Litchi chinensis, Nephelium litchi
big tree, full sun, regular water, cold hardy at least
to 30s F for a short time
Slow growing, but reaching heights of 35'. It has attractive
pinnate leaves of a shining leather texture. The fruit, when ripe,
has dark red-brown and rough skin, is 1 to 2 inch long and grows in
bunches. Under the brittle skin, the flesh is pearly white, sweet
and jelly-like, though firm. It is eaten fresh or sun-dried (Litchi
Nuts) or canned in syrup. It is a good source of vitamin C and
phosphorous. Often called the best fruit in the world. You can't
argue with three billion Asians. You've eaten these no doubt in
Chinese restaurants, where they're served either within a dish
(succulent and sweet) or dried (sweet and dry). Litchi has been
cultivated for more than 2,000 years.
Lychee trees like regular watering; microelements applications
are necessary to avoid chlorosis. For bearing-age trees, cut off all
water and fertilizer by October. Stress caused by winter's drought
and cold is believed to induce heavier bloom.
Propagated by airlayering. Growing from seed is not successful
method as seedlings usually do not survive long, requiring special
mico-components in soil. This is why grafting is not very popular
method either as getting a vigorous healthy rootstock seedling is
An evergreen tree originating from China. Slow growing, but
reaching heights of 35'. It has attractive pinnate leaves of a
shining leather texture. The fruit, when ripe, has dark red-brown
and rough skin, is 1 to 1½" long and grows in bunches. Under the
brittle skin, the flesh is pearly white, sweet and jelly-like,
though firm. It is eaten fresh or sun-dried (Litchi Nuts) or canned
in syrup. It is a good source of vitamin C and phosphorous.
Propagated by airlayering or grafting. Origin: S. E. China. Best
fruit in the world. You can't argue with three billion Asians. For
bearing-age trees, cut off all water and fertilizer by October.
Stress caused by winter's drought and cold is believed to induce
Origin: The lychee is native to low elevations of the provinces
of Kwangtung and Fukien in Southern China. Cultivation spread over
the years through neighboring areas of southeastern Asia and
offshore islands. It reached Hawaii in 1873, and Florida in 1883,
and was conveyed from Florida to California in 1897
Varieties: 24 varieties including: Bengal, Brewster, Emperor, Hak
Ip, Kaimana, Kwai Mai Pink, Mauritius, No Mai Tze, Sweet Heart.
Season: Mid May to Mid June
Adaptation: Lychees require seasonal temperature variations for
best flowering and fruiting, Warm, humid summers are best for
flowering and fruit development, and a certain amount of winter
chilling is necessary for flower bud development. Most varieties
need between 100 and 200 hours of standard chilling (32° - 45° F).
Cool winters with low rainfall are ideal for lychees. The trees
become more hardy as they age. Mature trees have survived
temperatures as low as 25° F when fully hardened off. Young trees
may be killed by a light frost. Lychees can be successfully grown in
frost-free coastal areas of California. There are trees in San
Diego, California that are over 90 years old with no sign of decline
in sight. It first fruited in Santa Barbara in 1914. They can be
grown for a short period in a large container.
Growth Habit: The lychee tree is handsome, dense, round-topped
and slow-growing with smooth, gray, brittle trunk and limbs. Under
ideal conditions they may reach 40 feet high, but they are usually
much smaller The tree in full fruit is a stunning sight.
Foliage: The leathery, pinnate leaves are divided into four to eight
leaflets. They are reddish when young, becoming shiny and bright
green. Lychee trees have full foliage and branch to the ground.
Flowers: The tiny petalless, yellowish-green flowers are borne in
in terminal clusters to 30 inches. Lychees are eye-catching in
spring when the huge sprays of flowers adorn the tree. Flowering
precedes fruit maturity by approximately 140 days.
Fruits: The fruit is covered by a leathery rind or pedicarp which
is pink to strawberry-red in color and rough in texture. A
greenish-yellow variety is not grown in California at present. Fruit
shape is oval, heart-shaped or nearly round, 1 to 1-1/2 inches in
length. The edible portion or aril is white, translucent, firm and
juicy. The flavor is sweet, fragrant and delicious. Inside the aril
is a seed that varies considerably in size. The most desirable
varieties contain atrophied seeds which are called "chicken tongue".
They are very small, up to 1/2 inch in length. Larger seeds vary
between 1/2 to 1 inch in length and are plumper than the chicken
tongues. There is also a distinction between the lychee that leaks
juice when the skin is broken and the "dry and clean" varieties
which are more desirable. In some areas lychees tend to be alternate
bearers. Fruit splitting is usually caused by fluctuating soil