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Rambutan in blossom

April 26, 2011

Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum, Sapindaceae) has interesting and delicious muppet-like fruits. They are sometimes even sold in Sweden, but good quality can only be found near its tree. Rambutan trees are not very often seen in Chiang Mai. Its relatives longan tree (Dimocarpus longan) and litchi tree (Litchi chinensis) are much more common here. This might be due to a somewhat higher moisture demand of the rambutan tree. I have seen small trees crowded with lovely fruits in southern China (the southern tip of Yunnan), which seems greener than Chiang Mai.

At Dokmai Garden we grow two small specimens which just flowered. The fruits should be ripe in June.

Text and Photo: Eric Danell

People rarely pay attention to rambutan’s blossom. In fact, some adult visitors to Dokmai Garden have been unaware of the relationship between flowers and fruits, but our aim is to impart knowledge. The purpose of the flower is sex, where male pollen from the anthers (you see six of those in this rambutan flower) are transported to another flower where they pollinate the female stigma (here seen as a T-like structure in the middle of the flower). It is not too different from sperms and eggs in animals. As a result of the pollination, you get a fruit. All flowering plants have flowers, even the grasses, and all make fruits, although some are small and dry. The fruit contains seeds, unborn plant embryos.

Rambutan at Phuket fruit market in mid June.

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