Lychees

Beneath these green mountains, where spring rules the year, The Arbutus and Loquat in season appear, And feasting on Lychee - three hundred a day, I should not mind staying eternally here." Thus sang a Chinese poet 900 years ago, about that native to southern China — the luscious lychee. The lychee tree is a medium to large, handsome evergreen with a short, stocky trunk and a large head. It is a long-lived tree growing to 20 metres high with a girth of four metres. Lychees require periodic cold between -1 and 4° C in winter to cause the physiological changes the trees require for fruit bearing. Although the lychee is distinctly heat-loving, it does enjoy a relatively cool winter.

The two most commonly grown lychee varieties are Tai So and Bengal. Young lychee trees show an unfavourable reaction to intense light: they have a forest origin and will be easily damaged by strong winds. A protective tree guard with hessian attached is necessary for the first 12 months. They prefer lighter, well-drained soils, with a pH of 5.0 to 5.5. Lychees will not tolerate 'wet feet'. A north to north-east aspect is best, to protect the trees from cold winds which upset fruit set and can cause splitting. Protection from the north-west, hot dry winds is also necessary. The trees should be planted 12 by 12 metres apart and the soil prepared before planting.

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