Loquat trees (Eriobotrya japonica) are indigenous to southeastern China and have been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years. In Cambodia, the fruit is reffered to as "Ply-Yeloe". Well suited to our California climate, loquats have been grown here since about 1870, and will fruit as long as the climate is neither too cool nor excessively humid; though loquats will produce in Davis, extreme heat can be detrimental and dry, hot winds will scorch foliage.
The loquat is a large evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows to about ten feet, though it has been known to grow up to thirty feet. This shallow-rooted tree is often used as an ornamental for the tropical look of its thick leaves, which are generally 5 to 12 inches long, dark green and glossy on the upper surface with parallel veining. Small, white, fragrant flowers are borne in fall/early winter in panicles at the ends of the branches, giving way to one- to two-inch oval yellowish clustering fruit in the summer (March through June in Davis). The succulent, mildly sweet flesh is whitish-yellow or orange with each fruit containing three to five large brown seeds. Loquat fruits should be allowed to ripen fully before harvesting about 90 days from full flower opening until the fruits begin to soften. The loquat is often eaten as a fresh fruit and can also be used to make wine.
The loquat is normally pollinated by bees but some cultivars are self-infertile; to ensure fruiting, interplant with another cultivar. Loquats are wind tolerant and grow best in full sun, but also do well in partial shade and are tolerant of a variety of soil types with good drainage. Loquat trees can withstand drought, but prefer regular, deep watering. Light applications of nitrogen fertilizers one- to three-times per year are suggested — too much nitrogen will reduce flowering. Loquats also respond well to severe pruning, which should be done just after harvest.
In California few pests bother loquats. Occasionally infestations of black scale may appear, fruit flies can be a serious pest, birds will peck at the ripe fruit and deer will browse on the foliage. Unfortunately, fire blight disease can cause rapid dieback of loquats locally. Prune out affected branches at the first sign of the disease.
On campus, you can find at least one loquat tree planted against the back entrance of the Botanical Conservatory amidst a large grouping of flowering maples, while the Cruess Hall courtyard holds several along its western periphery. For a listing of other plants found growing in Davis, visit our Town Flora. Outside of campus, you can find a loquat tree on Anderson near Covell, and in several places around the North Davis Greenbelt (most prominently behind Suntree Apartments). Visit here for a google map of fruit trees in Davis. The map is public and collaborative, so please add trees if you know of their locations. (You must have a google sign-in.) Use push-pins to mark the locations of trees. If the tree is on private property, please indicate that in the note, and only mark it after getting permission from the owner first.
While the loquat trees themselves may be wind tolerant, the fruit is easily susceptible to bruising. During heavy gusts, ripe fruit may bruise while still on the tree. New growth on a loquat tree is typically lighter green than mature leaves.