The Lychee first came to the notice of the western world in Mendoza's 16th century History of China. The fruit spread to Jamaica (no, she was quite willing) in 1775. Many attempts were made to grow lychees in non-tropical areas. In 1873 the fruit reached Hawaii, and thence the USA. Two years later in 1875, the lychee was reported in South Africa. The first trees to reach Australia were brought by the Chinese during the gold rush days to the Palmer River and Charters Towers, probably in the 1870s. There could have been earlier entries to the botanical gardens. There is certainly a very old tree in existence at present.
The Lychee originated in a small area of subtropical southern China where it has been cultivated for nearly 4,000 years.
The chief countries growing lychees are South Africa, Madagascar, China, Taiwan, India, Jamaica, Kenya, USA (Florida), Israel, Brazil and Japan.
The following details on particular varieties were obtained from "The potential of the lychee in Australia" by G.W. Vallance.
BENGAL - Imported by Carl Langbecker of Bundaberg in the 1940s from Florida, where it probably came from Calcutta, India.
TAI SO Formerly Kwai Mi, as it was imported from Hawaii by that name. An earlier importation was made by Mr. Wong Wah Day in 1930 to the Cairns area. More introductions were made from Hawaii in 1955 to the Brisbane area and northern N.S.W.
WAI CHEE Also introduced by Mr. Wong Wah Day in 1930. Later from Hawaii as above.
KWAI MAl PINK Introduced to Ingham by Mr. Lee from China in 1932. Mr. Herb Bosworth obtained marcots of all the cultivars introduced by Mr. Lee in the late 1940s and numbered them. Cane fires destroyed Mr. Lee's original trees. The Bosworth No.3 of this group is now called Kwai May Pink.
SALATHIEL Found growing on the Salathiel property in Cairns. The origin is unknown.
GEE KEE Named, after the Gee Kee family of Babinda who brought it from China.
BREWSTER This variety was obtained from the Fujian province by Rev. W. M. Brewster and propagated in Florida in 1903 where it now constitutes 95% of commercial production.
There is a paper on the history of lychees in the proceedings of the 1986 lychee conference by Mr. Vallance.
DATE: September 1988
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