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The lychee (Litchi chinensis) is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, and now cultivated in many parts of the world. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, with production occurring among other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. 5

Lychee is a long-lived, evergreen tree that produces its new leaves, flowers and fruit on terminal shoots. The inflorescences produce many hundreds of functionally male and female flowers that carry from 5 to 80 attractive fruit at harvest. The red-skinned fruit contain a single seed, surrounded by a juicy sweet aromatic aril or flesh. Cultivars with large fruit, small seeds and a distinctive flavour are sought after in the market-place. 6