Nephelium lappaceum or rambutan is a tropical tree of the Sapindaceae or soap tree family.

The fruit is called rambutan or hairy lychee: it looks like a lychee but with red skin growths that look like hairs.

This is one of thirty species rambutans which produce edible fruit.


It is a medium-sized tree with evergreen leaves, measuring 15-25 m high. The trunk is straight and the crown dense and usually spread.

The leaves are arranged alternately, pinnate with 2-8 leaflets 3-5 cm wide and 11-20 cm long. Young leaves are light green, older leaves are dark green with a red rib and hairy underneath.

The flowers are small and without petals. They grow in panicles, axillary or terminal. The tree is dioecious and sometimes monoecious.

The fruits are round to ovoid, 5-8 cm long, with red skin, orange or yellow covered with hair-like growths. The flesh is white, translucent, fragrant and sweet and surrounds a seed that resembles an almond.


Common names:

Hairy lychee, rambutan


Nephelium chryseum, Nephelium glabrum, Nephelium obovatum, Nephelium sufferugineum


Nephelium: not found
Lappaceum: derived from the Latin word lappa (burdock) with the suffix-acea.
Rambutan: from the malay word rambut (hairy).


Indonesia, Malaysia


Tropical rain forest


USDA zones 10-11

Nephelium lappaceum tree

Nephelium lappaceum tree



Clay, slightly acidic (pH 5.5-6.5)




Ideal temperature: 20-35 °C. Below 18 °C growing stops.


Needs plenty of water: keep the soil moist but not wet.


During the growing season, give fertilizer every week or fortnight with universal liquid fertilizer.


Seeds, cuttings or grafts. Seeding is easy, but in agriculture transplant is used to have a better offspring.

Sowing instructions:

The plant will fruit 5-6 years after planting. Simply remove the seeds of rambutans bought in a store. Sow immediately without letting them dry.

  • as seed viability decreases rapidly, they must be sown immediately after harvest
  • sow in a light mix
  • wrap the pot in a plastic bag to avoid water evaporation
  • temperature: 25 °C
  • germination period: 2 weeks
  • protect seedlings from wind

Image sources

  • Rambutan: Own work
  • Nephelium lappaceum tree: VoDeTan2

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