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Rolfs, Peter Henry
Rolfs, Peter Henry
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16. Litchi


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Rolfs, Peter Henry
Agriculture -- Study and teaching -- Brazil -- Minas Gerais.
Agriculture--Brazil--Bello Horizonte
Litchi Chinensis


An article about the Litchi Chinensis.

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University of Florida
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Bello Horizonte, Jan. 122.
Called alexia in Brazil. Given the common name by
people at the Baptist College as "Olho de Pomba"- Found one tree
fruiting 6il the Collegio Baptista. Origin of the tree not known.
Examination of the trunk did not reveal any signs of inarching. It
is probably a seedling. 'out seven meter tall, three branches about
one half meter above the ground. Picked about a dozen fruits on Jan
21" 1922. 6ade photographs of the fruit and also of the tree. The
day before Mrs. Bolfs brought in several fruits. Zffie found few fruits
on the ground partially drie~d. Early all of the seeds are sterile.
Three plump seeds were ound in the lot nicked. These were nut in a
lower pot with a view to ger'inating them.
The tree was just making a new fliish, the new leaves rather
flaccid, yellowish green, the older leaves darker green. Yot quil-e
as heavy as citrus leaves.
Leaves compound, in pairs. Usually three. Some times
four and also two. Occasionally a leaf was found with a terminal leaf-
let. The petioles of typical leaves six to eight cm. long. The pet-
iloes of leaflets one half to one cm long, the proximal ones usually
longest- Leaflets attached to the leaf by a node. Some times the
leafletsoccur opposite. Leaflets 5 to 12 cm. long, including petioletL
The ultimate pair are usually the longest. Leaflets 2.5 to 4 cm wide.
Eliptical, some acute, others obtuse, blade merging into the netiolet.
New bark grayish green, lenticles prominent. Older bark
darker, lenticles not visible.
Fruit strawberry red, and at short distance resembles a straw-
bernr very much. Born in clusters of two, three and four. Typical fruit



3.5 x 23 x 2.5 cm. zGeneral outling oval flatfish. Foughened on
the surface, showing greenish between the tuburcles. Tubercles
blunt i sh.
Taste of the fruit rather 1le'sant, skin rather thin ,
ekhuding a drop of clear liquid when broken. Aril, somewhat tough-
ish. Go6d flavor, pleasant, taste for fruit improves with eating.
Apparently deterior-ting somewhat in flavor on drying.
Seed dark colored, shiny, about like polished ebony. hShane
rather regular. Size of a small crsotr bean seed when not sterile.
1r. Honorio Hermeto showed ie a specimen on bonde on way to

station. J. T. Nogueria Penido, assistant Sctrtaria de Apricultura
showed me a specimen grown on his place, Rua Alfinas B 8.
A good many poenld to whom I showed a specimen or nhotogranh
thot that it was a fruit'bf 6e corino. Some of them were ouite certain
that it was an anona.1.
Mr. Keaaey of Juiz de F-ra, had told me before that lychee
were obtained by his brother at Christmns time.
.-.. ... ...


~ II

-r -' "- i



This splendid fruit is most frequently known as a nut on

the market. This is probably due to the fact that the markets outside

of Southern China know it principally in the dried state. In a treasure

it resembles a nut, the outer shell being quite firm and the interior of

the dried fruit resembling the kernel of a nut in a very remote way. In

-razil, as in China, the fruit should be eaten in the fresh state. Litchis

fully ripened on the tree make a very delicious addition to the meal. In

fact, one Chinaian was so fond of faesh litchi that he said it would be

no c;erious hardship to be banished from his naulive land for life, if he

could get all the litchi that he could eat.

The southern part of Uhina has a vei- lar:-e e;-,ort ,L.xadd in

the dried fruits and a somewhat smaller export trade in the canned fruits.

It is the. native home of the litchi, which appeas to ljbve been cultivated

there for thousands of years. In fact, there is one tree, considered to

be the most valuable litchi tree in Ct!ina, tl-t is said to be more than

a thouw: nd years old.

There are several fruiting trees in 2.ello Horizonte and we

are told of other localities in Minas in vAich tlie litchi has been fruited.

This shows that at least a considerable portion of the sta*e is suited

to its growth.

Soil Requirements.

According to G. W. Groff in"2he Litchi and Lunran", the

favorite location for litchi planting in China ia in ioi t soil, such as
along the banks of canals and on the edges of drained fields. It- is also

frer ue.tly pla.nted on hill sides where terraces are ..ade to prevent the

water from running off too rapidly.

Investigations accord4f to Dr. F. P. Coville show rather


conclusively that the litchi tree prefers an acid soil to an alkaline

or neutral one, being especially adapted to a soil that contains a

considerable amount of peat. Small trees planted in a mixture consist-

ing of two ;.'arts of upland peat and one part of clean sand grew three

times as rapidly as trees planted in ordinary greenhouse potting soil.

This together with the experience in China would lead us to believe that

tha litchi would do better on the heavier well drained bottom soil than

on the higher hill sides such as are usually employed for orchard trees,


In the matter of cultivation, the litchi requires about the

same as is given to the best orchard fruits, excpeting that the Uchinese

give the trees an abundance of crude food material, furnishing large

amounts of nitrogen and smaller amounts of potash and phosphoric acid.

Ordinary well rotted stable manure would probably serve thie purpose quite

well excepting that it is likely to be unbalanced in the direction of

containing too much nitrogen.

Climatic Requirements.

