In the Arboretum Today
By Alfredo Chiri
LOQUAT Eriobotrya japonica Rosaceae
Donated by: CSUF/Leo and planted in 1981 (r.f.-04)
Common names: Nispero, Aneixa amarella, Bibassier, Wollmispel, Japanese plum.
The loquat is believed to be native to southern China or possibly to Japan. It has been cultivated in these two countries for a thousand years, then spreading to North Africa, and during the colonization of the Americas,
cultivated in South America, Central America and Mexico. In the United States cultivation of the loquat is limited to the lower part of the Eastern and Western states.
The loquat tree may reach 20 to 30 feet and grows with a rounded crown and short trunk. The large leaves harden with age and are about 10 inches long; on the top surface they are a dark green color, while beneath the surface
they are light green and slightly hairy. In some specimens the leaves are rusty-red. The scented white flowers grow, in terminal panicles of 30 to 100 blooms, in late fall. The fruits ripen early in the year and grow in clusters of 4 to 40, are rounded or pear-shaped with smooth skin. The fruit color varies from yellow to orange; the edible pulp varies from sweet to sub-acid or acid in flavor. The fruit may contain as many as 10 seeds, but ordinarily between 3 to 5. Seeds are dark-brown or light-brown, ellipsoid, 5/8 inches long and 5/16 inches thick.
In the last few years, agriculturists have improved the quality of the fruit by increasing the size and improving the flavor. There are probably more than 900 varieties, but the fruiting cultivars have been normally classed as 'Chinese' or 'Japanese'. Also there are non-fruiting varieties which are often used as an ornamental plant.
The Chinese type is known to have slender leaves; the fruit is pear-shaped or round. It has thick orange skin with dark-orange flesh, is sub-acid and not too juicy.
The Japanese type has broad leaves; the fruit is pear-shaped or oblong-oval. The skin is whitish or pale-yellow, is acid and very juicy.
The loquat tree exhibits the best form and fruit in full sun. It can be grown in shady areas, but flowering will be reduced, and the fruit will be of reduced size.
Young trees need to be watered regularly and planted in soils with good drainage. They will tolerate alkaline soil and grow well on a variety of soils of moderate fertility. Once the tree is established, it is drought resistant. The fruit and the flowers are destroyed at low temperatures (about 26 ºF), and the foliage will withstand temperatures to 15 degrees for short periods.
Loquats are easy to grow from seed. However, if you are growing the tree for fruit, a grafted variety is recommended.