Evergreen subtropical shrub or tree in the Rosacea family, but as it is native to the highlands of China it is frost hardy to -7 degrees, occasionally even lower for short periods. Flowers form in autumn and fruit is borne in November so loquats are one of the earliest fruiting trees, helping to expand the fruit season. The flowers are adored by bees and have a wonderful fragrance. The fruits are orangey-yellow in colour, with a sweet sub-acid flavour, some say resembling a cross between a peach and apricot in taste, although the texture is different. Fruit hangs in clusters, and along with the lush foliage make this a stunning specimen tree. The evergreen nature can add a touch of the subtropics to your garden even in temperate zones!
Loquat fruits are high in sugar, acid and pectin and as well as being eaten fresh can be processed into jams, jellies, marmelade, sauces, chutney etc as well as being bottled or juiced. They can also be fermented to make wine.
Loquats have also been used historically as folk medicines for thousands of years. Extracts have been used for the treatment of cough, chronic bronchitis, inflammation, diabetes, and cancer. The efficacy of loquat, as used in traditional Chinese medicine, is supported by current scientific evidence regarding the pharmacologically active compounds in plant extracts. Loquat leaves and flowers are rich in phenolics and triterpenes; fruits are rich in sugars, organic acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and vitamins.
In Japan, the loquat leaves are used to make a delicious tea high in anti-oxidants. The furry underside of the leaf needs to be rubbed off first, the leaves rinsed off, then chopped and brewed in hot water. Loquat leaves can also be applied in topical form as creams to combat acne and other skin conditions, due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Loquat timber is strong, durable and shock-resistant, and in Japan was therefore used in making swords for samurai to practice. It is light pink in colour and smooth with a fine grain. It can be high pruned to form a canopy to allow for straight trunk growth for timber. Loquat leaves also yield a beautiful apricot-pink dye for fabrics (the first extraction will give a yellowish pink and further extractions are said to intensify the pinks).
Loquat trees usually grow to a height of 3-4 m but can be taller, and have a canopy 4-6m wide. Some varieties can be self-fertile, others will need a pollinator nearby. Unfortunately we are not sure which ours are as the y are seed grown. This also means that they may take up to 7-8 years to produce fruit, but are prolific thereafter. Seed grown varieties also seem to do better than grafted ones in cooler areas of the country, and equally well in warmer areas. They need full sun but will tolerate partial afternoon shade in summer and are suitable for most soil types apart from extremely sticky clay or completely free draining. They have naturalised in many warmer parts of Aotearoa and are extremely easy care.
Certified organic plant in PB8, approx 70-90cm tall