Lychee - Litchi chinensis Sonn.
'Sweethart' lychee
Fig. 1 
'Sweetheart' lychee

Lychee fruit, peeled and seed
Fig. 2
Lychee fruit, peeled and seed

Litchi chinensis
Fig. 3

Litchi chinensis
Fig. 4

Lychee flowers are pollinated by bees and wind
Fig. 5
Lychee flowers are pollinated by bees and wind

Lychee flower botany
Fig. 6

Upper and lower surfaces of the compound lychee leaf.
Fig. 10
Upper and lower surfaces of the compound lychee leaf

Fig. 11

Leaves and unripe fruits
Fig. 12
Leaves and unripe fruit

Lychee tree
Fig. 16
Mature tree with ripe fruit

Trunks of Litchi chinensis (picture taken on Réunion island)
Fig. 17
Trunks of Litchi chinensis (picture taken on Réunion island)

Fig. 18

Fruiting branches
Fig. 22
Fruiting branches

Litchi , Litchi chinensis Sonn, Family: Spindaceae
Fig. 23
Litchi , Litchi chinensis Sonn
Family: Spindaceae

Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stall
Fig. 24
Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stall

Litchi chinensis Sonn.
Fig. 25
In Madagascar
Scientific name
Litchi chinensis Sonn.
LEE-chee chih-NEN-sis
Common names
Widely known as litchi and regionally as lichi, lichee, laichi, leechee or lychee; Spanish and Portuguese-speaking people call the fruit lechia; the French, litchi, or, in French-speaking Haiti, quenepe chinois, distinguishing it from the quenepe, genip or mamoncillo of the West Indies, Melicoccus bijugatus, q.v. The German word is litschi. 5
Dimocarpus lichi Lour., Nephelium chinense (Sonn.) Druce., N. litchi Camb., Scytalia chinensis (Sonn.) Gaertn.
Spanish lime (mamoncillo, kinep; Melicoccus bijugatus ), longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.), akee (Blighia sapida Koenig.), and rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum L.) 1
Southern China and southeastern Asia
USDA hardiness zones
Hedge; fruit; specimen; screen; container or planter; deck or patio
20-30 ft (6.1-9.14 m)
20-30 ft (6.1-9.14 m) 
Plant habit
Beautiful, dense, rounded, symmetrical canopy extending nearly to the ground
Growth rate
40-100 years
Droop as the tree grows; typically multi-trunked; no thorns
Pruning requirement
Young trees do not require pruning; later, the tree should be maintained at 10-15 ff (3.0-4.6 m) for ease of harvest
Evergreen; compound with 2-8 leaflets; reddish when young, bright green as they mature
Small, yellow, and are borne on a large thyrse
Drupe; loose clusters 3-50 fruits; round/oval; pulp whitish, translucent; glossy brown seed: freezes well
Mid-May to early July in Florida, depending upon variety
USDA Nutrient Content pdf
Light requirement
Soil tolerances
Clay; loam; sand; slightly alkaline; acidic; occasionally wet; well-drained
PH preference
Drought tolerance
Flood tolerance
Occasionally wet
Aerosol salt tolerance
Soil salt tolerance
Cold tolerance
24-28 °F (-4.4-2.2 °C)
Plant spacing
35 ft (10.7 m)
Surface roots are usually not a problem
Invasive potential *
Considered not a problem species and may be used in Florida
Pest/disease resistance
Susceptible to scales and mushroom root rot can be a problem on soils where oaks were grown
Known hazard
None known

Reading Material

Lychee Growing in the Home Landscape from the University of Florida pdf 13 pages
Litchi chinensis: Lychee from the University of Florida pdf
Lychee from Julia Morton's book Fruits of Warm Climates
Lychee Information from the Cafornia Rare Fruit Growers
Lychee, Litchi chinensis from the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Virtual Herbarium
Lychee from Florida from the University of Florida pdf


The lychee (Litchi chinensis) is the sole member of the genus Litchi in the soapberry family, Sapindaceae. It is a tropical and subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China, and now cultivated in many parts of the world. China is the main producer of lychees, followed by India, with production occurring among other countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and South Africa. 5

Lychee, its Origin, Distribution and Production Around the World from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia

Lychee is a long-lived, evergreen tree that produces its new leaves, flowers and fruit on terminal shoots. The inflorescences produce many hundreds of functionally male and female flowers that carry from 5 to 80 attractive fruit at harvest. The red-skinned fruit contain a single seed, surrounded by a juicy sweet aromatic aril or flesh. Cultivars with large fruit, small seeds and a distinctive flavour are sought after in the market-place. 6

Lychee Tree in Bloom Lychee tree habit Litchi chinensis subsp. chinensis (Litchi, lychee) Habit
Fig. 19 Fig. 20 Fig. 21

Leaves that bear two to eight pairs of leaflets. Lychee leaves are reddish upon initial flush, but become shiny and green as they mature.


The flowers are small, yellowish-white, functionally male or female and apetalous. Functionally male flowers have six to ten stamens. There are usually two stages of male flowering overlapping with the female cycle: a true male flower first and then a functionally male flower that opens towards the end of the flowering period. The second male flower has a rudimentary bicarpellate pistil. This is absent in the first stage. Functionally female flowers have six to ten staminodes and a functional, bicarpellate pistil (Fig. 6). The last stage of male flowering generally supplies most of the pollen used to fertilize the female flowers. 6

Inflorescense Male flower Flower
Fig. 7 Fig. 8 Fig. 9

Fig. 7. Lychee inflorescence in full bloom.
Fig. 8. Male flower
Fig. 9. Female flower

The fruit is a drupe and fruit are borne in loose clusters numbering from 3 to 50 fruits and are round to oval and 1.0 to 1.5 inches
(25 to 38 mm) in diameter (Figure 5). The skin (pericarp) ranges from yellow to pinkish or red and is leathery, with small, short, conical or rounded protuberances. The edible portion of the fruit (pulp) is called an aril that is succulent, whitish, translucent, with excellent subacid flavor. Fruits contain one shiny, dark brown seed, usually relatively large, but it may be small and shriveled (called chicken tongues) in some varieties. Fruit must be ripened on the tree for best flavor. 2

Unripe fruit Ripe fruit A normal-sized seed (left) and a small-sized (Chicken tongue) seed (right)
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15

Fig. 13. Unripe fruit
Fig. 14. Ripe fruit
Fig. 15. A normal-sized seed (left) and a small-sized (Chicken tongue) seed (right)

Varieties Page
One variety that will not grow well in lime rock is the Emperor. The Emperor is a unique lychee that produces an enormous, juicy fruit with a tiny seed. To grow an Emperor in limestone soils you must graft the tree and the end result is a dwarfed slow growing specimen. 3



'Hak ip'


The Fruit must be allowed to ripen fully on the tree. Overly mature fruit darken in color and lose their luster. The flavor lacks the richness associated with a certain amount of acidity. To harvest, snip off entire fruit clusters, keeping a short piece of the stem attached. Lychees can be stored for up five weeks in the refrigerator. They can also be frozen or dried. Lychees will begin to deteriorate within three days at room temperature. 4
In China, great quantities of honey are harvested from hives near lychee trees. Honey from bee colonies in lychee groves in Florida is light amber, of the highest quality, with a rich, delicious flavor like that of the juice which leaks when the fruit is peeled, and the honey does not granulate. 5

Lychee Fruit Bagging for Commercial and Home Growers from the university of Hawai'i at Manoa pdf 7 pages
Lychee: Postharvest Quality-Maintenance Guidelines from the university of Hawai'i at Manoa pdf 4 pages

There are 3 types of flowers appearing in irregular sequence or, at times, simultaneously, in the lychee inflorescence: a) male; b) hermaphrodite, fruiting as female (about 30% of the total); c) hermaphrodite fruiting as male. The latter tend to possess the most viable pollen. Many of the flowers have defective pollen and this fact probably is the main cause of the abortive seeds and also the common problem of shedding of young fruits. The flowers require transfer of pollen by insects. 5

Lychee trees do not come true from seed, and seedling trees may take 10 or more years to bear fruit. Air layering is the most common method of propagation in Florida. In general, the larger the limb, the easier it is to air layer. Grafting (usually cleft or veneer) and budding onto lychee seedlings or air layers is possible but is not as common as air layering alone; this may change as superior rootstocks are identified. Top working is possible although not common and may become more common as superior cultivars are recommended. Air-layered or grafted trees begin to bear fruit in 3 to 5 years. 2
The Chinese method of air-layering has many variations. In fact, 92 modifications have been recorded and experimented with in Hawaii. Inarching is also an ancient custom, selected cultivars being joined to 'Mountain' lychee rootstock.
In order to make air-layering less labor-intensive, to eliminate the watering, and also to produce portable, shippable layers, Colonel Grove, after much experimentation, developed the technique of packing the girdle with wet sphagnum moss and soil, wrapping it in moisture-proof clear plastic that permits exchange of air and gasses, and tightly securing it above and below. In about 6 weeks, sufficient roots are formed to permit detaching of the layer, removal of the plastic wrap, and planting in soil in nursery containers. It is possible to air-layer branches up to 4 in (10 cm) thick, and to take 200 to 300 layers from a large tree. 5

Propagating the plant by air layering Air layering on a lychee tree
Fig. 26 Fig. 27

