By Zac B. Sarian
Many visitors to our farm in Teresa, Rizal, love to pose and take their picture with our Variegated Chico. They are fascinated, especially with the one that is planted in a big rubberized container which is very low-growing with a lot of branches full of immature fruits. This variety is different from the ordinary all-green chico because its leaves are variegated – a combination of green and yellow, sometimes with white.
In horticulture, there are plant collectors who are willing to pay a high price for variegated plants that are considered rare. Some examples are variegated orange, variegated calamansi, and variegated tiessa that won a top prize at the Kadayawan garden show a couple of years ago. Expensive variegated ornamentals include several foliage anthuriums, Tupidanthus, palms, cycads, ferns and more.
The Variegated Chico is not only prized for its attractive leaves, it is also a favorite because it is a very prolific bearer. Although the fruits are smaller than most chico varieties, they are fine-textured and very sweet. As a fruit tree in a container, it could easily be a conversation piece if grown in the home garden. The variegated Chico, like the ordinary varieties, can be grown in the ground. It will develop into a medium-size tree that will also bear a lot of fruits
We first saw the Variegated Chico in the store of the late Bobby Mesina at the Magallanes business center in Makati in the mid-80s. His father, Capt. John Mesina, a pilot, must have brought it to the country from Bangkok where there are many collectors of unusual plants.
We remember that small plants were priced as much as P500 which at that time was a big amount. There were very few plants available then because Bobby Mesina propagated it by means of marcotting which is a very slow process. After we acquired our own mother plant, we found that the Variegated Chico could be propagated much faster by means of grafting. We were able to propagated a lot of grafted plants which were bought by aficionados and plant traders. Just the same, the planting materials remain higher-priced to this day than the ordinary varieties.
If you want to produce large planting material right away, resort to what they call inarching or approach grafting. In this technique, a big rootstock, say half inch ln diameter, is used for inarching with a scion of the same stem size. Probably in two or three months, inarching would be completed and now you have a big planting material. Establish it well and take good care of it. The inarched tree could bear fruit immediately.
One way to maximize income from the Variegated Chico is to grow them into bigger size in rubberized containers or some other sturdy containers. One really big plant with a lot of fruits in Davao City during a previous Kadayawan garden show was being offered at P50,000. We don’t know, however, if somebody bought it. What we learned was that the wife of a government official in Davao paid P10,000 for a 4-foot tree with many fruits.
While the Variegated Chico was introduced in the Philippines more than 30 years ago, still many people are not aware that there is such a chico variety. That is why when they see one that is profusely fruiting, they love to take their picture with it.