Lychee or litchi trees produce their tasty fruits during a very short period each year, but canned fruits can be enjoyed throughout the year.
Lychee is an important fruit tree in south China and south-east Asia.
Ciliegia della Cina
Basic information and facts
Southern China, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia
Cultivated in many parts of the world with tropical or sub-tropical climate.
Evergreen or deciduous:
An evergreen tree.
The small flowers are greenish-white or yellowish-white and are produced in panicles of up to 30 cm long.
Lychee fruits are 3-4 cm long and about 3 cm in diameter. The fruit is covered by a red, roughly-textured skin. This peel is inedible but can be easily removed. The inside of the fruit consists of sweet, translucent white flesh surrounding a single glossy brown nut-like seed. This sweet flesh is eaten. The seed (about 2 cm long and 1–1.5 cm in diameter) is poisonous and should not be eaten.
Lychee has alternate pinnate leathery leaves. Each leaf 15–25 cm long, with 2-8 lateral leaflets that are 5–10 cm long. Young leaves have a bright coppery red color at first. Later they turn shiny bright green.
Climate and weather:
Lychee is adapted to warm to cool subtropical areas. It requires seasonal temperature variations for good flowering and fruiting. A certain amount of chilling is necessary for flower bud development, but warm, humid summers are favorable for flowering and fruit development.
Bees and flies.
Can reach 12-15 or even 20 meter but often smaller.
Type of soil:
Requires a well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter.
pH from 5.5 to 7.5 is acceptable. Prefers soils with pH
The tree does not tolerate standing water, but it requires a very moist soil.
Needs full sun.
Slow growing tree.
Spacing (close range)
Spacing (wide range)
Mites, scales, aphids
The fruit matures 100 – 140 days after flowering.
Fruit are harvested by hand. They must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree. Fruits can be kept in refrigerator for several weeks. The skin will get brown in color but the taste remains ok. At room temperature the fruits can be kept only few days.
Fruits are eaten fresh as a snack or dessert fruit. Fruits are also canned for export and are sometimes used to make lychee wine.
Proverbs and Quotes
- “Beneath these green mountains where spring rules the year, the irbarbutus and loquat in season appear, and feasting on lychee, 300 a day, I shouldn’t mind staying eternally here.”
(Su Shih, Chinese poet)
Did you know that?
- Lychee was already an important fruit in China over 4000 years ago.