Fig. 26. Propagating the plant by air layering - the young white roots are already showing in the plastic bag
Fig. 27. Air layering on a lychee tree

Air Layering Technique
Air Layering Video: Part One and Part Two ext. link


Lychee does not fruit satisfactorily at sea level in tropical climates and is best adapted to warm to cool subtropical areas. The best climates for lychee production have a dry, cold (but nonfreezing) winter period lasting 3 to 5 months; a warm spring during the flowering period; a hot and humid summer during fruit growth, development, and maturation; and moderately warm temperatures during the fall.
Periodic rainfall during spring and summer is ideal. Young trees are damaged at temperatures of 28° to 32°F (-2° to 0°C), while temperatures down to 24° to 25°F (-3° to -4°C) cause extensive damage or death to large trees if exposed for several hours. Lychee trees do not acclimate to cold temperatures after exposure to cool, nonfreezing temperatures. Symptoms of cold damage include leaf death, leaf drop, stem and limb dieback, bark splitting, and tree death. 2

8 Essential Factors for Growing Healthy Lychee Trees

Generally training of young trees is not required. However, formative pruning during the first 2 years may be desirable to encourage lateral branching and growth. After several years of production it is desirable to cut back the tops of the trees to 10 to 15 feet (3.0 to 4.6 m). Selectively removing a few upper limbs back to their origin (crotches) each year will help prevent the loss of the lower tree canopy due to shading by the upper canopy. Pruning should be carried out immediately after harvest to allow regrowth and maturation of new shoots and leaves before the onset of cool/cold winter temperatures. 2
Pruning should be carried out immediately after harvest to allow regrowth and maturation of new shoots and leaves before the onset of cool/cold winter temperatures. 2

Pruning a Lychee Tree Video by Dr. Jonathan Crane of UF/TREC ext. link

Young trees (less than 4 years old) should be fertilized with 0.25 to 0.50 lbs (0.11 to 0.22 kg) of a complete fertilizer every 8 weeks. Fertilizer mixtures containing 6 to 8% nitrogen, 2 to 4% available phosphorus, 6 to 8% potash, and 3 to 4% magnesium are satisfactory. Twenty to 50% of the nitrogen should be in organic form.
Once trees are 4 or more years old and begin fruit production, applications of nitrogen containing fertilizer from August until early spring (February–March) should be avoided. Nitrogen applications during this time may stimulate new vegetative growth (i.e., leaves and shoots) and reduce or eliminated the potential for flowering and fruit production. 2

In the home landscape, trees will perform well without supplemental irrigation after trees are established. For more consistent cropping of mature trees, withholding irrigation during the fall and winter until bloom may enhance the amount of flowering. Watering during fruit set through harvest may enhance fruit quality and yields. 2

Pest Page
Lychee pests are very specific to the locale of the tree. In our grove in South Florida we get weevils, webworms and fungus. While there are lots of noxious life forms to be found on the trees such as ants, scale, lichens and stink bugs the big troublemakers are aforementioned nasties.
Weevils and various types of beetles seem to cause the most damage to new leave growth, especially before the new growth has hardened off. These pests generally will not kill a tree although the weevils can severely retard the growth of a young tree by eating or damaging much of the new growth, thereby slowing development. The larval form of the weevils will eat the exterior covering of the roots and if they are in sufficient quantity can kill the tree. 1

Disease Page

Food Uses
Lychees are most relished fresh, out-of-hand. Peeled and pitted, they are commonly added to fruit cups and fruit salads. To a small extent, lychees are also spiced or pickled, or made into sauce, preserves or wine. Whole frozen lychees are thawed in tepid water. They must be consumed very soon, as they discolor and spoil quickly. 5

Strawberry Lychee Sorbet Lychee jello
Fig. 28 Fig. 29

Fig. 28. Strawberry Lychee Sorbet
Fig. 29. Lychee jello

Lychee recipes from the Taste of the Tropics Cookbook
Lychee Recipes from the Virtual Herbarium at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
Florida Food Fare from the University of Florida pdf 

Medicinal Uses **
Ingested in moderate amounts, the lychee is said to relieve coughing and to have a beneficial effect on gastralgia, tumors and enlargements of the glands. One stomach-ulcer patient in Florida, has reported that, after eating several fresh lychees he was able to enjoy a large meal that, ordinarily, would have caused great discomfort. In China, the seeds are credited with an analgesic action and they are given in neuralgia and orchitis. A tea of the fruit peel is taken to overcome smallpox eruptions and diarrhea. In India, the seeds are powdered and, because of their astringency, administered in intestinal troubles, and they have the reputation there, as in China, of relieving neuralgic pains. Decoctions of the root, bark and flowers are gargled to alleviate ailments of the throat. Lychee roots have shown activity against one type of tumor in experimental animals in the United States Department of Agriculture/National Cancer Institute Cancer Chemotherapy Screening Program. 5

