Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
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.
A 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.
Fragrant, 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.
There are 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.
Loquats 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
Gene McAvoy is the horticulture agent with the Hendry County Extension Service. Direct your horticulture questions to PO Box 68, LaBelle, FL 33975, e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 863-674-4092 or 863-983-1598. You are also welcome to visit the Hendry County Extension Office at 225 Pratt Blvd., LaBelle. Office hours are from 8:00 - 5:00.
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