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What is Eriobotrya?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 19 May 2018
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Eriobotrya is a small genus of shrubs and trees native to Asia. The most famous member of this genus is E. japonica, also known as the loquat. Several species are cultivated as ornamentals and, in the case of the loquat, for their edible fruit. Loquats are used in the cuisine of some Asian nations in addition to being integrated into traditional Chinese medicine, where they are used in syrups to treat coughs, colds, and sore throats. Products made with loquat fruits are available in stores that stock herbal remedies, and fresh fruits can sometimes be purchased at the grocery store.

Members of this genus in the rose family are evergreen, producing large, simple, leathery leaves and small flowers that develop in the fall. The flowers set into fruit in the winter and early spring, a somewhat unique pattern for fruiting plants. Eriobotrya can tolerate a variety of climates and soil types and is often very resilient once it is established in an environment it likes. Many cultivars of the loquat in particular have been developed to satisfy different tastes, climates, and gardening needs.

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United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zones seven through 10 are usually hospitable to Eriobotrya trees and shrubs. The plants tend to prefer slightly alkaline soil and need their soil to be well drained, with medium to rich nutrition. Young plants generally require more water as they get established, but once they are growing well, they can be very drought tolerant and make suitable additions to a low-water garden. Tolerance for poor soil types can also be valuable.

Full sun is generally recommended except for very harsh climates like the desert, where some shade during the heat of the day can help a plant avoid sun damage. These plants do not tolerate frost well and should be covered if there is a risk of a cold snap, or grown indoors in regions where temperatures routinely fall below freezing. Some Eriobotrya species are subject to rot and mold, and should not be grown in wet or extremely humid environments.

People interested in propagating purely ornamental Eriobotrya species can grow from seed or purchase seedlings at a nursery. For fruiting trees, grafts are recommended, as the plants do not always breed true from seed, and grafting allows for the use of a very hardy rootstock. Cultivars developed for specific climates are available and people should check before planting to confirm the suitability of a particular specimen for their gardens.

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