili trees growing in the island of Hawaii, a known volcanic region. It is not also a mere coincidence that the volcano* is very near the Pacific Ocean. In terms of Pili tree population and diversity, however, Mount Bulusan is the keeper of its genetic pool. Hawaii has only one pili cultivar. Bicol has countless.
One pili nut confectionery ad touted the pili nut as an extreme fruit of nature highlighting its origin as coming from a volcano. This is most probably a fact rather than an ad. See also http://www.sjorganics.com/all-volcanic-pili-nuts/#.
Pili nut according to Francis T. Zee of the USDA ARS (United States Department of Agriculture – Agriculture Research Service) is “superior than almond” with this detailed description– “and when roasted, its mild, nutty flavor and tender-crispy texture is superior to that of the almond.”
*Note: I live literally in the fringes of Mount Bulusan in the town center of Bulusan, a Pacific Ocean coastal town rimmed with coral reefs less than 10 km from the center of Bulusan Volcano.
Further reading : http://pamughaton.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/hali-didto/
Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines