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What the…is this?

November 27, 2010

This morning when I walked around in Dokmai Garden (Chiang Mai, Thailand) I could see many new flowers. A blue Vanda orchid hybrid was just opening, a cloud of yellow and very fragrant Gardenia coronaria were in blossom, I saw playful orange Saraca indica flowers, a thriving pink Podranea ricasoliana, the red Bixa muppets (fruits), many bananas in blossom, unusual amounts of starfish-like and red Uvaria grandiflora and many more flowers.

What made me jump of joy was the fact that the luna nut (luna fruit) is in blossom (Lepisanthes fruticosa)! This is the less known sister of litchi (Litchi chinensis) and longan (Dimocarpus longan), all members of the Sapindaceae family. Luna fruit is rarely seen and rarely marketed. The blossom which you can see right now at Dokmai Garden is purplish blackish, and later in about April you can harvest the fruits, which are black and shaped like hearts. This is indeed one of these jungle fruits that deserves attention by pomologists. With proper selections, growers could bless the world with another juicy and nutritious marvel on the dessert tray. If you can not wait until the fruits are ready, harvest some shoots and dip them in chili – simply delicious!

Eric Danell

The blossom of luna fruit is dark purple at first, then it becomes more reddish.


The plant is native to Southeast Asia, and is best recognized by its conspicuous pseudostipules (round leaves) which surround the bases of the compound leaves.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Yang permalink
    November 27, 2010 10:44 AM

    How wonderful! Can’t wait to see and taste the fruit… Nice name too, luna fruit:)

  2. December 22, 2010 9:05 PM

    It does not taste that good.

    • December 23, 2010 8:52 AM

      The taste is usually dependent on variety. Some people dislike santol (Sandoricum koetjape) because their first encounter was with a poor variety. First time I ate mangosteen (in Sweden) was a terrible disappointment, but when I had a fresh one in Thailand many years later, I became an addict. Explorer Clovis Thorel thought that the Indochinese fruits of the 1860:s needed the selection of plant breeders, and thanks to Thai efforts there are now many tasty varieties. In the case of luna fruit I believe that via selection one can come up with fantastic flavours. The potential is clearly there!


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