litchi (lēˈchē) [key], Chinese tree ( Litchi chinensis ) of the family Sapindaceae (soapberry family), having a small, aromatic, pulpy fruit in a thin, rough shell. It is the best-known Chinese fruit and a favorite with the Chinese, who use it fresh, dried, or preserved. In commerce it is usually seen dried, in which form it appears as a nut with a raisinlike center. The juicy pulp is also canned. The tree is now grown in other warm countries and to some extent in the United States in S Florida and California. Among variant spellings are leechee, lichee, and lychee. Litchis are classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Sapindales, family Sapindaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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