Nephelium lappaceum


Common Names 

English: rambutan 

Spanish: rambután 

French: ramboutan, litchi chevelu 

German: rambutan

Philippines: rambutan, usan

Cambodia: saaw maaw, ser mon

Thailand: ngoh, phruan

Vietnam: chôm chôm, vai thiêù


Origin and Distribution 

The rambutan is originally from Malaysia and Indonesia, but is now cultivated throughout the tropics. Commercial production is primarily concentrated in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Australia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Honduras and Hawaii.


Botanical Synonyms 

Nephelium glabrum, N. chryseum and N. sufferrugineum.



Large tree, to 80 feet (24 m) in the wild, but usually not more than 45 feet (14 m) in cultivation. Alternate, compound leaves about 8-12 inches (20-31 cm) in length, leaflets dull green. The flowers are small and without petals, perfect but functionally staminate or pistillate, in axillary or terminal panicles. Fruits round to ovoid, 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) long, with a red, orange or yellow peel covered with hairlike spinterns. The pulp is white, translucent, aromatic and sweet, and surrounds a seed which resembles an almond.


'R-9' rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) fruit


Propagation and Culture

Rambutan may be propagated by seed, grafting or air layers. The seed loses viability quickly, and must not be allowed to dry out before planting. Germination occurs in 10-14 days. Young trees benefit from approximately 50% shade, but can take full sun once they are established in the field. Grafting is the most common method of propagation. Approach grafting and patch budding are both used successfully.

The rambutan is adapted to the wet, humid tropics, and grows well in acid, well drained soils with a high organic matter content from sea level to about 1,800 feet (550 m) elevation. The rainfall should be fairly well distributed throughout the year, although a short dry season is tolerated and may induce flowering. Temperatures below 41F (5C) can cause defoliation and death of trees.

Rambutans respond well to high soil fertility, and should be fertilized regularly during the growing season. Grafted trees begin to produce at 3-4 years of age, and a mature tree can produce over 200 pounds (91 kg) of fruit per year. In the Northern Hemisphere, flowering occurs principally between February and April, with a second flowering sometimes occurring in August and September. Fruit matures from July to October, and from November through January for the second harvest.

Cultivars and Related Species

There are more than 200 cultivars of rambutan in Southeast Asia. Some of the more common varieties in Hawaii and Puerto Rico are the following:

‘R3’ (‘Gula Batu’) - From Malaysia. The fruit is red, round and of a medium size.

‘R134’ - From Malaysia. The fruit is red, round and of a medium size.

‘R156’ (‘Muar Gadang’) - From Malaysia. The fruit is large, round and yellow.

‘R162’ (‘Daun Hijau’) - From Malaysia. The fruit is large, sweet and elongated, with a red orange peel.

‘R167’ (‘Chai Tow Cheng’) - From Malaysia. The fruit is large, sweet and elongated, with a red peel.

‘Binjai’ - From Indonesia. Large, sweet, elongated fruit with firm pulp and a red peel.

‘Jitlee’ - From Singapore. A medium sized fruit with a red peel. It has a long postharvest life.

‘Rongrien’ - From Thailand. The fruit is large and sweet, with a red peel and green spinterns.

There are over 30 species of Nephelium with edible fruits. Other species include pulasan (N. ramboutan-ake), korlan (N. hypoleucum), giant rambutan (N. cuspidatum), sungkit (N. maingayi) and arut (N. xerospermoides).



Rambutan fruit is consumed fresh, as well as canned and processed into jams.       


Nutritional composition per 100 g rambutan fruit      

Carbohydrate 14-14.5 g
Fat  0.1 g
Protein  0.7-0.9 g
Calcium  22 mg
Phosphorous  30 mg
Potassium 140 mg
Iron  2.5 mg
Niacin  0.01-0.1 mg
Vitamin C   31-38.6 mg

A root extract is used to treat fever, and a bark extract for tongue diseases. A poultice of crushed leaves is placed on the head to relieve headache.


More information on rambutan 



From Julia Morton’s Fruits of Warm Climates.



An excellent article by Dr. Francis Zee of USDA, Hilo, Hawaii.



Information on rambutan from Malaysia, including cultivar descriptions.


Rambutan Grafting

Results of some grafting experiments done by Bryan Brunner at Montoso Gardens.





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