Science Art: Lychee, from Flora Sinensis, 1656.

A lychee. By Michel Boym, from

This is Litchi chinensis, 荔枝, the lychee, sometimes called a “lychee nut” although it’s not nut-like at all. It’s more like a muscadine (tough skin, sweet juiciness) with a big seed in the middle. It’s one of the best things in life.

As I’m sure it was in the 1600s, when Michel Boym, a Polish Jesuit missionary, was studying them for his exhaustive work on Chinese botany. He also authored the first two dictionaries translating Chinese into European languages – Latin and French.

If you can’t find them fresh, try ’em frozen or canned. They’re great. The, uh, fruits, not the languages.

This image is from the Biodiversity Heritage Library, via Scientific Illustration.