Photo by Melody

This seasonís fruit; Euphoria longan

By Jean-Jacques Segalen (jjacquesApril 4, 2011

My my, time really flies! We just left the litchi season and are already entering the dragonís eye season. But what dragon are we talking about now? Just read below to find out.

Gardening picture

I must confess that I have never harvested, purchased or eaten a real dragon's eye but one may find the image relevant when opening a ripe longan fruit; the translucent white flesh surrounding the black roundish seed actually looks like one, so does the seed itself, black with a white rounded spot. And as the plant originates from China we are even more prone to accept it. Called ‘longan', ‘longani', ‘lungan', ‘longyen', ‘little brother of the litchi' or even ‘slave of the litchi' you easily understand that is belongs to the botanical family of the Sapindaceae just like...litchi of course! Usually named by either one of its synonymous Latin names of Euphoria longan or Dimocarpus longan, it can also be found under the names of Euphoria longana or Nephelium longana. The Euphoria genus comprises some five species originating in Southeast Asia and Australia. Although the longan is usually credited as coming from Southern China, some authors widen its birth area to India and Sri-Lanka as well. 

  ImageIt is a rather handsome tree, growing to a height of about 10 to 15 meters (30 to 40 feet) with a round shaped crown, a massive trunk and rough bark. The dense foliage is made of pinnate (composed) leaves with six to ten pinnae (leaflets) with a shiny and parched upper part while they are slightly hairy underneath. The young shoots have a striking red-rosy color. Flowers come in panicles (clusters), they are small (5-6 mm in diameters), yellowish green. The fruits are the size of a cherry and of course come in clusters; they are spherical to oval, surrounded by a brittle shell, greenish to yellow-brownish. The flesh (botanically called an aril) is juicy, translucent, sweet and delicately flavored. The seed is rounded, rather large, shiny black with a white spot. Although not as popular and cherished than the litchi, longani is always enjoyed, it is easy to peel, sweet and refreshing. Usually enjoyed fresh it can also be canned (as a matter of fact, this is the number one exported can fruit from Thailand), dried, made into juices and cooked (used in many sweet-and-sour recipes). It has an interesting rate of C vitamin, some 10% sugars, potassium, calcium and phosphorus; in Asia it is reputed to be effective against fever and parasitic worms. As for litchi and mangoes there are of course quite a few varieties which differ in the size and taste of the fruits, on Reunion we have just two of them; what is called ‘regular' and which grows in orchards, gardens, and in the wild, and ‘Australian' which is always grafted or propagated by air-layering and makes larger fruits with a melon taste. The leaves are used to treat insomnia, sore eyes, amnesia and to work well in case of poisoning. The seeds contain a large quantity of saponin and are hence used as shampoo while both seeds and rinds can be used to make fire. The timber is used to make poles, furniture and for many purposes in buildings.  Image Longan trees can be propagated by means of seeds, grafting or air-layering. Seeds have a very short shelf life and should therefore be sown within days after harvest; they will usually sprout within five to ten days. Seedlings are used as root-stock for grafting or when the plants are to be grown as wind-breaks as fruits bearing will not start before some seven to eight years later. Grafting is not easy while air-layering will give a new plant within months which will produce soon after plating, the only drawback being that the root system is not as deep and as strong as for a seedling. This plant will do better in rich deep soil but can grow in a large variety of soils, on Reunion wild trees can be seen in many different areas. It will grow from sea level to higher elevation around 500 or 600m (1500 to 1800 feet) as it is much more tolerant to cold than its close relative the litchi. Well established trees have survived to temperatures as low as 28°F (-2°C) but this would kill a young tree and does anyway destroy part of the foliage. It is also resistant to drought although it will obviously benefit irrigation during active growth and fruiting season. It can therefore adapt to tropical as well as subtropical climates, it is nowadays successfully grown in Spain. What it requires is distinctive wet/dry periods, the dry ones will trigger flowering, in equatorial areas the tree will grow but not produce fruits, a pity for a fruit tree! Image


  I guess that by now you will consider dragons with a more friendly eye and will start roaming exotic stores in search of fresh longans just as you recently did for lichees! In Florida the fruits are produced between February and April, so it may be time to travel South...

  About Jean-Jacques Segalen  
Jean-Jacques SegalenI am a Parisian born professional horticulturist specialized in tropical seeds producing, living on Reunion island (just between Mauritius and Madagascar) since 24 years . I spend a lot of time gathering seeds in the wild, the ones I do not grow that is. Also a dedicated Tai-Chi practitioner and fully certified arborist-tree surgeon Just released my first book on tropical plants and fruits, check it out at

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