Our Lychee Tree suffers gravely | Writing | Food Newsie

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Our Lychee Tree suffers gravely

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Our Lychee Tree suffers gravely

Given this author’s laughable experience with plant recognition and successful plantings, all the help imaginable is what’s needed to track a record of successes and failures and plot new courses to avert disasters. In Miami, that help comes from a fruit tree; peculiar to many Zones in the United States, the Lychee Tree is an immaculate record keeper even when the farmer isn’t.

The Lychee Tree does not drop its leaves. In this way, they act externally like the rings of a tree recording good times, bad times and, more than growth rates, they reveal cumulative weather conditions. Four years ago, this same Lychee Tree had half the canopy it has today. Three years ago, the yield of sweet, jelly-like fruit was breathtaking. They couldn’t be consumed fast enough to prevent them from falling, over ripened, to the sandy soil below.

Two years ago, the canopy exploded in size and there wasn’t a single Lychee fruit. Fresh, vivid green leaves sprung seemingly already full grown from foot-long chutes that stabbed out wildly in all directions. The behavior isn’t mysterious. The Lychee Tree are remarkably sensitive to weather conditions and in a Winter when the temperature isn’t sustained below 50-degrees for nearly a week, (alluded to here ) the fruit bearing behavior isn’t triggered. The tree ‘decides’ instead to “flush”; to spend the same energy developing new branches and leaves.

It’s interesting, then, to see that the same energy it takes this tree to produce five or six fruits on one branch is equal to growing four or five new branches, each with twenty or so leaves! The conclusion is that an awful lot of energy goes into making a fruit that takes about ten or fifteen seconds to eat.

Our Lychee Tree suffers gravely

Our Lychee tree has been the most unexpected record keeper of weather, South Florida infestations and good times as evidenced not only by the yield, which is obvious even to new observers, but in the leaves. The leaves stand as a lasting four-year or so record of conditions the tree has gone through.

Ideally, this tropical fruit tree needs a frost or cold snap to bear! The past two Winters in Miami have been lambs. With this latest Winter providing a few more cooler days, the Lychee Tree barely split the difference; amid the foot-long strands of new chutes, four Lychee grew. Four. On a tree estimated to be fifteen years old, it so closely resembles a gasp for air that it’s tempting to anthropomorphise the poor thing.

If you’re researching Lychee Trees, you’ll be interested in knowing about pruning to better the health of the tree. That’s the next step here. The older leaves, gray and dull in the un-photoshopped image above, tell the tale of last year’s Black Flies; more troubling, they also show the arrival of some ravenous insect that descended upon the tree before the new leaves came. The ragged edges and uneven holes are new this year and the neighboring Mango Tree (in fact the two canopies are now fully intermingled) was completely ignored by whatever bugs ate up the Lychee Tree’s leaves.

Poor, Maki (that’s her new name). Professional Lychee Tree pruning counselling is on order for late July.

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