Lychee Tree



The lychee tree (Litchi chinensis) is popular for the sweet fruit it produces. Although the lychee tree is not easy to grow in Singapore, this evergreen tree can still be found in different parts of Singapore including the Singapore Botanic Gardens. A particular lychee tree has also been chosen by the National Parks Board for preservation under the Heritage Trees Scheme.

Origins and cultivation
The lychee tree is native to Guangdong in southern China. Its cultivation predates the Qin dynasty (221–207 BC) and was known to be the queen of all fruit.1 It was also believed to be native to Northern Vietnam due to suitable climate conditions.2 Over the years, lychee cultivation spread to neighbouring countries such as Myanmar and India. It requires a cool dry period to encourage vegetative dormancy prior to flowering but requires warm and humid summers with plenty of rain for successful fruiting. Economic prospects of expanding this crop are therefore limited due to its demanding ecological requirements.3 Lychee trees are thus found in certain parts of China; India; northern Vietnam; the cool highlands of Thailand; Bali, Indonesia among other countries.4


Description
The lychee tree is of medium height with a short stocky trunk and branches that are often crooked and twisted. It is a slow growing tree with a dense round top and can reach 30 meters in height.5


Foliage
An evergreen tree, its dark green, glossy and leathery leaves are divided into four to eight leaflets and each is about 4 to 8 centimeters long.6 Its young leaves are reddish in colour.7

Flowers
Lychee flowers are small, white or yellowish in colour and bunched at the tip of branches. The flowers normally appear in spring. Flowering precedes fruit maturity by about 140 days.8

Fruits
Lychee fruits grow in loose, pendent clusters of between two to 30 fruits and are usually strawberry-red or sometimes pinkish in colour. They are round, measuring about 3 to 3.5 centimeters in diameter, and covered with thin leathery skin. The fruit’s glossy, succulent, translucent-white to pinkish fleshy aril is juicy and sweet. Inside the aril is a seed, which varies in size and form. The seed is hard and oblong, with a shiny dark-brown coat and white inside.9 The lychee tree is known to reach its prime production in its 20th to 40th year and can stay productive for another 100 years.10


Uses
Food

Lychees are usually peeled and eaten fresh. When pitted, they are commonly added to fruit cups and fruit salad, or canned in sugar syrup. In their dried form, peeled lychees are eaten like snacks. They can be added to Chinese tea as a sweetener in place of sugar.

Medicine
The Chinese use lychee flesh as a cough remedy and it is believed to have a beneficial effect on gastralgia, tumours and enlargements of the glands. The ground seed is used as an analgesic. In China and India, the seeds are powdered and is said to relieve neuralgic pain.11

Lychees in Singapore
Being a sub-tropical fruit, lychee trees fruit erratically in tropical Singapore.12 The lychee fruit is imported to Singapore during the June/July season.13 Often eaten fresh, the fruit has also been used as a salad, side dish and dessert.14

A particular lychee tree chosen by the National Parks Board for preservation under the Heritage Trees Scheme is located along Mt. Rosie Road (opposite house 11J, beside the Lamp Post LP12). It is a large roadside tree at roughly 18 meters high. The National Parks Board lists this lychee tree in their website with a unique ID of HT 2001-02.15  The lychee tree can also be found at the Wild Fruit Trees Arboretum, Learning Forest at the Singapore Botanic Gardens.16

Variant names17
Common name: Lychee

Scientific name: Litchi chinensis, nephelium litchi
Botanical Family: Sapindaceae (soapberry family)
Cambodia: kuleen
Indonesia: lici
Malay: Laici, kelengkang
Vietnam: Vai18



