Friday, May 26, 2023

History of lychee

Lychee originated in the area between southern China, northern Viet Nam and the Malay Peninsula. The lychee is known to have been cultivated in southern China as early as 1766 BC.

A significant lychee culture had developed by 200 BC in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi. In 111 BC, during the Han Dynasty, the royal record described a trial of planting lychee trees in the palace on the order of Emperor Hanwu. However, the trial ended in failure as lychee could not survive the northern climate.

The name ‘litchi’ or ‘Li-zhi’ in Chinese Pinying, originally meaning ‘to be detached from the branch’, first appeared in text in 200 BC.

Fresh lychees were an object of such desire that in the Tang Dynasty, one emperor set up a dedicated horse relay to deliver the fruits to the imperial court from harvests made far to the south.

Litchi was propagated through seedlings before the 10th century. However, the long juvenile period and variations in performance associated with this practice eventually convinced growers to use vegetative material. It is estimated that air-layering or marcotting was first used in the 4th century AD, and grafting was first recorded in the 16th century.

The lychee attracted the attention of European travelers, such as the Spanish bishop, explorer, and sinologist. Later the lychee was described and introduced to the West in 1656 by Michal Boym, a Polish Jesuit missionary (at that time Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth).

Lychee reached India through Myanmar in 1789, and later on appeared in Bangladesh and Nepal. Litchi was first introduced into Thailand from China 300 years ago, by merchants who carried fruit with them. Some seedlings were adapted to the tropical conditions of the central region of the country and grew and fruited there.

It is thought to have been introduced into the United States around 1870 by General H. S. Sanford, world traveller and collector of exotic plants.
History of lychee