Litchi

LitchiLitchi — The Lychee (Litchi chinensis), also spelled Litchi (the U.S. FDA spelling) or Laichi and Lichu, is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family Sapindaceae. It is a tropical fruit tree native to southern China. It is also commonly found in India, northern Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.

It is a medium-sized evergreen tree, reaching 15–20 m tall, with alternate pinnate leaves, each leaf 15–25 cm long, with 2-8 lateral leaflets 5–10 cm long; the terminal leaflet is absent. The newly emerging young leaves are a bright coppery red at first, before turning green as they expand to full size. The flowers are small, greenish-white or yellowish-white, produced in panicles up to 30 cm long.

The fruit is a drupe, 3–4 cm long and 3 cm in diameter. The outside is covered by a pink-red, roughly-textured rind that is inedible but easily removed. The inside consists of a layer of sweet, translucent white flesh, rich in vitamin C, with a texture somewhat similar to that of a grape. The edible flesh consists of a highly developed aril enveloping the seed. The center contains a single glossy brown nut-like seed, 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter. The seed, similar to a buckeye seed, is slightly poisonous and should not be eaten. The fruit matures from July to October, about 100 days after flowering.

Lychees are extensively grown in the native region of China, and also elsewhere in South-East Asia, especially in north of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, southern Japan, and more recently in California, Hawaii, and Florida in the United States, the wetter areas of eastern Australia and sub-tropical regions of South Africa, also in the state of Sinaloa in Mexico. They require a warm subtropical to tropical climate that is cool but also frost-free or with only very slight winter frosts not below -4°C, and with high summer heat, rainfall, and humidity. Growth is best on well-drained, slightly acidic soils rich in organic matter. A wide range of cultivars is available, with early and late maturing forms suited to warmer and cooler climates respectively. They are also grown as an ornamental tree as well as for their fruit.

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