) is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae.
It is a tropical tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, where cultivation is documented from 1059 AD.
China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and South Africa.
A tall evergreen tree, the lychee bears small fleshy fruits.
The outside of the fruit is pink-red, roughly textured and inedible, covering sweet flesh eaten in many different dessert dishes.
Lychee seeds contain methylenecyclopropylglycine which can cause hypoglycemia associated with outbreaks of encephalopathy in undernourished Indian and Vietnamese children who had consumed lychee fruit.
It was described and named by French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat in his account "Voyage aux Indes orientales et à la Chine, fait depuis 1774 jusqu'à 1781" (translation: "Voyage to the East Indies and China, made between 17"), which was published in 1782.
Lychee have a similar foliage to the Lauraceae family likely due to convergent evolution.
They are adapted by developing leaves that repel water, and are called laurophyll or lauroid leaves.
Flowers grow on a terminal inflorescence with many panicles on the current season's growth.
The panicles grow in clusters of ten or more, reaching 10 to 40 cm (3.9 to 15.7 in) or longer, holding hundreds of small white, yellow, or green flowers that are distinctively fragrant.
The lychee bears fleshy fruits that mature in 80–112 days depending on climate, location, and cultivar.