|Drawing by Joseph Hooker, 1922
This is Durio mansoni. Sorta. It’s the only wild durian species endemic to Thailand and Myanmar, but for now we can only guess what it looks like. That’s partly why I’m so excited to be returning to Thailand. These undocumented durian species leave a lot of room for adventure! I’m pretty certain I know where a tree is, and with any luck I’ll be replacing this with something in color in about a week.
|Photo from Endemic and Rare Fruits of Thailand
Durio mansoni is the only species endemic to Thailand and Myanmar. It was first collected in Tenerassim, Myanmar. It can be found just over the border in Thailand, on the peninsula between Bangkok and Phang-nga.
It flowers between February and April.
Tan duyin (wild durian) Turimi (Karen language)
My research was muddied further by the fact that google search frequently confuses Durio mansoni with Schistosoma mansoni, a particularly nasty parasitic worms that lives in freshwater snails in tropical countries. Like where I am now.
I then tried to discover if there was a relationship between Mansoni the worm and Mansoni the fruit. All I came up with was this extremely disturbing image. Scared to go swimming in Borneo? You should be.
|I can’t believe this is real.
What I can find is that Durio mansoni was collected in Myanmar in 1905 by F.B. Manson. Whoever F.B. was, he probably wasn’t the influential botanist Frederick Manson Bailey, who never left his obsessively beloved Queensland.
The name “mansoni” was bestowed by James Sykes Gamble, an English botanist who settled in northern India, really really far away from where durians grow. It’s unlikely he ever saw this durian. Since he was the director of the Imperial Forest School, he probably had dried up scraps of leaves and flowers sent to him in a box and examined it over tea and scones.
It was published anonymously in 1908 in the Kew Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information as Boschia mansoni, back when “Boschia” was all the rage. Several of the durians are ex-boschias.
Bakhuizen Van Den Brink elevated it to Durio in 1924. And apparently botanical interest in those “big, succulent arils” ended there.
Growing Durio Mansoni
Durio Mansoni is found in the low mountains between 100-800 meters elevation. It is a small tree, growing only 20-30 meters tall. It is often used as rootstock in commercial orchards, in part because it is disease resistant and in part because it appears to have a dwarfing effect. In 1992 Songpol Somsri successfully crossed Durio mansoni with the common variety Chanee.
- Decades Kewensis – Kew Bulletin 1908 JSTOR link
- Harvard University Herbarium
- James Sykes Gamble
- Schistosoma mansoni
- Chanee – Durio Mansoni Hybrid
- Endemic and Rare Plants of Thailand