The Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica
) is one of relatively few subtropical members of the Rosaceae
(a plant family which includes many very familiar temperate climate species such as apples, cherries, pears, peaches, plums, roses, and hawthorns). Loquat probably originated in southeastern China and has been cultivated in China and Japan since ancient times. It is now also grown in the Mediterranean region (to which it was introduced in the 18th century), Australia, South Africa, South America, California (United States), and India. The plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree (5 to 10 m in height) with narrow leaves that are dark green on the upper surface with a lighter wooly undersurface. The white flowers, each with around 20 free stamens
(the male, pollen-producing organs), are 1.2 to 1.7 cm in diameter and are borne in stiff terminal panicles
that are 10 to 19 cm long and include 30 to 100 or more flowers covered by a thick yellow-brown pubescence. The fragrant flowers give rise to pale yellow or deep orange pear-shaped fruits (pomes
) around 2 to 8 cm in length (several fruits per cluster). These fruits, which are juicy and sweet to somewhat acidic, can be eaten fresh or processed into jam or jelly. Loquats contain around 6% total sugars (glucose and fructose) and a considerable concentration of carotenes, but only a very small amount of Vitamin C (3 mg/100g). Malic acid
is present in the fruit.
The Loquat flowers in fall and winter and fruits in spring. Pollination requirements seem to vary among cultivars, but all seem to benefit from (and some require) cross-pollination. In early winter, bees appear to be the most important pollinators, but later in the winter, as bees become scarce, passerine birds, which feed on the relatively large volumes of dilute nectar produced by the flowers, may replace them.
Gisbert et al. (2009) developed microsatellite markers for use in studying genetic diversity within the species and identifying cultivars.
(Vaughan and Geissler 1997; Freihat et al. 2008 and references therein; Fang et al. 2012 and references therein)