Durio Graveolens

Durio graveolens is the poster child of the jungle durians.  That ravishingly red interior is so shockingly bright many people question the use of food coloring. It's also one of the most popular durian species, sold widely in markets throughout Borneo. Many people actually prefer it to regular durian, and with good reason.

Despite it's notoriety (or maybe because of it), Durio graveolens is the most confusing of all the durian species we've found.


That lipstick red durian flesh is the image that most people associate with Durio graveolens. It's small and the exterior is a bright yellow sometimes tinged brown. It has a mild odor, and a thick cheesy flesh with barely any flavor. Many people compare it to eating avocado.

But there's another side to Durio graveolens. An addicting smooth, nutty, cheesy side that's so thick it's hard to swallow.  So savory,sweet and fatty that it led to Rob and me to argue over whether it could fairly be compared to pimento cheese (vegans and our memories!). This version of Durio graveolens is neon orange or bright yellow packaged in a spiky green or yellow exterior. It can be as large as a small Durio zibethinus.

So what's the deal?

It's possible that Durio graveolens is actually two species lumped under one name.  It seems even more probable given the difference in the way the two fruits mature. Like most durians, the orange-fleshed durian falls to the forest floor when ripe. The red-fleshed one doesn't. The durian remains attached to the tree as the fruit opens and drops the flesh and seeds onto the ground. Botanist Anthony Lamb has suggested that the orange-fleshed one, known locally as Dalit, is a different species.

Notable is the fact that durio graveolens is the only species that successfully interbreeds with durio zibethinus in the wild.  The hybrid fruit can be a variety of unexpected colors, from mottled or striped with red to a brilliant shade of pink that Barbie herself would approve. The flavor is the best of both worlds.

Red-fleshed durian opening on the tree

Distribution and Season

Durio graveolens grows throughout Borneo, the island of Palawan, Philippines, and on farms in Mindandao and Peninsular Malaysia. It is said to have been spotted in Sumatra as well.

Durio graveolens fruits at the beginning of the season for durio zibethinus. We found Durio graveolens in the Philippines in August, Sabah in October-December, and Sarawak from November-January.

Local Names

In the case of graveolens, deciphering local names is trickier than normal because of the two (or three!) different types.

Red-flesh: Known as durian merah, durian otak udang galah (Brunei and Sabah), durian hutan, tabelak (Sabah),  durian kuning (Brunei) or sometimes durian sukang (this is more commonly used to refer to durio oxleyanus)

Orange-flesh: Durian dalit (Sabah), durian hutan

Yellow-flesh: durian simpor, durian dalit

Graveolens-zibethinus hybrid: durian suluk.

Other local names not specific to color: tinambela (Batak people), durian adjan (Sumatera), mara’ang (Orang Sungai, Kinabatangan), taula (Thai), Thurian-rakka (Thai).

Graveolens-zibethinus hybrid

Scientific Name

The red-fleshed Durio graveolens doesn't have much of an odor, which is strange because it means "smelly durian" in Latin. The smelliest of the durians is Durio dulcis.

Durio graveolens was collected near Kuching, Sarawak, by Odoardo Beccari, an Italian botanist who tromped around inland Borneo for three years between 1865 and 1868. He named eight durian species in all, listing them in his three volume documentation of the Flora of Malaysia.

Cool durian, boring story.

Rob really loves orange graveolens

Growing Durio Graveolens

Durio graveolens is a typical size for durian trees, about 50 meters tall.  It has similar requirements as most durian species, although it is slightly more tolerant of higher altitudes, growing up to 1,000 meters. It has a germination rate of 95% in 5-19 days.  Some studies have found that it is slightly more tolerant of Phytophthora and other common durian diseases. It is now commonly used for rootstock in commercial durian orchards.



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