Animals that visit the durian tree, Durio zibethinus

posted in: Fauna, Plants, Videography | 1

The durian tree (Durio zibethinus) can grow to a height of 40 m after decades of growth (above). Flowers are in clusters, developing mostly from the large, near horizontal branches (below). They open in the late afternoon and before midnight most of the flower parts are shed. The shed petals are gathered and eaten as a vegetable.

Nectarivorous bats, mainly Cave Nectar Bats (Eonycteris spelaea), visit the flowers at night for the nectar and in the process assist in their pollination (Tomlinson, 1999). Night flying moths are also suspected of assisting in pollination. Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) has also been seen taking nectar from the flower, but from the side, thus not contributing to pollinating LINK. But not so the Yellow-eared Spiderhunter (Arachnothera chrysogenys) LINK.

Four months later the fruits reach maturity (above). These spiky, ovoid to oblong fruits remain on the branches until they ripen and fall to the ground. As a result of the fall, the fruits split into five segments to expose the many seeds, each covered with a thick, creamy flesh. The image below shows an opened fruit with the seeds. The ripened fruits emit a strong odour, attracting animals like elephants and wild pigs.

If durian trees grow around human settlements, there would always be people waiting below the trees in the early morning to pick the dropped fruits. After all, durians are not harvested from the tree except in Thailand. There, they are plucked from the branches just before the fruits fall. This is because the Thais prefer their durian flesh sweet and crispy, unlike most others who prefer theirs soft, mushy and creamy.

Jeremiah Loei’s 2012 video clip documented at Singapore’s Bukit Batok Nature Park shows that it is not only people and large animals that seek out the durian fruits on the ground. Well before the fruits drop, squirrels would gnaw through the spiny shell to get at the succulent seeds. This in turn gives access to other animals like the Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) and birds like the Laced Woodpecker (Picus vittatus) LINK.

Earlier posts reported a Plantain Squirrel (Callosciurus notatus) that gnawed through the fruits that in turn attracted Plain-throated Sunbird (Anthreptes malacensis) and Orange Bellied Flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) LINK as well as the Greater Green Leafbird (Chloropsis Sonnerati) LINK. A White-crested Laughingthrushes (Garrulax leucolophus) has also been seen eating the fruit LINK.

YC Wee (images) & Jeremiah Loei (video)
April 2014


Lim, T. K., 1993. Durian: diseases and disorders. Tropical Press Sdn. Bhd, Kuala Lumpur.95 pp.
2. Subhadrabandhu, S., J. M. P. Schneemann & E. W. M. Verheij, 1991. Durio zibethinus Murray. In: Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 2. Edible fruits and nuts (eds. E.W.M. Verheij & R.E. Coronel), pp. 157-161. Pudoc,
3. Tomlinson, P. B. (1999). The botany of mangroves. Cambridge University Press, UK.

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