Ahhh - wonderful lychee. Truly one of the fruit-of-the-gods.
The lychee tree originated in China and is found throughout Asia. It was first brought to the Hawaiian Islands in 1873 as a popular fruit tree and continues to be grown throughout the islands in home gardens and lawns. While there is some lychee grown commercially the vast majority of trees are in neighborhood yards.
The lychee tree is a subtropical evergreen with bright green leaves that grow in four to eight leaflet groups. It has very small yellowish flowers that grow in clusters from a stalk and the fruit appears between May and August. The tree may grow to 40 to 50 feet tall if left untrimmed.
The lychee fruit starts out as a small green oval and grows into a reddish-green fruit until, when fully matured, it is a stunning bright red color. A lychee tree may have thousands of fruit on it making them very beautiful during the harvesting season. The fruit grows, much like the flowers, with a cluster of fruit from each stalk.
The fruit itself is covered in a leathery rind that is bright red when ripe. The rind is very thin and is easy to break into. Inside the rind is the fruit that is a silky, translucent white fruit with a single large oval black seed in it. Popping the delicious white fruit into your mouth the taste is instantly wonderful. Lychee is very sweet with a firm texture. The seed is easy to remove from the flesh.
Because the lychee tree likes to be in an environment that receives at least 80 inches of rain a year - it does well on the wetter sides of the islands and can be found throughout the Puna district and especially in Hilo. The tree requires good drainage and tends to do quite well on lava rock with very little dirt.
Humans are not the only creatures that enjoy lychee. Birds open up the bright red fruit with their beak and then eat the juicy fruit inside. A flock of birds can quickly work through a tree transforming the bright red berries into partially eaten bright white fruits.