Rambutan



Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) is a tropical fruit belonging to the family Sapindaceae. The word rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambut which means “hair”, a reference to the numerous hairy protuberances of the fruit. The fruit is often red but sometimes yellow. When peeled open, it reveals a sweet, white flesh clinging to a woody seed.1

Origin and distribution
It is probable that rambutans are native to the Malay archipelago. However, the origin of the rambutan is not clear as it has been cultivated for a very long time.2 Today, rambutan trees are cultivated mostly in Southeast Asia. It has also become popular in other tropical countries, especially Central America.3


Description
Rambutan trees are evergreen with a roundish-bushy appearance, growing to a maximum height of 30 m. Its branches are low and widespread, while its bark is smooth and greyish-brown. The leaves are simple pinnate compound, 15 to 40 cm long, and arranged alternately. Leaflets are elliptical and blunt, and up to eight leaflets are arranged in pairs. Flowers are greenish-white, small sized and occur in large bunches. The flowers have no petals, are mildly fragrant and are either completely male or bisexual. The male flowers occur on different trees. Each flower holds six to eight stamens, and its superior ovary has one to two lobes with a single style. Flowering occurs twice a year.4

Rambutan fruits are round or ellipsoid with a leathery skin densely covered in soft spines up to 2 cm long.5 The fruits are yellow to crimson and grow up to 7 by 5 cm in size. The white juicy flesh encloses an oval seed. The seeds are bitter and narcotic. 

Usage and potential
Food
The rambutan fruit can be eaten fresh or canned. Rambutans are used in fruit salads, jellies or as an ingredient in savoury dishes. Seeds are roasted and eaten as a snack in the Philippines.7


Medicine
The pericarp or fruit walls are used medicinally in Java as they are high in tannin and saponin. In Malaysia, the roots were used to treat fever, and the leaves for poulticing. The bark was applied as an astringent for tongue diseases.8


Other uses
Young shoots are used to dye yellow silk to green. A dye called ayer banyar, made from rambutan leaves and fruits combined with other ingredients, is used to dye red silk black. The wood of the tree, though hard, tends to split as it dries. It is nevertheless used as timber.9


Variant names
Common name: Rambutan, 红毛丹.
Scientific name: Nephelium lappaceum.10
Indonesian and Malay name: Rambutan.
Thai name: Ngoh, phruan.11



Author

Naidu Ratnala Thulaja




References
1. Purdue University, Centre for new crops & plant products. (1995). New crop factsheet: Rambutan. Retrieved on 2017, February 2 from Purdue University website: https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/CropFactSheets/Rambutan.html 
2. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
3. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 164. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
4. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
5. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 164. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
6. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)
7. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: An illustrated guide. Ithaca, New York: Comstock Publishing Associates, p. 164. (Call no.: RSEA 634.6 BLA)
8. Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 1572. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR)
9. Burkill, I. H. (1935). A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, p. 1572. (Call no.: RCLOS 634.909595 BUR)
10. Wee, Y. C. (1992). A guide to medicinal plants. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre, p. 110. (Call no.: RSING 581.634095957 WEE)
11. Wee, Y. C. (2003). Tropical trees and shrubs: A selection for urban planting. Singapore: Sun Tree Publishing, p. 235. (Call no.: RSING 582.16095957 WEE)



Further resource
Hutton, W. (1996). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions.
(Call no.: YRSING 581.95957 CHA)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Nephelium--Singapore
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Tropical fruit--Singapore
Rambutan
Plants
Nature>>Plants