Family • Burseraceae - Canarium ovatum Engl.

Scientific names

Canarium ovatum Engl.
Canarium pachyphyllum Perk.
Canarium melioides Elm.

Common names

Pili (Tag.)
Oily pili (Engl.)
Philippine nut (Engl.)
Pilinut (Engl.)
Galip nut (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

FRENCH : Nangai (Vanuatu).
GERMAN : Pilinuß, Pilinußbaum.
MALAY : Kanari.
SPANISH : Arbol de la nuez pili, Nuez pili (Mansf).

Gen info
Canarium ovatum belongs to the family Burseraceae with 75 known genera and about 550 species. In the Philippines the family is represented by five genera, namely Canarium, Dacryodes, Garuga, Protium and Santiria.


Of the canarium species, there are 75 known and nine of which are found in the Philippines, with at least four of economic importance: C. ovatum (Pili), C. indicum, C. album, and C. luzonicum (Sahing,Manila elemi).

A municipality in the province of Camarines Sur is named Pili, after the popular nut-producing tree.

Pili is an erect and spreading tree, deciduous, predominantly dioecious, medium-sized to large, reaching up to 30 meters or more, with trunk diameters of 50 centimeters or more. Leaves have deltoid to lingulate stipules, spirally arranged, imparipinnate, about 40 centimeters long. Leaflets are ovate to elliptic, 4 to 24 centimeters long and 2 to 12 centimeters wide, stiff-coriaceous, entire, base oblique, rounded to subcordate, apex acuminate with 8 to 12 pairs of nerves. Flowers are borne on cymose inflorescences at the leaf axils of young shoots. The fruit or nut, botanically a drupe, ovoid to ellipsoid, 4 to 7 centimeters long, 2.3 to 3.8 centimeters wide. Pulp has a thin skin, smooth and shiny, turning from light green to black when ripened. Shell is carpellary, elongated and trigonous, nearly triangular in transverse sections, with a basal pointed end, and a blunt and obtuse apical end, dirty brown outside, shiny and glabrous inside. Inside the shell is the functional locule containing the mature seed.

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Pili Nut / Roberto E. Coronel

(2) Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil / Dr Luis Razon /
DLSU Research Abstracts

(3) Characterization of the proteins of Pili nut (Canarium ovatum, Engl.) / Massimo r Marcone et al / Plant Foods for Human Nutrition (Formerly Qualitas Plantarum) • Volume 57, Number 2 / March, 2002
/ DOI 10.1023/A:1015266423254

(5) Antimutagenic potential and phytochemical analysis of selected Philippine plants / Christine L Chichloco-Hernandez, Noemi Pagulgan / Pharmacognosy Magazine, 2009, Vol 5, No. 20, Pp 388-393

(6) Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil / Dr. Luis Razon / De La Salle University

(7) Sorting Canarium names / Authorised by Prof. Snow Barlow / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(8) Melanogenesis inhibitory activity of sesquiterpenes from Canarium ovatum resin in mouse B16 melanoma cells. / Kikuchi T, Watanabe K, Tochigi Y, Yamamoto A, Fukatsu M, Ezaki Y, Tanaka R, Akihisa T.

(9) Characterization of pili nut (Canarium ovatum) oil: Fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition and physicochemical properties / Yukio Kakuda, Firouz Jahaniaval, Massimo F. Marcone, Lourdes Montevirgen, Quintin Montevirgen, Joselyn Umali / Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 2000, Volume 77, Issue 9, pp 991-997


– Grown in many areas of the Old World as ornamental, in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
– Only the Philippines processes the pili nuts commercially. Its center of diversity is the Bicol region where it is the priority crop. The trees have spread to the provinces of Catanduanes, Masbate and the southern Quezon area.
– Excellent border and shade tree.


– Pili pulp, 64% of the fruit by weight, contains 73% moisture. On dry weight, 8% protein, 33.6% fat, 3.4% crude fiber, 9.2 % ash, 45*% carbohydrate. Pulp oil, greenish yellow in color, is 56.7% oleicglycerides, 13.5% linoleic glycerides and 29.3% saturated fatty acids. The kernel, which weighs 0.74-5.13 g and which comprises 4.4-16.6% of the whole fruit by weight, contains: 35.6-51.4% moisture, 11.5-15.7% protein, 69.2-76.6% fats and 2.59-4.32% carbohydrates. Its mineral and vitamin contents (per 100 g): 119 mg calcium, 508 mg phosphorus, 2.6 mg iron, 489 mg potassium, 45 IU vitamin A, 0.95 mg thiamine, 0.12 mg riboflavin, 0.4 mg niacin and traces of vitamin C (Intengan et al. 1968). Kernel oil is composed of oleic glycerides, 58.6% and palmitic acids, 38.2%; yellow with an agreeable odor and taste, suitable for culinary purposes and keeps perfectly for as long as 6 months (West and Balce 1923).
– Bark yields 7.8% tannin, providing a satisfactory leather with a yellowish tan, with firm texture and good grain.


