Hairy Fruit Rambutan: Nature’s Candy from Southeast Asia

Hairy Fruit – The rambutan fruit is produced by the Nephelium lappaceum plant, which belongs to the same family as longan, lychee, and mata kuching. Rambutan is classified as a tropical fruit and is believed to originate from Southeast Asia. Rambutan trees are widely cultivated in Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia.

The name “rambutan” is derived from the Malay word “rambut,” which means “hair.” The name signifies the fruit’s hairy appearance, as its skin is covered in fine spines resembling hair. In English, this fruit is also referred to as “rambutan.”

Rambutan fruit is typically round and comes in colors ranging from green to yellow and red. The flesh of the fruit is white and somewhat translucent. When ripe, it has a sweet-to-sweet-tart taste. The edible part of the fruit is only the flesh, while the skin and seed are not edible.

Origin of the Hairy Fruit Plant

Hairy Fruit Plant
Fruit gardeners in Indonesian collect rambutan in the garden

The origin of the rambutan plant can be traced back to the islands of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and Malaysia. From this region, it spread to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Beyond Southeast Asia, rambutan cultivation has been established in various parts of the world, including Australia, South America, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii, Florida, India, and Sri Lanka. Rambutan began to spread to different parts of the world in the 20th century, particularly to regions with tropical climates.

There are no detailed records regarding the early development of rambutan cultivation. It is known that rambutan plants in Thailand were introduced from Malaysia approximately 100 years ago. In the Philippines, rambutan was introduced around 1913-1914 from seeds originating in Indonesia. In 1939, rambutan seeds from Jakarta, known by the popular name “Maharlika,” were brought to the Philippines. To this day, these plants serve as the parent stock for commercially cultivated rambutan in the Philippines.

Classification of Hairy Fruit Plants

Hairy Fruit
Hairy Fruit

The rambutan plant is scientifically known as Nephelium lappaceum L. and belongs to the Sapindaceae family. The Sapindaceae family comprises over 1000 species, including other fruits such as lychee, longan, and mata kuching, which are in the same family as rambutan.

In English, the rambutan fruit is called “rambutan” or “pulasan,” in Spanish, it is known as “ramustan” or “mamon chino,” and in French, it is referred to as “ramboutan.” In Indonesia, the fruit goes by various local names, including “rambot,” “rambuteun,” “jailan,” “folui,” “bairabit,” “banamaon,” “beriti,” “sagalong,” “maliti,” “puson,” “rambuta,” “rambusa,” “barangkasa,” “bolangat,” “balatu,” “balatung,” “walatu,” “walungas,” “lelamun,” and “toleang.”


  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Division: Tracheophyta
  • Class: Magnoliopsida
  • Family: Sapindaceae
  • Genus: Nephelium
  • Species: Nephelium lappaceum L.

Description of the Hairy Fruit Plant


  • In its native habitat, the rambutan tree can grow up to 25 meters in height, but when cultivated, it typically reaches a height of around 5-9 meters.
  • The canopy is quite dense with a diameter of 5-10 meters.
  • The rambutan trunk is made of cylindrical hardwood.
  • The trunk’s bark is brown with a tendency towards gray and has a wrinkled surface.
  • The branching tends to be horizontal, sometimes slightly upward.


  • The rambutan is an evergreen plant, retaining its leaves throughout the year.
  • Its leaves are elongated or oblong with blunt or pointed tips.
  • The color of the leaves varies from light green to dark green, depending on the variety.


  • The flowers of the rambutan appear at the tips of the branches, usually in the axils of the leaves.
  • Rambutan flowers are small and range in color from white to yellowish.
  • They are arranged in clusters or panicles.
  • Each cluster can consist of 50 to 2000 flower buds.


  • Rambutan fruits are typically round to slightly elongated in shape.
  • The fruit’s skin is thick and covered in fine spines, resembling hair.
  • The density, length, and thickness of these spines can vary depending on the variety.
  • The skin color of rambutan fruits ranges from green to yellow to red.
  • The flesh of the rambutan fruit is white and somewhat translucent, covering an elongated seed.

