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Litchi chinensis - Sonn.

Common Name Lychee, Litchi
Family Sapindaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards None known
Habitats The tree has been in cultivation for so long that wild forms are no longer believed to exist[200 ].
Range E. Asia - southern China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines.
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Litchi chinensis Lychee, Litchi

Litchi chinensis Lychee, Litchi


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Litchi chinensis or known in various common names such as litchi, lychee, liechee, liche, lizhi, or lichee is the only known species in the Litchi genus in the Sapindaceae family. It is a slow-growing, evergreen fruit tree with a dense and wide crown and can grow up to 28 m in height. It has a short bole with grey-black bark. The leaves are 10-25cm or longer, shiny, leathery, and light green but reddish when young. The fruit is fleshy, and covered by a pink-red, roughly textured rind. It varies in shape from round to ovoid to heart-shaped. It has a sweet and delicious flavor. It is usually consumed raw but it can also be dried or cooked. The fruit is also used in traditional medicine to threat throat discomfort, diarrhea, neuralgic disorders, and orchitis. The bark contains tannin. The wood is highly durable. Litchi is grown in East Asia particularly in southern China, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Philippines. It relatively matures slowly but it is long-lived. It is propagated by seed, air layering, greenwood cuttings, and grafting.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of cone
Litchi chinensis is an evergreen Tree growing to 12 m (39ft) by 12 m (39ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10 and is frost tender. The flowers are pollinated by Bees, Flies, Ants, Wasps.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and can grow in heavy clay soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Dimocarpus lichi Lour. Nephelium chinense (Sonn.) Druce. Nephelium litchi Camb. Scytalia chinensis (

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The white, translucent fleshy arils are sweet, juicy and subacid, with a delicious flavour that is somewhat reminiscent of Muscat grapes[301 , 303 ]. Much eaten raw, they can also be dried, spiced, pickled, canned in syrup, used in jams, sauces, ice creams, fruit salads etc[301 ]. The dried fruits, called lychee nuts, have a distinctive smoky flavour and are widely eaten in China[301 ]. Rich in vitamin C[200 ]. The pink to strawberry red fruit is 25mm or more in diameter and is covered by a rough leathery rind or pericarp[303 ]. The fruits are borne in loose clusters of 3 - 20[418 ]. The smooth fruits of lowland-grown 'water lychee' are commonly preferred to the rather prickly fruits of 'mountain lychee' grown in the hills[317 ].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Mouthwash  Vitamin C

The fruit, its peel and the seed are used in traditional medicine; decoctions of the root, bark and flowers are used as a gargle to alleviate throat ailments[303 , 317 ]. The fruit peel is used in the treatment of diarrhoea[307 ]. Seeds are used as an anodyne in neuralgic disorders and orchitis[303 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Houseplant  Tannin  Wood

Shade tree. Street tree. Backyard tree. Screening. Specimen. Bonsai. Large conservatory plant. Agroforestry Uses: The tree is sometimes grown to provide shade[317 ]. Other Uses The bark contains tannin[303 ]. The wood is very durable and is said to be nearly indestructible, although it is brittle and has few uses[303 , 418 ].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

The litchi is adapted to the tropics and warm subtropics, producing best in regions with winters that are short, dry and cool but frost free, and summers that are long and hot with high rainfall[303 ]. In the tropics it may thrive better at some elevation because of its requirement for winter chilling[303 ]. It grows best in areas where annual daytime temperatures are within the range 20 - 35°c, but can tolerate 15 - 40°c[418 ]. When dormant, the plant can survive temperatures down to about -5°c, but young growth can be severely damaged at -1°c[418 ]. It prefers a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,000 - 1,700mm, but tolerates 700 - 2,800mm[418 ]. A position in full sun is best for fruit production, but young plants grow better if they are given some shade[418 ]. Plants are tolerant of a range of soil types, including heavy clays, so long as they are well drained, but grow best on deep, rich, acid soils that are rich in organic matter[200 , 404 ]. They have succeeded on limestone soils when iron chelates have been added[200 ]. Tolerant of wet soils, providing the water is not stagnant[200 ]. Plants require a position that is sheltered from the wind, especially when they are young[200 ]. Prefers a pH in the range 5.5 - 6.5, tolerating 5 - 8.5[418 ]. Most varieties need between 50 - 150 hours of standard chilling at 0 - 10°c[303 ]. The trees have a positive requirement for winter chilling to between 7 - 12°c, and a dormancy period to induce flowering[200 ]. Various cultivars have been developed with differing degrees of winter chilling requirements[200 ]. Plants are slow to mature, but are long-lived[200 ]. Seedling trees take 8 - 12 years before they commence fruiting[335 ]. Grafted trees can commence fruiting when 2 - 5 years old, though full cropping does not take place until the trees are 20 - 40 years old and they can continue cropping for 100 years or more[307 ]. Fruit yields for 10-year-old trees range from 10 - 80 kg/tree, or 0.7 - 11.2 tonnes/ha[418 ]. Average yields are often only about 2 tonnes/ha[418 ]. There are many named varieties[200 , 301 ]. Flowering Time: Mid Spring. Bloom Color: Inconspicuous/none (fruit). Spacing: 15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m).

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - it has a very short viability and needs to be sown as soon as it is removed from the fruit[200 ]. Sow the seed 1cm deep in containers. The seeds germinate without pre-treatment when sown fresh[303 ]. Young seedlings grow vigorously until they reach 24 - 30cm[303 ]. The quality of seed-grown plants will be quite variable[200 ]. Trees can take 15 years to produce their first crop from seed[200 ]. Air layering. Rates of success are usually not less than 95%[303 ]. Greenwood cuttings Grafting

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Lychee, Litchi, Buah lengkeng, Cay vai, Kelengkang, Klenkeng, Kulaen, Kyet-mouk, Laichi, Laici, Lam yai, Letsias, Lichi, Lichu, Lin chi, Linchee, Litsi, Litsiyu, Lizhi, Muolhoi, Ngeew, Nkui chi, Reishi, Tu hu, Vai chua, Vai, Vaitheifeimung, Yaulizi, cerisier de chine, leechee, li zhi, li zhi he, lichi tree, lichia, lici, litchi, litchi de chine, litchi semen, litchia, litchibaum, litchipflanze, lizhihe, lychee, lychee seed, lychee seeds, semen litchi, semen litchi chinensis.

Africa, Andamans, Asia, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Burma, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central Africa, Central America, China*, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, East Africa, East Timor, Fiji, Hawaii, India, Indochina, Indonesia, Jamaica, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, New Caledonia, North America, Northeastern India, Pacific, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, PNG, Philippines, Reunion, SE Asia, Singapore, South Africa, Southern Africa, South America, Taiwan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad, USA, Vanuatu, Vietnam, West Indies, Zimbabwe,

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References

Links / References

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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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