Dr. T7. P. Single has made a rather careful analysis of the

climatic conditions prevailing at Canton, ChinG where litchis flourish

remarkably well, Th1is region isa noted for its excessively cloudy winters,

low temperatures but rarely reaching the freezing point, with the average.

minirlum temperatures of about 10 degrees Centigrade for the coldest month.

.- thrives in a region of moist, hot summers, but seems

to be able to withstand prolonged drought. 'This is probably due to the

fact that the tree in its native home is usually planted near a constant

supply of moisture, such as along canal banks and around the adges of

vegetable farms. The total rainfall at Canton is about the same as in

most parts of Minas Geraes,-the rains pccurring in the summer and the


dry weather in the winter.


There are probably as many varieties of lltohis in Brazil

as there are plants, since nearly all are seedlings. Of the six small

seedlings growing on the grounds of the Escola Superior de A2ricultura e
Veterlnaria each 6ne seems to have a distinctive leaf shape and doubtless

each will have a different fruiting habit.

Multiplication of lltchi, in China, is almost entirely by

"air-layering". By this means they are able to perpetuate the character-

istics of a variety quite true to type. The fruits from the trees oC a

superior variety bring a much higher price than those from ones of infer-

ior quality. Among the trees that have fruited in Bello Htorlzonte there is

considerable variation in the appearenge of the fruit and in the quality.

In starting an orchard of lltchis it is very important, therefore, to
select the propagating material from trees which give gruit of good qual-

ity and in abundance.


In China t his is carried on by '-hat is known as "Air-

layering"-, or the Chinese method. This is an easy way of propagating

but requires a g great deal of patience and time. &ir. 1"dwtrd Gouoher was

able to get a aImrgeppercent of cuttings to strike and take roots, but

this required a very delicately arranged form of .ropagating house,

together with a large amount of technical knowledge in these matters.

This air-layering has been used for centuries not only

with litchis but with many other fruit trees in India and China, conse-

quantly many.of the natives are familiar with the process. In the spring,

about the time the trees are coming into bloom, branches about an inch in

diameter are selected From these rings of bark are out. The out surface

at the upper end of the ring will callous in two or three days. Then a


small ball of mud is applied to this girdled portion. This iiud is a

mixture of stickey pond mud with chopped leaves or stra,. It is securely

bound around the limb. Then rains are sufficiently abundant the ball

remains moist and in a short time roots will form at the upper part of

the girdle, penetrating the ball of mud. "hen roots have penetrated the

ball #of mxaud, more of a s*ilar kind is applied and in the course of three

or four months sufficient roots will have formed to support the new plant

when separated from the parent tree, Ai'ong 1:uropean graInrner3 a mixturee

of about equal parts of fresh cow dung and fine clay soil .ervos a similar


After the new trees are Leparated from the itrvnt they are

set in a n-ursery or planted in pots. If set in a irurr0, t:iu re .rown

for a year or to and t en transplanted to their pe.t.'lanent location.

When lifting the,.i from the nLiu-sery, a bill of earth about*

in diameter, .iore or less, according to the size of t)ie tree, is removed

with each and carried to; the per.naient location.

The advantage of using this iiethod for the pro-.oL;ntion of

litchis is that one will have bearing trees in from three to four years.

If one starts with a small cuttingSit will be a year or tvo longer before
bearing trees may be expected. If one starts with the seed it will be

probably ten or twelve years, in addition to tjie f1-ct that he will pro-

bably have as many varieties of litchis as he has trees. "ost of such

seedlings are quite worthless.


So few litchis have been fruited in Brazil that the fruit

is jg unknowm to the average man and even most of the fruitccnnolsseuns

have not /et eaten freshly picked, well ripened !-razilian litchis. In the

course of time they will become as popular on the market as oranges,

pineapples, avocados, and mangoes. Among some of the fruit connoisseurs
Ae *

it is already regarded as a mrirrk of special favor to have someone make

them a present of a box of nice ripe litchis.

In Brazil they ripen from the beginning of December to the

first of 'arch.

In China the fruit are picked from the trees with small

branches attached. This is thought important a.j it is believed to add to

the keeping quality of the fruits. At any rate the leaves add very materially

to their beauty. A well ripc:ned litchi i: about the color of a well ripened

strawberry and somieviiat the aame shape and a4pearerAce. ihe fruits my be eaten

directly from the tree and will be found to have the best flavor and to be

the most arpitising in this etate, 'They may be picLed from the small branches,

placed in well ventilated c.ontainurs and kept for v..eeks a/id even onths in

such receontacles, In Chinra, -diere the crop is valued at millions of dollars,

the llthhis are dried two or three d.yi3 on the small lrazches, (see photograph)

then picked from these ba.:ncd,3 ad the drying continued. After being well

dried they may be forwarded to any iijr'ket in the world.

In a day or Lvwo after the fruit is picked from the tree it be-

gins to lose its brilliant color and when thoroughly ;:ry is about the color of

a rather light date. Tin buying fresh litchis, therefore, one need never be

deceived as to whether they are perfectly fresh or not,

This is the ideal fruit to grow at an elevation of two to three

thousand feet in the matta region of L'inas Geraes, es ecially in those places

Mhich have ready access to the railroad. The fruit could be easily transport-

ed to the large cited without danger of deterioration in transit and with a

certainty that its opulatity will increase until it is as popular here as in

China. It is the ideal fruit for the small planter to enggg his ability and

the services if his family, and would mean the return of much money for a

product that zost him but very little.

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