Durio Kinabaluensis

On the steep hillsides of the Crocker Mountain Range grows a unique durian species that thrives at high elevations. Although uncultivated and generally neglected by botanists and agronomists, it's a local favorite for its simple sweet flavor. It's still one of the least well known of the edible jungle durians, although it is easy to find if you know where to look.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Lamb


When Rob and I found the tree, the fruits weren't quite ripe. Rob climbed the tree and picked one for me to look at close up. They were a beautiful pale green on the outside and completely inedible on the inside. The spines were already large and blocky, with four almost flat faces meeting in a tip.  I thought it was one of the most beautiful durian shapes and brought one with me to Penang to show Mr. Chang.  I could just imagine that it would taste heavenly, like the sweet ambrosia from the top of Mount Olympus.

Rob in a durio kinabaluensis tree

We had to leave Borneo the next day, so I haven't been able to taste this durian yet. About a month later our contact in the region, Anthony Lamb, sent me photos of the ripe fruit. These pictures are published with his permission. Thanks Tony!

Anthony says that while he doesn't much care for this durian, it's quite popular with the locals. The aril is white or pale yellow, quite thick, and characterized by sweetness similar to that of Durio oxleyanus.

Distribution and Season

Durio Kinabaluensis grows throughout the Crocker Mountain range in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Rob and I found trees growing near the Kipandi Butterfly Park, but the fruits were immature. We were told they had been selling mature fruits at the Donggongon Market earlier that day, but they were sold out by the time we arrived in the afternoon. I have also heard that this durian is frequently for sale in Nobutan Village and around Ranau.

Durio kinabaluensis comes into season about a month later than other durian species. Last year (2012) it's peak was at the end of December and beginning of January.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Lamb

Local Names

I know of only two local names for this durian:
Tapuloh, Durian Kinabalu 

Scientific Name

Although Durio Kinabaluensis was named by two famous male botanists, it was collected by a female. Mary Strong Clemens was an American botanist who collected plants throughout Southeast Asia, most notably in Borneo and Papua New Guinea where she lost her husband after he ate some spoiled boar meat. She collected this durian sometime between 1931 and 1934 while exploring the plant life of Mount Kinabalu, the highest peak in the entire Malay archipelago.

Her collections, along with a specimen of this durian's flower, were sent to the University in Bogor, Java, where they gathered dust for 20 years. Eventually, somebody took interest in the dried up flower specimen and decided it was different enough from other durian flowers to warrant a new species. That somebody, or rather somebodies, were partners AJ Kosterman and Wertit Soegeng Reksodihardjo,  who were both given credit for naming a species they never actually saw.

Photo courtesy of Anthony Lamb

Kosterman never would see (or taste!) the fruit of Durio kinabaluensis, hence the complete lack of a description of flavor in his famous durian monograph. I find this to be a travesty, as the flavor is the most important part of the durian experience. But I guess anything is better than nothing when it comes to durian. Shortly before he died, Kosterman visited Sabah in time to see the trees in flower. He was thrilled.

Growing Durio Kinabaluensis

Little is known about Durio kinabaluensis because it is not cultivated and is not considered of economic importance. It grows at elevations much higher than most durian species, up to1,373 meters (4,500 feet) whereas most durian species top out at 800 meters (2625 feet). Because it grows at higher elevation, it come into season about a month after most other durian species are ripe.

Back to A Complete List of Durian Species


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