Fruit Facts from
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
© 1996, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
Names: Loquat, Japanese medlar, Nispero.
Affinity: Apples (Malus
spp.), Medlar (Mispilus
germanica), Stone Fruit (Prunus spp.), Pears
spp.) and others.
The loquat is indigenous to southeastern China. It was introduced into
Japan and became naturalized there in very early times. It has been
cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years. It has also become
naturalized in India and many other areas. Chinese immigrants are
presumed to have carried the loquat to Hawaii. It was common as a
small-fruited ornamental in California in the 1870's, and the improved
variety, Giant, was being sold there by 1887. Japan is the leading
producer of loquats, followed by Israel and Brazil.
The loquat is adapted to a subtropical to mild-temperature climate.
Where the climate is too cool or excessively warm and moist, the tree
is grown as an ornamental but will not bear fruit. Well established
trees can tolerate a low temperature of 12° F. The killing
temperature for the flower bud is about 19° F, and for the mature
flower about 26° F. At 25° F the seed is killed, causing the
fruit to fall. Extreme summer heat is also detrimental to the crop, and
dry, hot winds cause leaf scorch. High heat and sunlight during the
winter often results in sunburned fruit. The white-fleshed varieties
are better adapted to cool coastal areas. In a large tub the loquat
makes a good container specimen.
The loquat is a large evergreen shrub or small tree with a rounded
crown, short trunk and woolly new twigs. The tree can grow 20 to 30 ft.
high, but is usually much smaller than this--about 10 ft. Loquats are
easy to grow and are often used as an ornamental. Their boldly textured
foliage add a tropical look to the garden and contrast well with many
other plants. Because of the shallow root system of the loquat, care
should be taken in mechanical cultivation not to damage the roots.
Loquat leaves are generally eliptical-lanceolate, 5 to 12 inches long
and 3 to 4 inches wide. They are dark green and glossy on the upper
surface, whitish or rusty-hairy beneath, thick and stiff, with
conspicuous parallel, oblique veins. The new growth is sometimes tinged
with red. The leaves are narrow in some cultivars and broad in others.
Small, white, sweetly fragrant flowers are borne in fall or early
winter in panicles at the ends of the branches. Before they open, the
flower clusters have an unusual rusty-wooly texture.
Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 1
to 2 inches long with a smooth or downy, yellow or orange, sometimes
red-blushed skin. The succulent, tangy flesh is white, yellow or orange
and sweet to subacid or acid, depending on the cultivar. Each fruit
contains three to five large brown seeds. The loquat is normally
pollinated by bees. Some cultivars are self-infertile and others are
only partially self-fertile. Flowers of the early and late flushes tend
to have abnormal stamens and very little viable pollen. Thinning of
flowers and young fruits in the cluster, or clipping off all or part of
flower and fruit clusters is sometimes done to enhance fruit size.
Under most conditions the loquat tends to develop an alternate-bearing
pattern, which can be modified somewhat by cluster thinning in heavy
production years. For the highest quality fruit the clusters are
sometimes bagged to protect from sunburn and eliminate bird damage.
Loquats are wind tolerant and grow best in full sun, but also do well
in partial shade. The round headed trees can be used to shade a patio.
Loquats also make attractive espaliers.
Loquats grow well on a variety of soils of moderate fertility, from
light sandy loam to heavy clay and even limestone soils, but need good
Loquat trees are drought tolerant, but they will produce higher quality
fruit with regular, deep watering. The trees should be watered at the
swelling of blossoms and 2 to 3 waterings should be given during
harvest time. The trees will not tolerate standing water.
Loquats benefit from regular, light applications of nitrogen
fertilizers, but too much nitrogen will reduce flowering. A good
formula for applications of chemical fertilizer is 1 lb. of 6-6-6 NPK
three times a year during the period of active growth for each tree 8
to 10 feet in height. To control excessive growth, other authorities
recommend fertilizing only once a year in midwinter.
Judicious pruning should be done just after harvest, otherwise terminal
shoots become too numerous and cause a decline in vigor. The objective
of pruning is a low head to facilitate fruit thinning and harvest.
Prune also to remove crossing branches and thin dense growth to let
light into the center of the tree. Loquats respond well to more severe
Generally seeds are used for propagation only when the tree is grown
for ornamental purposes or for use as rootstock. For rootstock the seed
are washed and planted in flats or pots soon after removal from the
fruit and the seedlings are transplanted when 6 to 7 inches high. When
the stem is 1/2 inch thick at the base, the seedlings are ready to be
top-worked. Loquats can be propagated by various grafting methods,
including shield-budding or side-veneer grafting and cleft-grafting.
The use of loquat seedling rootstock usually results in a comparatively
large tree with a high canopy. Cultivars grown on quince rootstock
produce a dwarfed tree of early bearing character. The smaller tree has
no effect on fruit size and gives adequate fruit production with the
advantage of easier picking. Loquat cuttings are not easy to root.
Grafted trees will begin to bear fruit in 2 to 3 years, compared to 8
to 10 years in seedling trees.
In California there are few pests that bother loquats. Occasionally
infestations of black scale may appear. Fruit flies are a serious pests
in areas where they are problem. Birds will also peck at the ripe fruit
and damage it, and deer will browse on the foliage.
Fire blight caused by Erwinia
is a major enemy of the loquat in California, particularly in areas
with late spring and summer rains or high humidity. The disease is
spread by bees during flowering. Fire blight can be controlled somewhat
by the use of preventive fungicides or bactericides and by removal of
the the scorched-looking branches, cutting well into live wood. The
prunings should be burned or or sealed in a plastic bag before
disposal. Crown rot caused by Phytophthora
and cankers caused by Pseudomonas
Eriobotrya are also occasional problems.
