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5 Stages of Lychee Fruit Development

By William Mee & Krystal Folino
  1. Flowers

    Lychee trees typically begin to flower in the early winter months and continue to bloom throughout the months of January, February and March.. Lychee flowers appear as a 12 to 30 inch clusters containing both make and female flowers on the terminal ends of hardened off new growth. If there has been sufficient chilling and dryness during the winter then there will generally be a larger portion of bloom instead of simply new growth.

  2. Starting Fruit

    Male flowers are the first to emerge and open. The fruit forms from the female flower that opens later than the male. When the flower is pollinated the ovary begins to swell. This is what becomes the actual lychee fruit.

  3. Green Stage

    As the small lychee fruit develop many of the fruits will drop off of the tree from wind and some simply from natural attrition. A variety of insect pests can damage the stem on the newly developing fruit leading to drop off.

  4. Red Stage

    Fruit begin to develop some coloration in late April and May. The commercial Mauritius varieties are the first fruit to show this sign of ripening followed by the Brewster fruit in Late May and early June. If you pick and attempt to eat a slightly pink fruit you will find the taste to be somewhat tart. This is the stage when most lychee growers pick and sell their crop.

    If the Florida rainy season is delayed by a week or two, the fruit will not begin to size up. If there is a sudden rainfall after a prolonged dry period many of the fruit on the tree will split. Split fruit attract insects and birds and lead to collateral damage on adjacent fruits.

  5. Ripe Stage

    This is the stage that we are all waiting for. With the advent of the summer rainy season (around mid-May in Florida) the fruits will begin to swell with juice and produce lots of sugars. Unlike many other tropical fruits, much of the size of a lychee is determined in the very last stage of development, just prior to its peak ripeness.

    An excellent indicator of ripeness in lychees is the flattening of the bumps on the surface of the skin, caused by the fruit swelling with juice and fructose (fruit sugar - mmmmmm). The dark red color (almost purplish) is a good indicator of maturity along with fruit size (minimum of 25 mm in diameter.)
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