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Dimocarpus longan, the longan or dragon’s eye, is a large evergreen tropical fruit tree in the Sapindaceae (soapberry family) that originated in India, Sri Lanka, and southern China, and now cultivated and occasionally naturalized in semitropical areas throughout China, southeast Asia (including Myanmar, Vietnam, and the Philippines) and New Zealand for its delicious fruits, which are reminiscent of lychees (Litchi chinensis).

The longan tree typically grows 10 to 12 m (32.5 to 39 ft), but may reach heights of 40 m (130 ft), with a diameter of up to 1 m (a little over 3 ft). Branches may be pilosulose (covered with long soft hairs), and are scattered with glaucous lenticels (waxy pores). The large leaves are paripinnately compound--with opposite to subopposite leaflets and lacking a terminal leaflet—with 3 to 6 pairs of leaflets. The petiole (leaf stem) is up to 30 cm (12 in) long, and individual leaflets are 6 to 15 cm (2.25 to 6.75 in) long. The inflorescence is a many-flowered cluster, borne terminally or axillary (at or near the branchtips), with small, white 5-petalled flowers. The fruits are yellowish-brown to –gray, flattened spherical, around 1.2 to 2.5 cm (3/8 to 1 in) in diameter, with a white fleshy edible aril that partially surrounds a hard elliptical or round hard seed with a papery coating.

Longan fruits, which are high in vitamin C, are popular throughout southeast Asia but particularly in China. They are generally eaten fresh out of hand or in fruit salads, or they may be prepared into juice, canned (although the flavor is considered inferior to fresh), candied (crystalized with sugar) or dried.

Longan, which is an important component of low-elevation forests in monsoon areas, is considered as a “near threatened” or vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List, because widespread logging has destroyed many populations in its native range.

(Flora of China 2007, IUCN 2012, Van Wyk 2005.)

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