More than 100 productive years. Some specimens in China are said to be over 1000 years old.
Usually 30' high and nearly as wide. These trees can reach 50-100' under ideal conditions.
Small, without petals, 6-7 stamens, clustered in panicles at the end of branches.
The flowers are of three types: male, hermaphrodite behaving as female, or hermaphrodite behaving as male,
appearing either simultaneously or sequentially. The pollen is often defective.
Late winter or spring. Lychee cultivars often bloom and fruit heavily, then lightly,
in alternate years.
Yes, but an insect pollinator is needed. 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 and cutting-grafted plants. Trees grown from seed
can take 10-25 years.
Rough, brittle, red skin with a spiny strawberry appearance, 1-2" in diameter. Easily peeled
once a tear has started. The flesh is juicy, sweet, fragrant, white-translucent, and gelatinous. It 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 the 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. The tree provides dense shade.
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 a large seed, best in taste tests.
'Sweet Heart' Large, heart shaped fruit with small (chicken tongue) seeds, high
quality fruit, reliable producer.
The flowers attract pollinating insects, and the fruit attracts mammals, especially squirrels,
Toxic / Danger:
The seeds are mildly toxic. The 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.