The pulasan, Nephelium mutabile Blume (family Sapindaceae), is a
tropical fruit closely allied to the rambutan and sometimes confused
with it. It has various common names, including pulasan in English,
Spanish and Malay, kapulasan in Indonesia, ngoh-khonsan in Thailand,
and bulala in the Philippines.
Usually eaten fresh, it is sweeter than the rambutan and lychee,
but very rare outside Southeast Asia.
The name pulasan comes from the Malay word pulas (twist). The
fruit is opened through the act of twisting the fruit with both
hands, thus the name pulasan.
The pulasan tree is an ornamental. It attains a height of 10-15 m
and has a short trunk to 30-40 cm thick. The branchlets are brown
and hairy when young. The alternate leaves, pinnate or odd-pinnate,
are 17-45 cm long, have 2 to 5 pairs of opposite or nearly opposite
leaflets, are oblong or elliptic-lanceolate, 6.25-17.5 cm long and
up to 5 cm wide; slightly wavy, dark-green and barely glossy on the
upper surface; pale, and somewhat bluish, with a few short, silky
hairs on the underside. Very small, greenish, petalless flowers with
4-5 hairy sepals are borne singly or in clusters on the branches of
the erect, axillary or terminal, panicles clothed with fine
yellowish or brownish hairs.
The pulasan is ultra-tropical and thrives only in very humid
regions between 360 and 1,150 ft (110-350 in) of altitude. In
Malaya, it is said that the tree bears best after a long, dry
The fruit is ovoid, 5-7.5 cm long, dark red, with its thick,
leathery rind closely set with conical, blunt-tipped tubercles or
thick, fleshy, straight spines, which are up to 1 cm long. There may
be one or two small, undeveloped fruits nestled close to the stem.
Within is the glistening, white or yellowish-white flesh (aril) to 1
cm thick, more or less clinging to the thin, grayish-brown seedcoat
(testa) which separates from the seed. The flavour is generally much
sweeter than that of the rambutan. The seed is ovoid, oblong or
ellipsoid, light brown, somewhat flattened on one side, and 2 to 3.5
While very similar to rambutan, the fruit lacks the hairy spines.
The flesh is very sweet and juicy, and separates easily from the
seed, much more easily than the rambutan. In addition, unlike the
seed of the rambutan, the seed of the pulasan is readily edible raw.
It has a flavour somewhat similar to that of almonds.
Origin and distribution
The pulasan is native to Peninsular Malaysia. Wild trees are
infrequent in lowland forests around Perak, Malaysia but abundant in
the Philippines at low elevations from Luzon to Mindanao. The tree
has long been cultivated in the Malay Peninsula and Thailand; is
rarely domesticated in the Philippines. Ochse reported that there
were extensive plantings in Java only around Bogor and the villages
along the railway between Bogor and Jakarta.
The tree was planted at the Trujillo Plant Propagation Station in
Puerto Rico in 1926 and young trees from Java were sent to the
Lancetilla Experimental Garden, Tela, Honduras, in 1927. The latter
were said in 1945 to be doing well at Tela and fruiting moderately.
The pulasan is little known elsewhere in the New World except in
Costa Rica where it is occasionally grown and the fruits sometimes
appear on the market.