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Nephelium lappaceum var. lappaceum


Nephelium lappaceum L. var. lappaceum

Family Name: Sapindaceae
Common Name: Rambutan, Hairy Lychee, 红毛丹

Nephelium lappaceum var. lappaceum or "Rambutan" is a tropical tree that is beloved for its sweet, hairy-looking, red or yellow skinned fruit. Its common name comes from the Malay word "rambut" which means hair, alluding to the hairy appearance of the fruit. Closely related to longan and lychee, this tree bears fruit seasonally and in abundance after a prolonged dry period, usually between June to August. The edible aril is white, sweet, juicy and fleshy, surrounding a single large 'woody' seed.


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Infraspecific Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names
Species Summary

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Tree
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Rounded
Maximum Height 27 m


Native Distribution Tropical Asia
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Primary Rainforest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Cryptogenic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree which can reach up to 27 m tall.
Foliage Leaves are compound, paripinnate and spirally arranged. The leaf stalk (petiole) is 1.5 – 12 cm long. Each leaf comprises of 1 – 5 (– 8) leaflets. They are elliptic (5 – 22 cm long and 2.5 – 10.5 cm wide) and papery texture (papyraceous). The leaflet base is obtuse to rounded while leaflet tip is variable, ranging from obtuse to acuminate, or sometimes notched (emarginate) or cuneate. The upper surface of the leaflet is mostly glabrous while the underside can be glabrous or covered with appressed short hairs. The domatia are usually present.
Flowers Inflorescence occur as a long spike (thyrsoid) at the axillary or pseudo terminal position. The inflorescence comprises of many small cream to yellowish green flowers. The flowers have 5 – 8 stamens.
Fruit The fruit is ellipsoid to subglobular (up to 6 cm long and 3.5 cm wide) and covered with tapering appendages, which can reach up to 2 cm long. The fruit is fleshy and turns red when ripe. The seed is surrounded with an edible white fleshy sarcostesta.
Habitat It is found in rainforest, mainly on fertile sandy soils, up to 600 m (–1300 m) altitude.
Associated Fauna Flowers are pollinated by insects, such as bees and butterflies. The fruit are eaten mainly by primates, flying foxes, fruit bats and squirrels.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed, grafting and marcotting. Cultivated trees are observed to bloom twice a year.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Nephelium', in Greek, means a little cloud, which refers to the fruit. Specific epithet ‘lappaceus’, in Latin, means burr-like, which refers to the fruit appendages.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits
Food (Fruit & Vegetable): The white juicy sarcotesta of the fruit is edible, sweet-tasting and rich in Vitamin C, ranging from 22 to 47 mg per 100 g for Hawaii-grown rambutan cultivars <6>. The sarcotesta can be is eaten fresh, canned in syrup, cooked in stew or dehydrated as chips <3>.
Others: It is commonly cultivated as a fruit tree. Traditional Medicinal Uses In Malaysia, various plant parts are traditionally used by local villagers to treat a variety of conditions. The roots were used in a decoction for treating fever, the leaves were used for poulticing and the bark for an astringent for tongue <3>. It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are currently not supported or verified by scientific research.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Fruits
Landscape Uses General
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden, Naturalistic Garden
SGMP Treatment

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting, Caterpillar Food Plant
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Bee), Insects (Butterfly, Moth), Insects (Ant, Beetle, Fly, Thrip, Wasp))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils
Maintenance Requirements Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Grafting, Marcotting
Propagation Method Remarks Trees grown from seed bear fruits in 5-6 years. Grafted and marcotted trees fruit in 1-2 years.


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Papery
Foliar Type Compound
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Mature Bark Texture Smooth
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, Green
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Inflorescence Type Thryse
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Red
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Fleshy Fruit , Drupe
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Few (1-5)



<1> Adema, F., Leenhouts, P.W. & van Welzen, P.C. (1994). Sapindaceae. In: Kalkman, C. et al (eds) Flora Malesiana, ser. 1, vol. 11 (3), pp. 419–768. Leiden: Rijksherbarium/Hortus Botanicus, Leiden University

<2> Leehouts, P.W. (1986). A revision of Nephelium (Sapindaceae). Blumea 31 (2):  373 – 436 

<3> Lim, T.K. (2013). Edible Medicinal and Non-Medicinal Plants, Vol. 6, Fruits. Dordrecht: Springer 

<4> van Welzen, P.C. (2017). Sapindaceae. In: Kiew, R. et al (eds) Flora of Peninsular Malaysia Series II: Seed Plants vol. 6, pp. 63–191. Kuala Lumpur: Forest Research Institute Malaysia 

<5> van Welzen, P.C. (1999). Sapindaceae. In: Santisuk, T. & Larsen, K. (eds) Flora of Thailand, vol. 7(1), pp. 169–250. Bangkok: Forest Herbarium, Royal Forest Department 

<6> Wall, M. M. (2006) Ascorbic acid and mineral composition of longan (Dimocarpus longan), lychee (Litchi chinensis) and rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) cultivars grown in Hawaii. Journal of Food Composition and Analysis 19 (6–7): 655 – 663

Image Repository



Master ID 1749
Species ID 3042
Species record last updated on: 13 February 2024.