The rambutan (pronounced /ræmˈbuːtən/; taxonomic name: Nephelium lappaceum) is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae, and the fruit of this tree. It is native to Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Sri Lanka and elsewhere in Southeast Asia, although its precise natural distribution is unknown. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the Lychee, Longan, and Mamoncillo. It is believed to be native to the Malay Archipelago, from where it spread westwards to Thailand, Burma, Sri Lanka and India; eastwards to Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia. The name rambutan is derived from the Malay word rambut, which literally means hairy caused by the 'hair' that covers this fruit, and is in general use in Malay and Filipino.
There is a second species regularly for sale at Malay markets which is known as "wild" rambutan. It is a little smaller than the usual red variety and is colored yellow. The outer skin is peeled exposing the fleshy fruit inside which is then eaten. It is sweet, sour and slightly grape like and gummy to the taste. In Costa Rica, it is known as mamón chino due to the likeness of the edible part with Melicoccus bijugatus and its Asian origin.
It is an evergreen tree growing to a height of 12–20 m. The leaves are alternate, 10–30 cm long, pinnate, with 3-11 leaflets, each leaflet 5–15 cm wide and 3-10 cm broad, with an entire margin. The flowers are small, 2.5–5 mm, apetalous, discoidal, and borne in erect terminal panicles 15–30 cm wide.
Rambutan trees are either male (producing only staminate flowers and, hence, produce no fruit), female (producing flowers that are only functionally female), or hermaphroditic (producing flowers that are female with a small percentage of male flowers).
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