litchi lē´chē [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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