By Gene McAvoy
From Hendry County Extension Service, University of Florida
Hendry County Horticulture News
The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
is an often overlooked and under utilized subtropical fruit tree that
is well adapted to our area. The loquat is a beautiful tree and makes
an excellent ornamental for residential plantings. Unlike most exotic
fruits which are easily damaged by cold weather, the loquat or Japanese
plum can withstand temperatures as low as 12 degrees, although fruits
and flowers will be injured at about 26 degrees. This makes the loquat
an excellent choice for gardeners looking for something different, but
who are tired of losing more sensitive tropical fruit trees.
medium sized evergreen tree, loquats can reach thirty feet or more at
maturity, with an even wider spread. This attractive Chinese native has
a beautiful umbrella shape. Loquats have large stiff leaves with
prominent veins. The leaves which may be up to 12 inches long are dark
green above and whitish below. Its symmetrical shape, medium size and
evergreen nature make the loquat an excellent addition to the landscape.
dull white flowers are borne on long panicles at the ends of the
branches from October through February. The attractive fruits mature
about three after flowering. Some flowers may be produced September and
August, but fruits are not usually set until the weather becomes
cooler. The fruits are typically golden yellow to orange when ripe, 1-2
inches long and are produced in clusters of 4-10. The flesh is firm and
juicy and may range from whitish to orange in color. The fruit usually
contains 1 or 2 seeds but may have as many as six. The fruit flavor
varies from tart to sweet depending on the variety and must be ripened
on the tree for best quality. A five-year old tree may produce 100
pounds of fruit or more. To ensure large plump loquats the clusters may
be thinned by about one third as the fruits develop.
many named varieties. Some of the common varieties include: Advance,
Champagne, Oliver, Pineapple, and Premier, which are Japanese in
origin. Tanaka and Thales are Chinese varieties. The Wolfe variety is a
selection by Dr. H.S. Wolfe of an Advance seedling pollinated by an
unknown parent. Wolfe is one of the best loquats for Florida. It has
pale yellow fruit with a delightfully tart taste. Loquats can be eaten
fresh or frozen. They can be used to make delicious pies, jams, and
jellies. Loquats can also be dried and make excellent fruit leather.
may be planted from seed and may produce acceptable fruit. Superior
varieties grafted on seedlings will flower and fruit sooner and will
give more dependable results.
Loquats grow well in a wide range
of soils. Avoid planting loquats in low areas as they require good
drainage and will not tolerate wet feet for any period of time.
Flooding, for even a short period of time, can quickly kill loquat
trees. Loquats are drought tolerant but require weekly irrigation if
the soil is dry during fruit production. Loquats require full sun for
best development and fruit production.
The loquat is not
exacting in fertilizer requirements. In our local soils, some
fertilizer is necessary for satisfactory fruit production. You should
fertilize two to three times per year with a citrus fertilizer for best
results. Avoid over-fertilization with nitrogen as excess fertilization
can increase the incidence of disease.
Loquats have few pest
problems. Anthracnose may cause leaf spots and fruit rot, but is rarely
troublesome in the home garden. Anthracnose may be controlled with
copper fungicides. Occasionally, fire blight may cause die back of
twigs and branches. Fire blight is characterized by black patches on
the foliage with drops from the tree. Severe infestations may kill the
entire tree. Fire blight can be controlled by planting in a sunny
exposed location. Diseased twigs and branches should be pruned out and
disposed of by bagging. Affected leaves should also be removed
immediately and not left on the ground where they provide inoculum for
further infections. Pruning for an open structure and spraying with
copper fungicide will aid in combating this problem. The larva of the
Caribbean fruit fly may destroy the fruit. No practical control is
available to home gardeners.
The loquat is an excellent
landscape plant and one of the best door yard fruits for our area. Its
fruits come at a time when few fruits other than citrus, are available.
If you have had the opportunity to taste a loquat, it shouldn't be hard
to find someone with a tree nearby. If you enjoy the taste, local
nurseries carry both seedlings and grafted varieties
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