The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica, Chinese: 枇杷, biwa) [2] is a large evergreen shrub or tree grown commercially for its orange fruit. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Loquat leaves and fruits
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Eriobotrya
E. japonica
Binomial name
Eriobotrya japonica
  • Crataegus bibas Lour.
  • Mespilus japonica Thunb.
  • Photinia japonica (Thunb.) Benth. & Hook. f. ex Asch. & Schweinf.

The loquat is in the family Rosaceae and is native to the cooler hill regions of south-central China.[3][4] In Japan, the loquat has been grown for over 1,000 years. It has been introduced to regions with subtropical to mild temperate climates throughout the world.[5][6]

Eriobotrya japonica was formerly thought to be closely related to the genus Mespilus and is still sometimes mistakenly known as the Japanese medlar, which is the name it takes in other European languages, such as níspero japonés in Spanish or nespolo giapponese in Italian. It is also known as Japanese plum[7] and Chinese plum.[8]


Chinese name
Traditional Chinese蘆橘
Simplified Chinese芦橘
Modern Chinese name
Japanese name

The name loquat derives from Cantonese lou4 gwat1 (Chinese: 盧橘; pinyin: lújú; lit. 'black orange'). The phrase 'black orange' originally referred to unripened kumquats, which are dark green in color, but the name was mistakenly applied to the loquat by the ancient Chinese poet Su Shi when he was residing in southern China, and the mistake was widely taken up by the Cantonese region thereafter.[citation needed]

In Louisiana, many refer to loquats as "misbeliefs" (from the Louisiana Creole word for the tree, mísplís) and they grow in the yards of many homes.[9]


A loquat leaf, shown at a high magnification, illustrating the general appearance of the leaf and the structure of the venation

E. japonica is a large, evergreen shrub or small tree, with a rounded crown, short trunk, and woolly new twigs. The tree can grow to 5–10 metres (16–33 feet) tall but is often smaller, about 3–4 m (10–13 ft). The fruit begins to ripen during spring to summer, depending on the temperature in the area. The leaves are alternate, simple, 10–25 centimetres (4–10 inches) long, dark green, tough and leathery in texture, with a serrated margin, and densely velvety-hairy below with thick yellow-brown pubescence; the young leaves are also densely pubescent above, but this soon rubs off.[10][11][12][13]



Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter, and the fruits are ripe at any time from early spring to early summer.[14] The flowers are 2 cm (34 in) in diameter, white, with five petals, and produced in stiff panicles of three to ten flowers. The flowers have a sweet, heady aroma that can be smelled from a distance.[citation needed]

Loquat fruits, growing in clusters, are oval, rounded or pear-shaped, 3–5 cm (1+18–2 in) 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.[citation needed]

Each fruit contains from one to ten ovules, with three to five being the most common.[15] Several ovules mature into large, brown seeds (with different numbers of seeds appearing in each fruit on the same tree, usually between one and four).[citation needed]



The first European record of the species might have been in the 17th century by Michał Boym, a Polish jesuit, orientalist, politician, and missionary to China. He described loquat in his Flora sinensis, the first European natural history book about China.[16] The common name for the fruit is from the Portuguese nêspera (from the modified nespilus, originally mespilus, which referred to the medlar), (José Pedro Machado, Dicionário Etimológico da Língua Portuguesa, 1967). Since the first contact of the Portuguese with the Japanese and Chinese dates also from the 16th century, possibly some were brought back to Europe, as was likely the case with other species such as the 'Hachiya' persimmon variety.

E. japonica was again described in Europe by Carl Peter Thunberg, as Mespilus japonica in 1780, and was relocated to the genus Eriobotrya (from Greek εριο "wool" and βοτρυών "cluster") by John Lindley, who published these changes in 1821.This fruit is also found in abundance in the north west Pakistan region.

The most common variety in Portugal is the late-ripening 'Tanaka', where it is popular in gardens and backyards, but not commercially produced. In northern Portugal, it is also popularly called magnório or magnólio, probably having to do with French botanist Pierre Magnol. In Spain, the fruits are similarly called nísperos and are commercially exploited, Spain being the second-largest producer worldwide, after China, with 41,487 t annually, half of which is destined to export markets.

Distribution and habitat


The plant is originally from China, where related species can be found growing in the wild.[17][18][19][20] It has become naturalised in Georgia, Armenia, Afghanistan, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, Kenya, Syria, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, the region of Palestine, South Africa, the whole Mediterranean Basin, Pakistan, New Zealand, Réunion, Tonga, Central America, Mexico, South America and warmer parts of the United States (Hawaii, California, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina).[citation needed]





The plant has been cultivated in China for over 1,000 years. Chinese immigrants are presumed to have carried the loquat to Hawaii and California.[21][22] It has been cultivated in Japan for about 1,000 years and presumably the fruits and seeds were brought back from China to Japan by the many Japanese scholars visiting and studying in China during the Tang dynasty.

