More than 100 productive years. Some specimens in China
are said to be over 1000 years old.
Usually 30' high and nearly as wide. Can reach 50-100'
under ideal conditions.
Small, without petals, 6-7 stamens, clustered in panicles
at end of branches.
Flowers are of three types: male, hermaphrodite behaving as female,
or hermaphrodite behaving as male, appearing either simultaneously
or sequentially. Pollen is often defective.
Late winter or spring. Lychee cultivars often bloom and fruit
heavily, then lightly, in alternate years.
Yes, but needs an insect pollinator. Withholding fertilizer
or water is often practiced before and during bloom to force fruiting
of these rather capricious flowers.
Years before fruiting:
4-5 years for air-layered, cuttings and grafted
plants. Trees grown from seed can take 10-25 years.
Rough, brittle, red skin with spiny strawberry appearance, 1-2"
in diameter. Easily peeled once a tear has started. Juicy sweet, fragrant,
white translucent, gelatinous flesh. The flesh does not adhere to the single
inedible dark seed.
Months for fruit to ripen:
4-5 months when irrigation is stopped about
2-3 weeks before harvest. A red skin color and minimum size is a good indication
of ripeness. Lychees do not ripen further after harvest.
The fruit is removed from the tree by cutting the branch just above the
panicle bearing the fruits. Harvesting should be done in early morning or
late afternoon to maximize water content.
Storage after harvest:
Fresh lychees should be eaten within one day after
harvest, or they will dehydrate. Stored in the refrigerator, in sealed plastic
bags to prevent moisture loss, they can last up to one week. Lychees can
also be frozen, skin on, in sealed plastic bags. While frozen, then skinned,
they taste like lychee sorbet.
At room temperature, after a few days, the skin turns brown, brittle and hard,
and the flesh dries, shrivels, and develops a musky, but still edible, flavor.
Various practices are used to dry lychees. One is to shade dry for two days,
then sun dry for two weeks, bringing the fruit in at nights and during rain.
Dried fruit can be stored for about one year at room temperature.
Dark green on top, gray-green on bottom, 2-3" long, lance-shaped,
smooth, glossy, compound with 2-8 leaflets. New leaves are light green or reddish.
Seedling and grafted trees at maturity have tap roots as well as
lateral roots. Air layered trees have shallow, fibrous lateral roots which
can extend beyond the drip line.
Cultivars of Note:
'Brewster' Large fruit with large seed, best in taste tests.
'Sweet Heart' Large, heart shaped fruit with small (chicken
tongue) seeds, high quality fruit, reliable producer.
Attracts pollinating insects. Fruit attracts mammals, especially
squirrels, and birds.
Toxic / Danger:
Seeds are mildly toxic. Fruit contains tiny amounts of hypoglycin,
a toxin that reduces the body's ability to make glucose and can lead to low blood
sugar. Malnourished children should not eat this fruit on an empty stomach.
Southern China and Asia. Cultivated for more than 2000 years.