The rambutan, Nephelium lappaceum is a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae, probably native to Southeast Asia. It is closely related to other edible tropical fruits such as lychee, longan and mamoncillo. Believed to be native to the Malay Archipelago. In Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama, known as Chinese or Lichas sucker while in Ecuador is known as achotillo or ‘Rambustán’. It is also present in Mexico.
It is an evergreen tree that reaches 10 to 20 feet high. The leaves are alternate and pinnate, 10-30 cm long, with 3-11 divisions, each of 5-15 cm long and 3-10 cm wide, with margins entire. The flowers are small, 2-2.5 mm, without petals born in a terminal panicle 15-30 cm long.
The fruit is an oval drupe 3-6 cm long and 3-4 wide, borne in clusters of 10-20 together. The skin on red (rarely yellow or orange), and is covered by soft spines. Its name comes from the Malay word meaning rambut hair.
The fruit has a white juicy pulp which can be acidic or too sweet and mielosa. The only brown seed is 2-3 cm long and is poisonous, so should not be eaten with the fruit pulp.
• The rambutan tree grows and produces best to full sun. It can be planted in hills or flat areas provided they are not too wet.
• It is a good idea to plant in lines close, open areas, abandoned areas to replace dead trees or cocoa, as the rambutan can serve as shade for cocoa.
• The space occupied by an adult tree is between 8-10 meters across.
• Only the tree “female”, who is bisexual, and begins to produce fruit produce between 4 and 6 years. Graft must be removed or most male trees.
• A mature tree can produce up to 400 kilos of fruit per year.