Author
Tan Hooi Geng



References
1. Lychees: A royal treat for the palate. (1988, October 24). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in South-East Asia. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 248. (Call no.: RSING 634.0959 OTH); Vũ, C. H. (1997). Fruit-trees in Vietnam. Hanoi, Vietnam: The Gioi Publishers, pp. 102–106. (Call no.: RSING 634.0409597 VU)
3. Dannell, E., Kiss, A., & Stöhrová, M. (2011). Dokmai Garden’s guide to fruits and vegetables in Southeast Asian market. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 581.6320959 DAN); Morton, J. F. (1987). Lychee [Electronic version]. In Morton, J. F., Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/lychee.html; Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in South-East Asia. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 250. (Call no.: RSING 634.0959 OTH)
4. Jensen, M. (1995). Trees commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide. Bangkok: RAP Publication, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSING 582.160959 JEN); Mitra, S. K. (n. d.). Overview of lychee production in the Asia-Pacific region. Retrieved 2017, July 5, from Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific website: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac684e/ac684e04.htm#fn3; Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in South-East Asia. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 248–255. (Call no.: RSING 634.0959 OTH); Tate, D. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 TAT)
5. Jensen, M. (1995). Trees commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide. Bangkok: RAP Publication, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSING 582.160959 JEN)
6. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: an illustrated guide. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates. p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 BLA); Jensen, M. (1995). Trees commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide. Bangkok: RAP Publication, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSING 582.160959 JEN)
7. California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. (1996). Lychee. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. website: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/lychee.html
8. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: an illustrated guide. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates. p. 139.  (Call no.: RSING 634.6 BLA); California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. (1996). Lychee. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from California Rare Fruit Growers Inc. website: http://www.crfg.org/pubs/ff/lychee.html; Othman Yaacob & Subhadrabandhu, S. (1995). The production of economic fruits in South-East Asia. Kuala Lumpur; New York: Oxford University Press, p. 249. (Call no.: RSING 634.0959 OTH)
9. Jensen, M. (1995). Trees commonly cultivated in Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide. Bangkok: RAP Publication, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSING 582.160959 JEN); Morton, J. F. (1987). Lychee. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from hort.purdue website: www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/lychee.html; Tate, D. (2007). Tropical fruit. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 48. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 TAT)
10. Dannell, E., Kiss, A., & Stöhrová, M. (2011). Dokmai Garden’s guide to fruits and vegetables in Southeast Asian market. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 581.6320959 DAN)
11. Morton, J. F. (1987). Lychee. Fruits of warm climates. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from hort.purdue website: www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/morton/lychee.html
12. Tong, Y. T. (1984, February 28). Family’s fruitful wait. The Straits Times, p. 12; S’pore lychee tree does well. (1989, February 28). The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Keng, H. (1990). The concise flora of Singapore: Gymnosperms and dicotyledons. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 120. (Call no.: RSING 581.95957 KEN); Mitra, S. K. (n.d.). Overview of lychee production in the Asia-Pacific region. Retrieved 2017, July 5 from Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific website: http://www.fao.org/docrep/005/ac684e/ac684e04.htm#fn3
14. Quek, E. (2013, January 27). Liven up by lychees: Grandpa’s canned fruit dessert inspires Magdalene See’s panna cotta and jelly. The Straits Times, p. 41; Van, A. (2006, June 1). Relish the sweet lychee. Today, p. 57. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Living landmarks. (2002, September 24). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; National Parks Board. (2016, May 11). Lychee Tree. Retrieved 2017, July 3 from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/heritage-trees/ht-2001-02
16. Singapore Botanic Gardens. The Learning Forest. Retrieved from 2017, July 3 from Singapore Botanic Gardens website: https://www.sbg.org.sg/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=1233&Itemid=523
17. Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: an illustrated guide. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates. p. 139. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 BLA); Hutton, W. (2000). Tropical fruits of Malaysia & Singapore. Hong Kong: Periplus Editions, p. 49. (Call no.: RSING 634.6 HUT); Jensen, M. (2001). Trees and fruits of Southeast Asia: An illustrated field guide. Bangkok: Orchid Press, pp. 144–145. (Call no.: RSEA 582.160959 JEN)
18. Vũ, C. H. (1997). Fruit-trees in Vietnam. Hanoi, Vietnam: The Gioi Publishers, pp. 102–106. (Call no.: RSING 634.0409597 VU)



Further resources
Chin, S. F. (1996, November 6). Sculptor loves to breathe life into chunks of wood. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Chow, C. (2002, September 29). Trunk services. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

The National Gardening Association. (1994). Dictionary of horticulture. New York, N.Y.: Viking.
(Call no.: R 635.03 DIC)

Tan, L. L. (1986, September 4). The ‘eyes’ have it: Be they longans or lychees. The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG

Wee, L. (2001, November, 4). Leaf those trees alone. The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



List of Images
Blancke, R. (2016). Tropical fruits and other edible plants of the world: an illustrated guide. Ithaca, NY: Comstock Publishing Associates. p. 139.

(Call no.: RSING 634.6 BLA)

Dannell, E., Kiss, A., & Stöhrová, M. (2011). Dokmai Garden's guide to fruits and vegetables in Southeast Asian market. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus Press, p. 72. (Call no.: RSING 581.6320959 DAN)

National Parks Board. (2016, May 11). Lychee Tree. Retrieved July 3, 2017, from National Parks Board website: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/heritage-trees/ht-2001-02



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Science and technology>>Agriculture>>Fruit crops
Litchi chinensis--Singapore
Plants
Nature>>Plants