Loquat fruits should be allowed to ripen fully before harvesting. They
reach maturity in about 90 days from full flower opening. When ripe the
fruit develops a distinctive color, depending on the cultivar, and
begins to soften. Unripe fruits do not ripen properly off the tree and
are excessively acid. Harvest time in California is from March to June.
The fruit is difficult to separate from the cluster stems without
tearing and must be carefully clipped individually or the whole cluster
removed and the fruit then snipped off. Ripe fruit may be stored in the
refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.
The loquat is comparable to the
apple in many aspects, with a high sugar, acid and pectin content. It
is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh
fruit salads or fruit cups. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for
making pies or tarts. The fruits are also commonly used to make jam,
jelly and chutney, and are delicious poached in light syrup. Loquats
can also be used to make wine.
In California, only in the coastal areas from Santa Barbara to San
Diego counties is the fruit produced regularly in quantity and of
sufficiently good quality to make commercial production feasible.
Harvesting is somewhat labor intensive and the difficulty of handling
the fragile fruit in addition to the relatively short self life and
storage ability, limit the loquat as a major commercial fruit. Even so,
the availability of loquats when few or no other local fruits are in
the market is a factor in their favor. The fruit is also popular in
ethnic markets and is offered in limited amounts in specialty fruit
stores and through Farmer's Markets in many communities.
in San Diego, Calif. by Jim Neitzel. Large, roundish to oblong fruit,
1-1/4 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Skin pale orange-yellow,
medium-thick, easy to peel. Flesh orange-yellow, very sweet but with
some acidity, of excellent flavor. Ripens midseason, March to April.
Tree vigorous, upright, highly productive.
by C. P. Taft in 1909. Medium-large, pear-shaped fruit, borne in
compact clusters. Skin orange-red with white dots, tough, acid. Flesh
orange very juicy, sweet, of fair to excellent flavor. Seeds usually 2
or 3. Ripens very early, late January or early February in California.
round to oblong-obovate fruit. Skin yellow-orange to orange, not thick,
tender. Flesh orange-colored, juicy, firm and meaty. Flavor sweet,
somewhat reminiscent of apricot, quality good. Seeds 4 or 5, the seed
cavity not large. Ripens late. Fruits borne only a few to a cluster,
keep and ship well. Tree vigorous, upright, self-fertile.
from numerous seedlings planted at Mogi, Japan. Small, elliptical
fruit, weight 40-50 grams. Skin light yellow. Flesh relatively sweet.
Ripens in early spring. Tree cold-sensitive, self-fertile. Constitutes
60% of the Japanese crop of loquats.
New Zealand cultivar. Large fruit, up to 1-1/2 inches long
inch in diameter. Yellow flesh of very good flavor.
Medium-sized fruit with
yellow flesh. Named for the strawberry-like flavor detected by some
after Dr. Yoshio Tanaka. Very large fruit, usually obovoid, weight 2 to
3 ounces. Skin orange-yellow, attractive. Flesh firm, rich orange,
aromatic, slightly acidic to sweet, of excellent flavor. Seeds 2 to 4.
Ripens very late, the beginning of May in California. Keeps unusually
long, if left for a week it wrinkles and dries but does not rot. Tree
vigorous and productive.
in Homestead, Florida by Carl W. Campbell. Fruit obovoid to slightly
pyriform. Skin yellow, relatively thick. Flesh juicy, firm, flavor
excellent. Seeds usually 1 to 3. Ripens in winter and early spring,
several days later than Advance. Suitable for all purposes, but
excellent for cooking. Tree to 25 feet tall. Blooms during fall and
to large, pear-shaped to eliptic-round fruit, deep yellow in color,
borne in large, compact clusters. Skin downy, thick and tough. Flesh
whitish, translucent, melting and very juicy. Flavor subacid, very
pleasant, quality good. Ripens in midseason. Seeds commonly 4 or 5, the
seed cavity not large. Tree is a natural dwarf, height 5 feet. Highly
resistant to fire blight. Self-infertile, pollinate with Gold Nugget.
as a seedling on the property of Charles E. Benlehr of Encinitas,
Calif. Medium-sized oval to oblong fruit, 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 inches long.
Skin thin, peels very well. Flesh white and juicy, flavor sweet,
quality excellent. Seeds 3 or 4.
medium to large, oval to pyriform. Fruit cluster large, loose. Skin
deep yellow in color with a grayish bloom, thick, tough, somewhat
astringent. Flesh whitish, translucent, melting and very juicy. Flavor
mildly subacid, sprightly and pleasant, quality very good. Ripens late.
Seeds 3 or 4, seed cavity not large. Perishable, good for preserving.
Tree self-infertile, prolific.
large, long and slightly tapering at the stem end. Flesh yellow orange
with white to cream-colored flesh, good quality. Ripens earlier than
Victory. Subject to black spot.
oval fruit. Skin yellow to orange, becoming amber on the side exposed
to the sun. Flesh white to cream-colored, juicy and sweet. Ripens in
midseason to occasionally early. The most popular cultivar in Western
to medium-sized, roundish fruit with blunt calyx end. Skin light
yellow. Flesh pure white, very high in sugar content. Ripens 1 to 3
weeks later than Gold Nugget. Excellent for dessert.
Harry M. A History of Subtropical Fruits and Nuts in California.
University of California, Agricultural Experiment Station. 1963.
Facciola, Stephen. Cornucopia: a Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong
Publications, 1990. p. 380.
Johns, Leslie and Violet Stevenson, Fruit for the Home and Garden.
Angus and Robertson, 1985. pp. 159-161.
Morton, Julia F. Fruits of Warm Climates. Creative Resources Systems,
Inc. 1987. pp. 103-108.
Ortho Books. All About Citrus and Subtropical Fruits. Chevron Chemical
Co. 1985. pp. 57-58.