Of the 27 species of durian, only a handful are generally considered good enough to eat. The main qualifier for the “edible” category seems to be a relatively high flesh-to-seed ratio. The rest aren’t poisonous, but their palatability is in the tongue of the beholder.
Most, but not all, have only a very thin layer of flesh. Others have no flesh at all, only shiny bare seeds. Some have strong odors, others none. Strangely, some of the fruits have never been seen or tasted, the tree identified by its leaves or, more often, flowers. A few of these unknown species are so rare that I have to wonder if they’re really a new species at all, and not the imagination of an overexcited durian hunter.
Over the years there has been a lot of confusion and miscommunication about durian species. It’s a tangled mess with no end to really try and present a complete list of the durian species. Even today, there are still new durians being discovered, or renamed, or lumped together as synonymous.
Botanists are still arguing over whether or not some species exist, like Durio purpureus, which no one besides its discoverer has ever seen. Scientists have still not reached a consensus on whether or not several others even exist, namely: durio sumatranus, durio bukitreyensis, durio perakianus, durio macrantha, durio burmanicus, and durio wrayi.
I’ve decided to base this list of durian species on AJGH Kosterman’s 1958 monograph, The Genus Durio Adans., because it’s both the most recent and thought to be the most reliable. This list will change as researchers continue to explore and document the durian species. I’ll try to update this page accordingly.
1. Durio affinis
Description: Fruit is orange-yellow exterior. A thin, white flesh covers the seeds. It’s said not to be edible. Grows on the branches and fruits drop unopened. Tree 30 meters tall.
Scientific Name: Originally lumped with Durio mallacensis, it was renamed Durio affinis by Kosterman and Soegeng Reksodihardjo who suspected it was really a separate species. “Affinis” is a taxonomic term used
when the identity of a distinct biological
unknown but has a striking similarity or close relation with
a known species. Named by Odoardo Beccari.
2. Durio acutifolius
Description: A small, triangular fruit with a bright red exterior. It has three seed-bearing sections with black seeds encased in a thin layer of dark, glossy red flesh. Flesh is flavorless. Tree grows up to 29 meters tall.
Distribution: Borneo, but especially on the eastern side.
Scientific Name: Latin for “pointed leaf.” Published by Maxwell T. Masters in 1875.
Local Names: Tupaloh (Dusun Dyak); durian burung
(Kedayan); Durian anggang; Tuwola
pupulu, durian lojang, Lai Kuju
3. Durio beccarianus
4. Durio carinatus
Local Names: Durian paya/paja (marsh durian), durian burung, durian hantu.
5. Durio crassipes
Description: No one knows what this fruit looks like, although one source quotes a picture with a red aril. The tree is similar to Durio lanceolatus. It grows up to 60 meters tall.
Distribution: The single known tree of this species was found outside Sipitang, Sabah.
Scientific Name: “Crassipes” means fat in Latin, referring to the stoutness of the fruit stalk. It was named by Kosterman and Soegeng Reksodihardjo in 1958.
Local Names: None
6. Durio excelsus
Description: Pink or orange fruit with bright dark red but tasteless flesh. It is occasionally considered synonymous with the edible Durio grandiflorus.
7. Durio griffithi
Description: Similar to Durio acutifolius but the flesh is orange to orange-red and covers only the top part of the seed. Opens on the branch. Tree grows up to 60 meters tall.
8. Durio purpureus
Description: No one has ever seen the durian part of this durian tree. Kosterman found one tree and decided that it was different enough from Durio grandiflorus to warrant a new species. Another specimen has never been found. The tree Kosterman found was 32 meters tall.
Scientific Name: “Purpureus” means “purple” in Latin. I guess it’s possible the fruit could be purple, but since Kosterman didn’t see the fruit I think it’s unlikely. “Purpureus” also means “brilliant or shining,” which I conclude may be how Kosterman felt when he discovered this tree.
9. Durio lanceolatus
Description: The exterior is dirty yellow and pointy at both ends. Inside, the flesh is red-yellow and almost tasteless. (key word: almost tasteless. Hmmm). Tree grows up to 55 meters tall.
Durian pelanduk, Kelintjing, Lai, Lai bengan, Rian burung, Taula tongau.
10. Durio lissocarpus
Description: This durian is sometimes considered synonymous with Durio carinatus. There’s no other description of it.
Local Names: Durian burung
|Durio of Malaysia by Salma Idris|
11. Durio oblongus
Description: An oblong, dark yellow to orange durian with dense conical spines. The flesh is red, soft and thick with a slight sweet taste. The tree has white flowers and grows up to 23 meters tall.
Distribution: Borneo. Common near Kuching and Sandakan.
Scientific Name: Latin for “oblong,” which could refer either to the leaf shape or the oblong shape of the durian. It was named by Maxwell T. Masters in 1875.
Local Name: nyekak (Iban)
12. Durio macrophyllus
Description: This durian looks very similar to Durio mallacensis and was at one point even considered a variety of D. testudinarum. Tree grows to 30 meters tall.
Distribution: Malay Peninsula
Tree Height: 30 meters tall
Fruit (immature): pear shaped or globose, blue-green color, dense
Notes: Originally considered a variety of D. testudinarum
FOUND: Kelantan, Sg. Chalil in July, Pahang, Bukit Kajang Forest Reserve, Nov. , Kuala Kangsar, Oct.
Local Names: tong, daun, batan, daun besar, pumkubm (Batak)
13. Durio macrolepsis
Local Names: none
14. Durio malaccensis
Local Names: batang, tong Durian batang, durian bangko, durian bankolo
15. Durio pinangianus
Description: A round fruit with a dull red-purple hull. The flesh inside is a thin, leathery pink or white splattered with red. It is sometimes considered synonymous with the unknown fruit Durio macrolepsis because of the position of the flower. It fruits at the base of the tree.
Distribution: Perak and Penang, particularly West Hill.
Scientific Name: Named for the island of Penang, where it was found, by Henry Ridley in 1922
17. Durio singaporensis
Description: A round fruit with a greenish yellow exterior. Kosterman states that the seeds are bare of flesh, but other sources note a white
leathery layer of flesh that dries and adhere to the seed. The tree grows to 30 meters tall.
Local Names: durian daun, bujur
For now, that’s all the inedible durians. They’re fascinating, if not particularly tasty on their own. In years to come, they may play an increasingly important role in the commercial durian industry. Many orchards now use inedible durian species as rootstock to protect the deliciously vulnerable durio zibethinus from disease. A noble role indeed.