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Litchi chinensis Sonn.

Litchi chinensis Sonn.

Family

Sapindaceae

Synonyms

Dimocarpus litchi Lour., Litchi sinense J. Gmelin, Nephelium litchi Cambess.

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Laici, kelengkang.
English Lychee, litchi.
Indonesia Litsi (Indonesian), klèngkeng (Javanese), kalèngkeng (Madurese).
Philippines Letsias.
Burma Kyet-mouk, lin chi, lam yai.
Cambodia Kulèèn.
Laos Ngèèw.
Thailand Linchee, litchi, see raaman (Chantaburi).
Vietnam Vai, cây vai, tu hú.
French Cérisier de la Chine, litchi de Chine.

Geographical Distributions

The cultivated Litchi chinensis originated from the region between southern China, northern Vietnam and Malaysia. Wild trees grow in elevated and low rainforests; in some parts of southern China, it is one of the main forest species. It has a long history in southern China and has undergone intensive selection. It was cultivated by people of Malayan descent possibly as early as 1500 BC, long before the Chinese moved in. The spread of L. chinensis to other countries in the last 400 years has been slow, due to the climatic requirement and the short life of its seed. Within Southeast Asia, only northern Thailand produces L. chinensis in quantity and there is one valley in Bali where the crop is grown commercially. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the trees usually fail to flower, although in Thailand, a lowland type of L. chinensis bears fruit

Description

L. chinensis is a large, long-lived, evergreen tree, which can grow up to 30 m tall and with a short stocky trunk. In some cultivars, the branches are crooked or twisting, spreading and form a broad crown, while in other cultivars, the branches are fairly straight, upright and form a compact rounded crown.

The leaves are arranged alternately, 2-4(-5)-jugate and pinnately compound. The petiolules are 3-8 mm long. The leaflets are oblong-to lance-shaped, measuring (3-)8-11(-16) cm x 1.75-4 cm, chartaceous to coriaceous, glossy and deep green above but pale bluish-green beneath.

The inflorescences are with many-branched panicles, 5-30 cm long and many-flowered. The flowers are small, yellowish-white and functionally male or female. The sepal is 4-merous while the petal is absent. There are 6(-10) stamens. The filaments in male flowers are at least twice the length of the sepal but very short in the female flowers.

The fruit is a rounded, ovoid or heart-shaped drupe, about 3-3.5 cm in diametre; with thin exocarp, leathery, bright red to purplish, nearly smooth or scaly to densely set with flat, conical and acute warts. The fleshy edible portion is the aril, an outgrowth of the seed stalk. The aril is white and translucent.

The seed measures 10-23 mm x 6-12 mm and brown.

Ecology / Cultivation

L. chinensis is one of the most environmentally sensitive of the tropical tree crops. It is adapted to the tropics and warm subtropics (between 13-32°N and 6-29°S), cropping best in regions with winters that are short, dry and cool (daily maximum temperature below 20-22°C) but frost-free, and summers that are long and hot (daily maximum temperature above 25°C) with high rainfall (1200 mm) and high humidity. Good protection from wind is essential for cropping. Year-to-year variations in weather causes crop failures, e.g. through untimely rain promoting flushing at the expense of floral development or through poor fruit set following cool, damp weather during bloom, even though mean climatic data appear favorable for L. chinensis.

Line Drawing / Photograph

Litchi_chinensis_Sonn

References

  1. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No.2: Edible fruits and nuts .

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