Hairy Fruit Growing Habitat

Hairy Fruit Growing Habitat
Hairy Fruit Growing Habitat

Rambutan is a tropical plant that thrives within specific climatic conditions. The desired temperature range for this plant falls between 22-35°C (72-95°F), with an annual rainfall of 2000-3000 mm. Rambutan trees are not cold-resistant, and they cannot survive extended periods at temperatures below 4°C (39°F). Even if they manage to survive, severe damage is likely.

The suitable habitat for this plant includes lowland tropical regions at elevations ranging from approximately 30-500 meters above sea level. Fruit production is less optimal at elevations below 30 meters. Rambutan thrives in well-draining, slightly sandy, loamy soil with a pH level of 5.5-6.7. However, it can still grow in less fertile soils with poor drainage, as long as the soil is not waterlogged.

Nutritional Content of Hairy Fruit

Rambutan is a nutritious tropical fruit that makes for a healthy snack. Here is the nutritional information for 100 grams of edible portion of rambutan and the percentage of recommended daily intake (% RDI):

  • Energy: Rambutan contains about 69 kcal, contributing to approximately 3.21% of the recommended daily intake.
  • Total Fat: The fruit has approximately 0.10 grams of total fat, which is only 0.15% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin A: While the amount is minimal (0 mcg), rambutan does not contain significant vitamin A.
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamin): There is no thiamin (0 mg) in rambutan.
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): It contains about 0.07 mg of riboflavin, contributing to around 7% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Rambutan contains about 0.50 mg of niacin, which is approximately 3.33% of the RDI.
  • Vitamin C: Rambutan is rich in vitamin C, with approximately 58 mg, which is about 64.44% of the RDI. Vitamin C is important for the immune system and skin health.
  • Total Carbohydrates: Rambutan contains about 18.10 grams of carbohydrates, contributing to approximately 5.57% of the RDI.
  • Protein: There is about 0.90 grams of protein in rambutan, which is about 1.50% of the RDI.
  • Dietary Fiber: The fruit contains about 0.80 grams of dietary fiber, or about 2.67% of the RDI, helping to maintain a healthy digestive system.
  • Minerals: Rambutan contains essential minerals such as calcium (16 mg), phosphorus (16 mg), sodium (16 mg), and potassium (104.20 mg).
  • Copper: It contains 200 mcg of copper, which is about 25% of the RDI.
  • Iron: Rambutan has about 0.50 mg of iron, which is approximately 2.27% of the RDI.
  • Zinc: The zinc content is about 0.10 mg or about 0.77% of the RDI.
  • Beta-Carotene: There is no beta-carotene content in rambutan.
  • Total Carotenoids: Information about total carotenoids is not provided.
  • Water: Rambutan has a high water content, approximately 80.50 grams.

Rambutan is a low-calorie, low-fat fruit rich in vitamin C and essential minerals. While some nutrients may not reach the recommended daily amounts, rambutan can still be a delicious and healthy snack when consumed as part of a balanced diet.

Questions About Rambutan

What are the hairy fruits called?

  • Hairy fruits are commonly called “rambutan.” The word “rambutan” itself comes from the Malay-Indonesian word “rambut,” which means “hair,” due to the fruit’s hairy appearance.

What is the hairy red fruit in Thailand?

  • The hairy red fruit in Thailand is indeed the rambutan. Rambutan is a tropical fruit that is widely grown and enjoyed in Thailand, among other Southeast Asian countries. The fruit is typically red or yellowish when ripe and is covered in soft, hair-like spines.

Why is rambutan hairy?

  • Rambutan gets its hairy appearance from the numerous spiky projections or “hairs” that cover its skin. These spines are not sharp and are typically soft to the touch. The hairs serve as a natural protective barrier for the fruit, helping to deter pests and protect it from environmental factors.

Is it safe to eat rambutan?

  • Yes, it is safe to eat rambutan when it is ripe. The flesh of the fruit is sweet and juicy, making it a popular and delicious tropical snack. However, it is essential to peel the skin and remove the seed before consuming the flesh, as the skin and seed are not typically eaten. Eating unripe rambutan or consuming the skin can lead to digestive discomfort, so it is advisable to enjoy only the ripe flesh of the fruit.

Image of Hairy Fruit (Rambutan)

hairy fruit Rambutan
hairy fruit Rambutan

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