Over 800 loquat cultivars exist in Asia. Self-fertile variants include the 'Gold Nugget' and 'Mogi' cultivars.[5] The loquat is easy to grow in subtropical to mild temperate climates, where it is often primarily grown as an ornamental plant, especially for its sweet-scented flowers, and secondarily for its delicious fruit. The boldly textured foliage adds a tropical look to gardens, contrasting well with many other plants.[citation needed]

The many named cultivars have orange or white flesh.[23] Some cultivars are intended for home growing, where the flowers open gradually, thus the fruit also ripens gradually, compared to the commercially grown species where the flowers open almost simultaneously, and the whole tree's fruit also ripen together.[citation needed]

China is the biggest producer of loquat in the world, more than five times the production of the second-largest producer, Spain, followed by Pakistan and Turkey.[24] In Europe, Spain is the main producer of loquat.[25]

In temperate climates, it is grown as an ornamental with winter protection, as the fruits seldom ripen to an edible state. In the United Kingdom, it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.[26][27]

In the United States, the loquat tree is hardy in USDA zones 8 and above, and will flower only where winter temperatures do not fall below 30 °F or −1 °C. In such areas, the tree flowers in autumn and the fruit ripens in late winter.[5] It is popular in the southeastern United States. In the United States, cultivation is typically within the southeastern and temperate west coast regions.[28] The one advantage the loquat has among others, though, is its fruit becomes available in late April – early May around a time many other fruits are not ready yet.[28][29][citation needed]

Loquats have been reported to survive temperatures as cold as −11 °C (12 °F) for short periods of time.[30][better source needed] The loquat grows poorly if the temperature is "too tropical",[30] but at what maximum temperature it can be cultivated is unclear.

Altitude is an important factor to consider, as well. Loquats grow naturally from 900 to 2,000 m (3,000 to 7,000 ft).[30] The right altitudes varies depending on the temperature or how close it is to the equator. This contributes to why higher altitudes in China or the Andes Mountains make excellent cultivating spots.[30][31]

China is a major country where loquats grow natively and wild in forests around the mountains. Loquats are cultivated on around 120,000 hectares (300,000 acres) with hundreds of different varieties.[28]

In Russia, loquat produces fruits in subtropical and near-subtropical areas (Gelendzhik, Sochi). It also produces fruits in subtropical areas of Georgia.

In Canada, it can be found growing in Vancouver, though it does not produce fruit. More frost-resistant varieties grow and produce fruit in Sidney, British Columbia, though not every year.

Loquat grows differently in tropical climates, typically blooming two or three times a year.[29] Loquats usually mature 90 days after the bloom.[29]




Loquats, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy197 kJ (47 kcal)
12.14 g
Dietary fiber1.7 g
0.2 g
0.43 g
Vitamin A equiv.
76 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.019 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.024 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.18 mg
Vitamin B6
0.1 mg
Folate (B9)
14 μg
Vitamin C
1 mg
16 mg
0.28 mg
13 mg
0.148 mg
27 mg
266 mg
1 mg
0.05 mg

Percentages estimated using US recommendations for adults,[32] except for potassium, which is estimated based on expert recommendation from the National Academies.[33]

The loquat is low in sodium and high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, dietary fiber, potassium, and manganese.[34]

Like most related plants, the seeds (pips) and young leaves of the plant are slightly poisonous, containing small amounts of cyanogenic glycosides (including amygdalin) which release cyanide when digested, though the low concentration and bitter flavour normally prevent enough being eaten to cause harm.[citation needed]



The loquat has high sugar, acid, and pectin contents.[35] It is eaten as a fresh fruit and mixes well with other fruits in fresh fruit salads or fruit cups. The fruit is also commonly used to make jam, jelly, and chutney, and is often served poached in light syrup. Firm, slightly immature fruits are best for making pies or tarts,[citation needed] while the fruits are the sweetest when soft and orange.[citation needed] The fruit is sometimes canned or processed into confections. The waste ratio is 30% or more, due to the seed size.[citation needed]

The loquat can also be used in juices or smoothies. In South American countries such as Ecuador, the loquat can be used for batidos, where they are mixed with milk, ice, or other fruits.[30][28][36]

An American writer calls the loquat's flavor "floral" with hints of apricot and peach,[37] with the fruit's natural sweetness contributing to its popularity.[37]

Loquats are used commonly as a natural sweetener for many different types of food, and are used to make marmalade and jelly in various locales.[37][failed verification] Many people use loquats to create sauces and other juices, since the acidity goes well with the sweetness, another reason why they are popular for making pies and other pastries.[37][failed verification][36]

Loquats are often eaten as a fresh fruit, but need to have the seeds removed to be ready to eat. The seeds not only take up a great deal of space relative to the size of the fruit (cf. avocado), but also are slightly poisonous in large quantities.[29] The fruit is often peeled, but the peel is edible and not overly thick.

Alcoholic beverages


Loquats can also be used to make light wine. They are fermented into a fruit wine, sometimes using just crystal sugar and white liquor.[citation needed]

The liquor nespolino is made from the seeds,[38] reminiscent of nocino and amaretto,[citation needed] both prepared from nuts and apricot kernels. Both the loquat seeds and the apricot kernels contain cyanogenic glycosides, but the drinks are prepared from varieties that contain only small quantities (such as 'Mogi' and 'Tanaka'[39]), so the risk of cyanide poisoning is minimal.[citation needed]

Other uses


Some other uses for loquat include making animal feed and medicine to counter vomiting and thirst.[29] The loquat's wood is used as an alternative to pear wood and works well to make rulers/other writing instruments.[29] The loquat's flowers are used to make perfume in Europe, although its yield is considered low. Powdered loquat leaves are also used to treat diarrhea, depression, and to help counteract alcoholic intoxication.[29]

In culture


The loquat was often mentioned in medieval Chinese literature, such as the poems of Li Bai. Its original name is no longer used in most Chinese dialects and has been replaced by pipa (枇杷), which is a reference to the fruit's visual resemblance to a miniature pipa lute.

Because of its golden colour, the pipa represents gold and wealth in China. It is often one in a bowl or composite of fruits and vegetables (such as spring onions, artemisia leaves, pomegranates, kumquats, etc.) to represent auspicious wishes or the Five Prosperities or wurui (五瑞).[40]


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