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Less known litchi relatives

September 1, 2010

East of Kunming in Yunnan is a geo-park, a world heritage site. The entrance fee is 175 Yuan (or 805 Baht), but if you want a guide who tells you romantic stories you need to pay another 175 Yuan.  My Chinese colleagues and I quickly walked beyond the touristic areas to avoid loud music and disturbing vendors. The Bushao hill was tranquil, and offered a splendid panorama. Pinus yunnanensis mixed nicely with the Permian stone sculptures, together symbolising eons of time. Another tree in this world heritage is a local Soapberry; Sapindus delavayi (Sapindaceae). It is endemic to southern China, growing above 1200 meters. Its fruit peel contains saponins, making it a local source for soap-making. It belongs to the same family as longan and litchi, and is closely related to Sapindus rarak which grows commonly in the Chiang Mai valley.

Eric Danell

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