The lychee tree is a perennial evergreen tree that is primarily grown for its sweet delicious fruits called ‘Lychee’ or ‘Litchi’. It is a beautiful tree that can also be grown for ornamental purposes in your garden or backyard. It is also a tall and wide growing tree that can also be used as a shade tree. The lychee tree is believed to have originated from China but now this tree is cultivated all over the world.
The lychee fruit is very famous amongst many people and it is widely enjoyed by consumers all around the world because of its attractive colors and unique taste. At present, the lychee fruit has a high commercial value in the international market and it is mainly consumed fresh. It is a perishable fruit that can go bad quite easily in a matter of a few days. As such, it is very important to use it timely, to enjoy its taste and health benefits.
The lychees have been directly consumed and used in medicinal practices since ancient times. Along with the direct consumption of lychee as a food source, the lychee fruit and its extracts also have many applications and uses in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and chemical industries. China and India are the biggest producers of lychee and they also locally consume a big share of lychee production.
Lychee Tree or Litchi Tree – Basic Description
The lychee tree belongs to the family ‘Sapindaceae’ and genus ‘Litchi’ and it is the only member of this genus. The scientific name of the lychee tree or litchi tree is ‘Litchi chinensis’. These tall trees generally grow in the height range of 20 to 30 meters.
The lychee tree is a tall and dense evergreen tree that has a round-topped and symmetrical canopy. It is a slow-growing tree with leaves having compound leaves with 2 to 8 leaflets, that are reddish in color initially and then turning to shiny light green to dark green color as they mature. These leaves are elliptically oblong and lanceolate in shape with abruptly pointed ends.
The flowers of the lychee tree are small, yellow in color, and they are borne in clusters on a large thyrse. Fruits are round or heart-shaped having thin, hard, and leathery skin and the color of the fruits is generally red or pinkish. The edible portion of fruit is the aril, which is present immediately under the skin. The trees with small-seeded fruits are highly prized and demanded because of the greater portion of pulp.
The lychee tree is multi-trunked and its branches droop downwards as the tree grows. The litchi tree can grow on a variety of soils including Clay, loamy, and sandy soils. It prefers to grow on slightly alkaline well-drained soil with a pH range of 5.5 to 7.0. They have a moderate drought tolerance and they do not thrive in areas with soggy soil.
Lychee Fruit – Litchi Fruit
The lychee fruit is a fleshy fruit that is covered by a pink or red hard and roughly textured rind that is inedible. This rind can be removed easily removed to expose a layer of sweet, delicious, translucent white flesh. These fruits are globose or oblong to ovate in shape. The lychee fruits are used in a variety of desserts, dishes and they are even consumed as a whole fruit in various parts of the world, mainly in China, the Indian subcontinent, and in many Southeast and South Asian countries.
The lychee fruit is consumed in many forms all around the world. The flesh of the ripe fruits is generally eaten fresh by most of the people, as this is the most common way of the consumption of lychee fruit. The lychee fruit can also be consumed in many other ways like making a juice of lychee, dried lychee, frozen lychee, lychee honey, lychee squash, etc.
Benefits and Uses of Lychee or Litchi
Lychee fruit is a fragrant and delicious fruit which is native to the lands of China, but now it is cultivated all around the world. The main reason for this is the growing popularity of the lychee fruit. The rise of the popularity of this fruit has been observed because of its great taste and its medicinal and health benefits. Let’s have a look at some of the main benefits of the lychee or litchi fruit.
1. Lychee fruit is a delicious fruit with numerous health benefits, it is rich in many vitamins, especially in Vitamin C. It has a high water and fiber content which makes it an ideal choice for weight loss, the dietary fiber in the fruit gives a boost to your digestion and overall health.
2. The lychee fruit is rich in polyphenolic compounds that are beneficial compounds with antioxidant properties that help in keeping you healthy and also protecting against various diseases.
3. Litchi fruits help to provide strength to your skin, hair, and nails. They have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
4. Lychee fruit is rich in copper, a mineral that is very essential for the formation of red blood cells in the body.
5. Lychee contributes to the health of your heart, it improves digestion and maintains good health of the intestines, it also aids in strengthening your immune system.
6. There are powerful anti-tumor compounds in the lychee fruit which help the body to fight free radicals and prevent the development of tumors and cancer.
Caution While Eating Lychee Fruit – Lychee Poisoning
Although the lychee fruit has several benefits, one should be cautious while consuming the lychee fruits, especially if one is consuming them in numbers. The lychee fruits, especially the unripe ones are known to have hypoglycin A and methylene cyclopropyl-glycine that may cause vomiting if taken excessively.
They are also known to lower the blood sugar levels considerably, especially in children who are malnourished. If the lychee fruit is taken in good quantity on an empty stomach by a malnourished person, then it may lead to fatigue, dizziness, memory loss, drowsiness, and even death.
So it is recommended that one should avoid eating lychee fruit in large quantities in a day in order to avoid these negative implications. Also, one should not eat the lychee fruit in large quantities on an empty stomach.
How to Grow Lychee Tree – Litchi Tree
Many people wish to grow the beautiful lychee tree for themselves, as this tree has multiple benefits. It is an ornamental tree, it is also a good shade tree and the biggest benefit is its juicy fruit. The lychee plant can be easily propagated from its seeds; let’s have a look at the stepwise process of growing a lychee tree from its seeds.
1. The first step is to separate the seeds from the lychee fruit by removing the skin and pulp of the fruit. The lychee seeds do not remain viable for long, as such it is important to use proper seeds for propagation. After removing the seeds from the fruit, clean them properly, and let them soak in water for some time.
2. The lychee seeds are quite big in size and they generally take time for germinating. Take out the soaked seeds for starting the germination process. Take a paper towel and make it wet by spraying water, you can also use some Epsom salt. Put a tablespoon in 500 ml of water and use it to spray on the paper towel. Put the seeds in this wet paper towel.
3. Now take a polythene bag, preferably a zip-lock bag and put the wet folded paper towel with seeds into it and seal it. Then, keep this bag in a warm dark, and moist area.
4. Keep a check on this zip lock bag every 2 to 3 days; make sure it remains moist enough. The seeds will take around 10 to 12 days to show signs of germination.
5. In a time period of about 15 days you will be able to see the new roots developing from the seeds.
6. After the development of the root system you can transplant the seeds into a small pot. For preparing the soil mix you can use garden soil, coco peat, and organic compost. Take a small pot with a hole at the bottom, put gravel on this hole, and fill the soil mix with it.
7. Make a small hole in this soil mix with your finger and then plant the seeds keeping the root downwards or sideward and then slowly sprinkle some water on it. Keep watering the plant at regular intervals so that it does not go dry.
8. Within some days you will see the new shoot peeking out of the soil. Take good care of the new growing plant by watering it regularly and saving it from the harsh sunlight in the initial days.