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Nephelium ramboutan-ake


Nephelium ramboutan-ake (Labill.) Leenh.

Family Name: Sapindaceae
Synonyms: Litchi ramboutan-ake Labill., Nephelium mutabile Blume
Common Name: Pulasan, 黑毛丹, 野红毛丹

Nephelium ramboutan-ake is a tree, usually less than 10 m tall. Found in rainforests, the fruit ripens purple-red and is covered with coarse spine. The seed is surrounded with a white and sweet-tasting sarcostesta.


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Tree
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 36 m


Native Distribution From Assam, Myanmar to parts of Malesia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Cryptogenic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a tree, usually less than 10 m tall, but can sometimes reach up to 36 m tall in its habitat. The trunk can reach up to 60 cm diameter and the buttress can reach up to 2.4 m tall.
Foliage Leaves are compound, paripinnate and spirally arranged. The leaf stalk (petiole) is 0.7 – 11.5 cm long. Each leaf comprises of 1 – 7 leaflets. They are elliptic (4 – 20 cm long and 1.7 – 11 cm wide) and thinly leathery to thinly papery. Both the leaflet base and tip are variable. The base can be blunt, rounded or narrow (attenuate) while leaflet tip can be short, broad to obtuse. The upper surface of the leaflet can be glabrous or presence of short hairs (puberulous) on the midrib. The underside can be glabrous or covered with minutely silky hairs. The domatia are usually present and can be scarce or absent.
Flowers Inflorescence occur as a long spike (thyrsoid) at the axillary or partly together pseudo terminal position. The inflorescence comprises of many small light green flowers. The flowers are fragrant and they have no petals and 5 – 8 stamens each.
Fruit The fruit is ellipsoid to subglobular (4 – 6.5 cm long and 2.5 – 5 cm wide) and covered with coarse spine which can reach up to 1.5 cm high. The spines are bulbous-based and often merging at the base or sometimes knobby with short tongue-shaped appendages. It is fleshy and turns purple-red when ripe. The seed is surrounded with a thick, white and sweet-tasting sarcostesta.
Habitat It is found in rainforests, along rivers, streams and on slopes, up to 300 m (-1950 m) altitude. It can also be found (rarely) in swamps.
Associated Fauna Flowers are pollinated by insects. The fruit are eaten mainly by primates, such as the banded leaf monkey, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and squirrels. Fruits are likely dispersed by primates while squirrels are usually seed predators.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed, grafting and marcotting.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Nephelium', in Greek, means a little cloud, which refers to the fruit. The specific epithet is named after a local Malesian name, rambutan ake.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Fruits
Food (Fruit & Vegetable): The white juicy sarcotesta of the fruit is edible and sweet-tasting. It can be is eaten fresh or canned in syrup.
Others: The seed oil is also used as an illuminant.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Fragrant
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Rootzone Tolerance Well-Drained Soils
Propagation Method Seed, Grafting, Marcotting, Air-Layering
Planting Distance 8 m to 10 m


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery, Papery
Foliar Type Compound
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Spiral
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s)
Foliar Margin Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.0 (Tree - Intermediate Canopy)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Root Type Underground

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower Colour(s) Green
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Axillary
Inflorescence Type Thryse

Fruit, Seed and Spore

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



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

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

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

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

Image Repository



Master ID 1750
Species ID 3043
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 13 February 2024.