Dec. 5, 2020
ChinaProfessor Groff, in his book, The lychee and the lungan, tells us that the production of superior types of lychee is a matter of great family pride and local rivalry in China, where the fruit is esteemed as no other.
In 1492, a list of 40 lychee varieties, mostly named for families, was published in the Annals of Fukien. In the Kwang provinces there were 22 types, 30 were listed in the Annals of Kwangtung, and 70 were tallied as varieties of Ling Nam. The Chinese claim that the lychee is highly variable under different cultural and soil conditions.
Professor Groff concluded that one could catalog 40 or 50 varieties as recognized in Kwangtung, but there were only 16 distinct, widely-known and commercial varieties grown in that province, half of them marketed in season in the City of Canton. Some of these are classed as "mountain" types; the majority are "water types" (grown in low, well-irrigated land). There is a special distinction between the kinds of lychee that leak juice when the skin is broken and those that retain the juice within the flesh. The latter are called "dry- and -clean" and are highly prized. There is much variation in form (round, egg-shaped or heart-shaped), skin color and texture, the fragrance and flavor and even the color, of the flesh; and the amount of "rag" in the seed cavity; and, of prime importance, the size and form of the seed.
IndiaIn his book, The Litchi, Dr. Lal Behari Singh wrote that Bihar is the center of lychee culture in India, producing 33 selected varieties classified into 15 groups. His extremely detailed descriptions of the 10 cultivars recommended for large-scale cultivation I have abbreviated (with a few bracketed additions from other sources):
The first lychee introduced into Hawaii was the 'Kwai Mi', as was the second introduction several years later. The high quality of this variety (sometimes locally called 'Charlie Long') caused the lychee to become extremely popular and widely planted. The Hawaiian Agricultural Experiment Station imported 3 'Brewster' trees in 1907, and various efforts were made to bring other types from China but not all survived. A total of 16 varieties became well established in Hawaii, including 'Hak Ip' which has become second to 'Kwai Mi' in importance.
In 1942, the Agricultural Experiment Station set out a collection of 500 seedlings of 'Kwai Mi', 'Hak Ip' and 'Brewster' with a view to selecting the trees showing the best performance. One tree of outstanding character (a seedling of 'Hak Ip') was first designated H.A.E.S. Selection 1-18-3 and was given the name 'Groff' in 1953. It is a consistent bearer, late in season. The fruit is of medium size, dark rose-red with green or yellowish tinges on the apex of each tubercle. The flesh is white and firm; there is no leaking juice; the flavor is excellent, sweet and subacid; most of the fruits have abortive, "chicken-tongue" seeds and, accordingly have 20% more flesh than if the seeds were fully developed.
There were many other introductions of seeds, seedlings, cuttings or air-layers into the United States, from 1902 to 1924, mostly from China; also from India and Hawaii, and a few from Java, Cuba, and Trinidad; and these were distributed to experimenters in Florida and California, and some to botanical gardens in other states, and to Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, Honduras, Costa Rica and Brazil. Many were killed by cold weather in California and Florida.
In 1908, the United States Department of Agriculture brought in 27 plants of 'Kwai mi'. At the same time, 20 plants of 'Hak Ip' were imported and these were sent to George B. Cellon in Miami in 1918. A tree of the 'Bedana' was introduced from India in 1913. In 1920, Professor Groff obtained seedlings of 'Shan Chi' (mountain lychee) from Kwantung Province, together with air-layers of 'Sheung shu wai', 'No mai ts 'z', and 'T' im ngam' (sweet cliff). The latter was found to bear more regularly than 'Brewster' but exhibited nutritional deficiencies in limestone soil.
Most of the various plants and rooted cuttings from them were distributed for trial; the rest were kept in U.S. Department of Agriculture greenhouses in Maryland.