Parts used and preparation
Seed kernel.
Oleoresin (mixture of oil and resin)

– Young shoots are edible, used for cooking and making green salads.
– Pili nut kernel is edible, crispy and delicious.
– Nut in candied in various forms: sugar-glazed, honeyed.
– Pili “turron” is made from a mixture of ground pili kernel, sweet potato and sugar, seasoned with sesame and vanilla, mixed and cooked to desired consistency, cooked, and cut.
– Pili pudding is made from mashed sweet potato, ground pili kernel, condensed milk, butter, sugar and eggs, vanilla seasoning, then baked to a light brown color.
– Kernel seeds are roasted and eaten as nuts. Roasted and sugar-coated, usee as ingredient to cakes, puddings and creams, or preserved in syrup. Roasted kernel sometimes used in chocolate-making.
– Green pulp can be pickled, best after the shell has hardened but before the pulp becomes too fibrous.
– Boiled ripe pulp is edible, best with salt, pepper and fish sauce.
– In Sorsogon, the nut concoction is called “nilanta”—boiled in hot water to soften, seasoned with soy sauce, bagoong, and sili.
– Sahing (oleoresin) is used in the Philippines as stimulant, rubefacient, and antirheumatic. Elsewhere, as ointment, the oleoresin is applied to indolent ulcers.


– For laxative effect, seed kernel is eaten as tolerated.
– Emulsion from crushed kernels has been used as substitute for infant’s milk.
– Used for making medicinal ointments.

– Its resistance to strong winds provides windbreak for other crops.
– Resin-rich wood makes it excellent firewood.
– Wood used for house framing, musical instruments and box-making.
– Oil from the pulp has been used for manufacture of soap and other products.
– The hard stony shell makes for excellent fuel and used as growing medium for orchids and anthuriums. (Coronel 1983)
– Manila elemi: Exported in considerable quantities. Used in the preparation of medicinal ointments; also, in the manufacture of varnish.

Study Findings
• Biodiesel: Preliminary Evaluation of Biodiesel from Canarium ovatum (Pili) Pulp Oil and Psophocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged bean) Seed Oil – The resulting FAME (fatty acid methyl ester) was found to comply with biodiesel standards and presents a potential source and alternative to explore for commercial exploitation.
• Protein: Physiochemical characterization showed that the salt-soluble globulin was the main storage protein within the pili kernel, possessing physiochemical properties similar to other oil seed globulins.
• Antimutagenic Potential: Philippine plants were studied for their ability to inhibit chromosomal damage induced by tetracycline in the in vivo micronucleus test. The methanolic extract of Canarium ovatum showed the most promising activity by reducing the number of micronucleated polychromatic erythrocytes by >50%. Study established its antimutagenic activity and identified F4B, the most active sub-fraction in the hexane portion. The F4B may be valuable in cancer chemoprevention.
• Biodiesel (FAME) Potential: Preliminary studies conducted on biodiesel derived from two novel sources of oil – the fruit pulp of Canarium ovatum (pili) and the seed of Psophocarpus tetradonolobus (winged bean) showed that acceptable FAME (fatty acid methyl esters) may be obtained from these two new potential sources of feedstocks.
• Melanogenesis Inhibitory Activity / Skin Whitening: Study yielded four known sesquiterpene alcohols, ten triterpene alcohols, and four triterpene acids from a methanol extract of Canarium ovatum.On evaluation on melanogenesis in B16 melanoma cells induced with α-MSH, compounds 1 and 2 exhibited concentration-dependent melanogenesis inhibitory activity. Results suggest a potential use for skin whitening agents.
• Fatty Acid and Triacylglycerol Composition: Analysis of fatty acid and triacylglycerol composition of pili nut oil and fractions was done by gas and liquid chromatography. Oil by solvent extraction was low in polyunsaturated fatty acids and high in saturates. Results show the HM (high melting) fraction may have applications as cocoa butter substitute in confectionery products.
• Characterization of Proteins of Pili Nut: Analysis of storage proteins of the pili nut showed the aqueous soluble globulin was the main storage protein within the kernel, existing in an 11S-like form, and possessing many similar physiochemical properties to those of other 11S oilseed globulins.

Small or large scale commercial production.