Because of the firmness of the shell of the dried fruits, they came to be nicknamed "lychee, or litchi, nuts" by the uninitiated and this erroneous name has led to much misunderstanding of the nature of this highly desirable fruit. It is definitely not a "nut", and the seed is inedible. 5

Further Reading
Loving Lychee from the Manatee County Master Gardener Newsletter
Growing Lychees in Hawaii from the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension pdf 8 pages New Options for Lychees and Longans Fans and Farmers from the USDA Agriculture Research Service
Florida Growers Like Lychees and Longans from the USDA Agriculture Research Service
The Lychee Crop in Asia and the Pacific from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations pdf 40 pages
Lychee (Litchi chinensis) from the Specialty Crops for Pacific Island Agroforesty pdf 13 pages The Litchi and its Relatives from Wilson Popenoe's book Manual of Tropical and Subtropical Fruits

Flowering in Lychee Trees

Origin of the Lychee Tree
Lychee Tree Root System and Development
Grafting and Grafted Lychee Trees
Steps for Planting a Landscape Lychee Tree in Your Yard
Tips on Getting Your Lychee Tree to Produce Fruit
5 Easy Steps for Girdling a Tree to Make it Produce More Fruit

From the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia
Irregular Flowering in Lychees
Fruit Crack on Lychees Drying Lychee Fruit
How I make my Lychees Flower and Fruit Every Year Top-Working Lychees 1993
Top-Working Lychees - The Result 1995
A Maturity Standard for Lychee
More on Lychees

List of Growers and Vendors


1 Folino, Krystal and Mee, Bill. "8 Essential Factors for Growing Healthy Lychee Trees". N.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
2 Crane,Jonathan H., Balerdi, Carlos F. and Maguire, Ian. "Lychee Growing in the Florida Home Landscape." This document is Fact Sheet HS-6, one of a series of the Horticultural Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. First printed Oct. 1968. Revisions Oct. 2008, Oct. 2013 and Nov. 2016. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
3 Mee, William. "Grafting and Grafted Lychee Trees". N.d. Web. 24 Jan. 2014.
4 "Lychee, Litchi chinensis Sonn". 1996. Web. 11 June 2014.
5 Morton, J. "Lychee." Fruits of warm climates, p. 240-259. 1987. Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
6 Menzer, Christopher. "The Lychee Crop in Asia and Pacific." Food and agriculture organiation of the United Nations. Regional office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. 2002. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.


Fig. 1 Mee, Bill and Folino, Krystal. A cluster of Emperor Lychee Fruit. N.d. Web. Cir. 2007.
Fig. 2 Jaitt, Oscar. Lychee. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 3,4,25 Antheunisse, Max. Litchi chinensis. N.d. Madagascar. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.
Fig.5,8,9,10,19,20,27 Maguire, Ian. N.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2014.
Fig. 6 The Lychee Crop in Asia and Pacific. N.d. Food and agriculture organiation of the United Nations. Regional office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok, Thailand. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
Fig. 7 Garg, J.M. Inflorescense. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 11,18 Mark, W.and Reimer, J. Lychee, Litchi chinensis. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 12 Thaumaturgist. Leaves and unripe fruits. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 13,14 Litchi chinensis, Nephelium litchi. N.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2016.
Fig. 15 Thomas621. A normal-sized seed (left) and a small-sized (Chicken tongue) seed (right). 2007. Public Domain. Web. 22 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 16 Jaitt, Oscar. Lychee tree 'Kaimana'. Web. 14 Dec. 2016.
Fig. 17 navez, B. Trunks of Litchi chinensis. Picture taken on Réunion island. 2006. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 28 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 21 Starr, Forest and Kim. Litchi chinensis subsp. chinensis (Litchi, lychee) Habit. Garden of Eden Keanae, Maui.  Web. 30 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 22 Thaumaturgist. Fruiting branches. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 23 Tandon, Parshotam Lal. Litchi , Litchi chinensis Sonn, Family: Spindaceae. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 24 Hardman, Emilie. Lychees for sale at a Malaysian fruit stall. 2007. Under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Web. 29 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 26 Lorenzini, Lacopo. Propagating the plant by air layering - the young white roots are already showing in the plastic bag. N.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2015.
Fig. 28 jamieanne. Strawberry Lychee Sorbet. 2013.  Under  (CC BY-ND 2.0). Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
Fig. 29 Megumi. Lychee jello. 2009.  Under  (CC BY-ND 2.0). Web. 21 Feb. 2017.

UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas
** Information provided is not intended to be used as a guide for treatment of medical conditions.

Published 12 Oct. 2013 LR. Last update 27 June 2017 LR
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