Loquat - Japanese Plum
The loquat, an evergreen tree native to Japan, is attractive year round. Creamy white flowers bloom in early winter, and they are followed by edible, one to two-inch oblong yellow fruits. The showy fruits are tasty eaten in hand or used in recipes. Flowers are attractive to bees, and a variety of wildlife visits the tree for a share of the flavorful fruits.
Scientifically known as Eriobotrya japonica
and commonly called Japanese plum, the loquat is hardy in USDA Zones 8-10. With its species and common name, one can surmise that the tree is native to Japan, but you might not guess its membership in the rose family (Rosaceae
). Salt tolerance, ornamental qualities, and edible fruit make loquat a highly desirable tree for areas within its hardiness range, and especially near bodies of salt water.
The evergreen tree, topping out at 20 to 30 feet high and as wide or wider, is valued especially for its lustrous, dark green foliage with rusty, wooly undersides. Variable in size, but ranging from 6 to 9 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide, the coarsely toothed, wrinkled leaves are extraordinarily attractive.
Japanese plum is useful in several landscape applications. The large, coarse-leafed plant gives pleasing textural contrasts when placed next to more narrow leafed shrubs such as juniper and podocarpus. The dark leaves make a perfect background for flowering plants, and its stature makes it an easy mixer in a tall shrub border or for a street tree where overhead space is limited. It stands alone, too, as an impressive specimen plant and is an effective plant to screen unpleasant views.
Floral designers are always on the lookout for plants to use in their designs. The richly colored and textured loquat leaves are ideal for many floral design applications. Not only is foliage useful fresh, but it can preserved in glycerine and used many times. Luckily, the tree tolerates pruning well. National Garden Club’s rules allow dried plant material to be painted, so the sky is the limit as to the color of preserved foliage.
Harvest fruit by simply picking from the tree when it is yellow and the greenish tint is no longer present. For eating fresh out of hand, peel if the fuzzy skin is objectionable, remove the seeds, and chow down. However, peeling is not necessary for most recipes. The thin skin becomes a part of the texture of jams and chutneys, and jelly uses only the juice. To remove the seeds, cut off the stem tip and then cut the fruit in half lengthwise. The poisonous seeds pop out easily and should be discarded. Use the prepared loquats in almost any recipe that calls for fruit. Many recipes can be found on the internet.
Seeds often sprout under established trees, but these seedlings, while attractive, may not be the best choice because fruit quality is unpredictable. Several cultivars are available that offer good quality fruit, such as ‘Golden Nugget’, ‘Champagne’, ‘MacBeth’, and ‘Thales’. If fruit is definitely wanted, look for one of these grafted cultivars. Cuttings taken in June and July can be rooted.
Loquat prefers a place in full sun. Mulch placed well out from the trunk will inhibit weeds, enrich the soil, and help prevent mechanical damage to the thin bark. Do not over water or use more fertilizer than recommended, as too much of either may contribute to root rot and make the tree more apt to get fireblight disease. Cultural practices such as providing good air circulation, planting in well-drained soil, and keeping away from other fireblight hosts, such as Pyracantha and pears, will provide the best chance of growing a healthy and productive loquat.
Loquat is a plant of choice for floral designers' gardens. The attractive leaves last a long time when cut and can provide just the right touch in a fresh design. Leaves are easy to treat with glycerine for long-lasting results. Dried plant materials can be painted or otherwise treated to achieve the effect wanted. The photographs below show a design with treated loquat leaves and flowers. The first is a close-up of the design; the second picture shows the design used in an Exhibition Table Type I (Stretch) design; and the third picture shows the same design used in a Functional Table design.
| To preserve plant stems in glycerine, mix one part glycerine to three parts water. Split or hammer the stems of woody plants, and place them in a few inches of the solution. Let the stems stand until they have absorbed as much of the solution as possible and are pliable. This usually takes two to three weeks. Preserved leaves will turn a dark, rich brown suitable for many arrangements. Treated stems accept and hold paint well.|