Durian -The King Of Fruits In Southeast Asia

Botanical Name: Duria zibethinus
Plant Family: Bombacaceae
Common Names : durian or civet fruit (English), dulian (Filipino), ambetan (Indonesian), thurian (Thai), sau rieng (Vietnam)

by Dr. Lalith Gunasekera

(May 06, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) As we all know that the durian is one of our favourite fruit in Sri Lanka. This I would like to gather and present some information about this wonderful fruit plant to our readers around the globe. 

The name of durian derived from the Malaysian word “duri” (thorn), alluding to the spiny fruit.

The durian originated in Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia and has been known to the Western world for about 600 years. Widely known and revered in Southeast Asia as the “king of fruits”, the durian is distinctive for its large size, unique odour and formidable thorn-covered husk. The Portuguese introduced to Durian to Sri Lanka in the 16th century and was reintroduced several years later. Many new types were also introduced later. In late 1800, Southeast Asian countries that were first familiarized with the plant started to grow it commercially in 20th century. Thailand is one of the main countries that export durian to the international market. It is now being grown on small scale in other regions such as Australia, Hawaii and Brazil.

Durian trees are sometimes said to have a lifespan of 80 to 150 years although they appear to be inherently capable of living for centuries. Fruit production decreases in very old trees though the fruit quality tends to noticeably increase with age.

Durian is ultra tropical and grows successfully near the equator and up to 18 degrees from the equator. It cannot be grown above an altitude of 600m in Sri Lanka. The best altitude for the growth is between 300 – 800 m. The plant prefers well drained, light sandy or loamy soils. The tree needs well distributed rainfall of 1500 mm and above is needed but dry spells are needed to stimulate flowering. It requires a short dry spell of 2 -8 weeks for flower induction, depending on clone.

The durian tree, reaching 27-40 m in height, usually erect with short, straight, rough, peeling trunk to 1.2 m in diameter and irregular dense or open crown of rough branches and thin branchlets coated with coppery or gray scales when young. The evergreen, alternate leaves are oblong – lanceolate, rounded at the base. The size of a leaf is around 6 – 25 cm long and 2.5 9 cm wide.

Durian flowers are strongly fragrant, 50-70 mm long and grow in stalked clusters of 1-45 individual flowers per cluster. These clusters are together on large branches and directly on the trunk with each flower having a calyx (sepals) and five petals. It takes about one month for a durian flower to develop from first appearance as a tiny bud to an open blossom. Durian trees have one or two flowering and fruiting period per year though timing varies depending on the species, cultivars and localities. The flowers are large and feathers with copious nectar and give off a heavy, sour and buttery odour. Durian flowers show a high degree of self-incompatibility and have to be cross-pollinated with other trees to set fruit. These features are typical of flowers pollinated by certain species of bats that eat nectar and pollen. According to research carried out in Malaysia in the 1970’s, durians were pollinated almost exclusively by cave fruit bats or moths. Durian flowers are usually closed during the daytime. In Sri Lanka, the durian generally blooms in March and April and the fruits mature in July and August.

Durian trees can be propagated by seeds (common method) or bud-grafts. Durian trees grown from seed begin to bear fruit at 8-10 years. Grafted trees begin to produce fruits at 4-6 years. It takes about 110-120 days from flowering to harvest. 

The durian fruit can hang from any branch and matures roughly three months after pollination. The fruit can grow up to 30 cm long and 15 cm in diameter and typically weighs one to 3 kg. It shape ranges from oblong to round, the colour of its husk green to brown, and its flesh pale yellow to red depending on the species. Handling without gloves can be painful. Inside there are 5 compartments containing the creamy-white, yellowish, pinkish or orange coloured flesh and 1 to 7 chestnut like seeds, 2-6 cm long with glossy, red-brown seedcoat. Durians fall to the ground when fully ripe, usually during the cooler temperatures of the night. As many as 100 fruits or even more are produced on a healthy mature tree in a single season. Animals involved in the propagation of durian include elephant, deer, monkeys, tiger, civet cat, rhinoceros. They are attracted by the durian scent and may ingest the seeds while feeding on the arils, thereby dispersing them.The durian is somewhat similar in appearance to the jackfruit, an unrelated species.


Durians are sold whole or cut open and divided into segments, which are wrapped in clear plastic. The flesh is mostly eaten fresh. It is best after being well chilled in a refrigerator.

Durian fruit is used to flavour a wide variety of sweet edibles such as traditional Malaysian candy, ice cream, biscuits, milkshakes and cappuccino. Durian ice cream is a popular dessert in Indonesia, sold at street side stall in Indonesian cities, especially in Java.

Durian flesh is canned in syrup for export. It also dried for local use and export. Blocks of durian paste are sold in markets. The seeds are eaten after boiling, drying and frying or roasting. In Java, the seed sliced thin and cooked with sugar as a confection or dried and fried in coconut oil with spices for serving as a side dish. 

Durian fruit contains a high amount of sugar, vitamin B and C, Potassium amino acids and is a good source of carbohydrates, proteins and fats.


Energy 615KJ
Carbohydrates 27.09 g
Fibre 3.8
Fat 5.33 g
Protein 1.47 g
Sugar 12.0
Moisture 65 g
Vitamin C 19.7 mg
Potassium 436 mg
Calcium 7.6 mg
Phosphorus 37.8 mg
Iron 1 mg

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