Pometia pinnata is a large tropical hardwood and fruit tree species, with common names including matoa, taun tree, island lychee, tava, Pacific lychee of the plant family Sapindaceae. Naturally widespread, the trees are native to tropical South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Melanesia. It was transported during the Austronesian expansion to Polynesia during prehistoric times. Pometia pinnata grows into medium tree of 40 m (130 ft) tall. It has pinnate leaves. The fruits are green, yellow, or dark red up to 4 cm (1.6 in) long, each with one seed surrounded by a fleshy aril. The fruit is somewhat like a lychee, is edible, and is a popular fruit for eating. Fijian longan is a large, fast-growing evergreen tree that can reach a height of 40 metres or more. The bole, which can be straight, curved or sinuous, is usually free of branches for 13 - 22 metres and up to 100 - 140 cm in diameter. It is often prominently buttressed; the buttresses sharp, up to 5.5 metres tall and spreading up to 3.5 metres from the bole. The plant is occasionally cultivated in its native range for its edible fruit. Habitat is Lowland riverbanks or humid woodlands and swampy forests. Common in lowland forest, forest edges, open woodlands, lava flows, and often cultivated in villages of the Pacific Islands.
A plant of the lowland humid tropics, it is usually found at elevations below 500 metres, though is occasionally found as high as 1,700 metres. In its native range it succeeds with a mean annual rainfall in the range 1,500 - 5,000mm, without a severe dry season. The mean annual temperature ranges between 22 - 28°c, the mean maximum being 25 - 32°c and the minimum tolerated 5 - 16°c. Prefers a deep, rich, moist soil and a position in full sun or light shade. The tree is found on a variety of soils in its native range on limestone, clayey, sandy or loamy soils, mostly in dryland forest, occasionally in freshwater swamps. A very fast growing tree with height increases of 1.7 metres being recorded for one year.There is at least one named variety.
Fruit - raw. The semi-transparent white flesh is aromatic, juicy and sweet with a pleasant flavor. It is said to taste like a rambutan.The globose fruit is up to 35mm long, containing a single large seed. The oily seeds are eaten after boiling or roasting.
The Fijian longan is often used in traditional medicine in the Pacific Islands. It is used to treat deep pains in the bones, migraine headache, to aid expulsion of placenta after childbirth, to relieve rheumatic aching of muscles and joints, to relieve fever, as a remedy for flu and cold, to cure diarrhoea, stomach trouble, cough, fever, constipation, and diaper rash.The leaves are antimicrobial. A decoction of the leaves or bark is used medicinally against fever and sores. An infusion of the leaves is rubbed onto the heads of infants or is given internally to treat unclosed fontanelles.
An abundant, thin, red gum obtained from the inner bark is considered to have many medicinal properties. An infusion of the bark is used as an emetic for mouth infections, colds and mucous congestion, and to treat abdominal pains. A decoction of the bark is used to treat mouth cancers.
The gum obtained from the inner bark is used to waterproof canoes. A hair shampoo is made from the bark.
The heartwood is a pink or light red, becoming red-brown upon exposure to light; it is not clearly demarcated from the 3 - 5cm wide band of lighter-coloured sapwood. The texture is medium; the grain straight or interlocked, sometimes wavy; the surface is lustrous; a brownish resin is present. The wood is moderately heavy; moderately hard; moderately strong; not very durable, having some resistance to fungi and termites but susceptible to dry wood borers. It is somewhat slow to season, with a high risk of checking and distortion, but once dry it is stable in service. It can be worked with ordinary tools, though there can be some difficulties due to the interlocked or wavy grain; planed surfaces are sometimes rough and may require filling; nailing and screwing are good; gluing is correct. A good general-purpose timber for interior construction, it is also suitable for domestic flooring, mouldings, joinery, ship and boat building, spars, tool handles, agricultural and sporting implements, interior trimming, block board, and tight cooperage. It is well accepted for making boxes and crates. In outdoor constructions, contact with the ground must be prevented as the wood is then not durable. The timber can be used for furniture and cabinet work but must be dried to a sufficiently low moisture content. It is suitable for hardboard and particle board and as pulpwood. The wood makes a good-quality veneer which has potential to be used as decorative veneer and is very suitable for core and outer layers of plywood. The wood is a high quality fuel.