Eriobotrya japonica

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Related Links
© French B.
Leaves and fruits.
© Arnoldo Mondadori Editore SpA
Close-up of flowers showing morphology characteristic of Rosaceae. Also shown: closed buds with typical furry appearance and half-opened bud showing unfurling pattern of petals.
© Pavone P.
Quality fruit advertised for sale at http://
© Nisper Co..
Flower cluster at night. Flowers remain open and moths have been observed as visitors.
© Putter C.A.J.
Quality fruit advertised for sale at http://
© Nisper Co.
Fruits and foliage
© Trade winds fruit

Local names:
Amharic (woshmella), Cantonese (luküh,lukwat,pi-pa), Chinese (luju,biba), Creole (lokwat), English (loquat,Japan-plum,Japanese medlar,Japanese loquat,green loquat,stinking toe), French (bibassier du Japon,bibace,néflier du Japon), German (Loquate,japanis

Eriobotrya japonica is an evergreen shrub or small tree 6-8 m high; bole usually rather short, 0.6-1 m long, surmounted by a dense, ovoid or globular crown; bark grey and shallowly fissured, on young branches it is pale brown and hairy. 

Leaves are somewhat crowded towards the end of the stout, woolly branchlets, large, alternate, subsessile, stiff, coriaceous, elliptic, lanceolate to obovate, lanceolate in outline, 21-32 cm in length, with remotely toothed to sharply dentate margins; dark, glossy, green above and rusty-tomentose below; base green, obtuse or narrowed into a very short, stout, woolly, stipulate petiole. 

Flowers fragrant, 1.2 cm broad, borne in woolly panicles, 10-20 cm long; calyx composed of 5 small, imbricate, acute teeth; corolla has 5 oblong, ovate-clawed petals, white in colour and delicate in texture; stamens 20; pistils 5, joined towards the base. 

Fruits borne in clusters, commonly round, oval or pyriform, 2.5-8 cm in length, pale yellow to orange, somewhat downy on the surface; skin about as thick as that of a peach, but slightly tougher; flesh firm and fleshy in some varieties, melting in others, the colour ranging from almost white to deep orange, juicy and with subacid flavour; seeds 4-10, brownish, oblong, 1-2 cm long.

Many E. japonica cultivars exist. Based on origin, 2 groups are distinguished: the Chinese groups with large, pyriform, deep orange fruit, ripening mid-season to late, which can be kept for 1-2 weeks, and the Japanese group with small, slender, light-coloured fruit, maturing early and having a shorter shelf life.

The generic name is derived from the Greek words ‘erion’ (wool) and ‘botrys’ (cluster), from the woolly appearance of the spiked inflorescence; the specific epithet means 'of Japan'.


Originally from regions with a subtropical climate, E. japonica requires a mild climate with rainfall evenly spread throughout the year, without excessive heat, especially during fruit ripening. The most favourable conditions for productivity and quality are to be found near the sea. Once established, it is tolerant of drought and of slight frost. Temperatures lower than -5 deg. C damage the flowers, and those lower than -12 deg. C are fatal.

Native range
China, Japan

Tree management

E. japonica is a productive and regular bearer. Barring crop failure resulting from severe frosts at flowering time, the trees rarely fail to produce well every year. Their tendency is to overbear, with the result that the fruits are apt to be undersized. It has been profitable to thin the crop, since the increased size of the fruits remaining on the tree more than compensates for the fruits removed. 

Planting spacing is either 3.5 x 7 m or 6 x 6 m. For good productivity, manuring and inter-planting with a nitrogen-fixing leguminous crop are recommended. Manuring should be carried out every 2 years at the rate of 40-50 kg/tree, or 12-40 t/ha. After planting out, the trees are pruned 60-75 m above the ground level to promote the growth of 3-5 branches. They are also pruned immediately after harvesting to limit the number of fruits and even out production. Grafted trees, when available, remain smaller but make stronger growth and produce fruit faster. Where insolation is strong the fruit clusters are bagged to prevent sunburn. On the other hand, the fruit is sour without sunshine, as occurs in northern Tanzania.

The seed does not store well and should be sown when still fresh. Moist storage is recommended; 92% germination following 6 months moist storage at 5 deg. C; viability maintained for 8 days in moist storage at 5 deg. C. Seed storage behaviour of E. japonica has been provisionally classified as recalcitrant, since only moist storage has been recommended. But this does not necessarily mean that this species shows recalcitrant seed behaviour. There are about 600 seeds/kg.

Originally from regions with a subtropical climate, E. japonica requires a mild climate with rainfall evenly spread throughout the year, without excessive heat, especially during fruit ripening. The most favourable conditions for productivity and quality are to be found near the sea. Once established, it is tolerant of drought and of slight frost. Temperatures lower than -5 deg. C damage the flowers, and those lower than -12 deg. C are fatal.

E. japonica is propagated by seed, air-layering, T-budding, or side grafting. Propagation is generally by direct sowing of seed, as pretreatment is not necessary for germination. In many countries it is still the custom to propagate the E. japonica by seed, but in regions where commercial cultivation of this fruit has received serious attention, budding and grafting have replaced this method. Seedlings or stools are placed in 10 cm pots; when they reach a diameter of about 1 cm, they are budded or grafted (the eye with a strip of bark is taken from young wood that has lost its pubescence and leaves). Immediately after planting out, the plants are cut down to 5-10 cm above the graft. There are numerous varieties that vary greatly in the form of the fruit and in productivity.

Poison:  The seeds are poisonous and should be removed before cooking the fruit. The flowers are used as an insect repellent. 

  The fruit has a thick, tough peel surrounding the firm flesh, with a flavour reminiscent of a peach. It is rich in pro-vitamin A, having a very high carotene content. E. japonica is usually eaten fresh but may be stewed, served as a sauce, syrup or jam, or made into an excellent jelly. The fruit composition is 84-89% water, 0.32-0.35 % protein, 0.3-0.6% lipids, 9.89-12.79% sugar and starch, 0.3-0.37% cellulose, and 0.29-0.26% ash. The fruits are a good source of acid and pectin. The seeds, which have an almondlike taste, are used to flavour drinks and cakes.

Tender branches are used as fodder in India and in East Africa.

Apiculture:  Bees are easily attracted to the fragrant, white flowers. Honey is amber coloured with an agreeable flavour.

The wood of E. japonica has market value as firewood.

Timber:  E. japonica has a medium-weight to heavy heartwood with a density of 655-950 kg/cubic m at 15% mc. The heartwood is pale purple-brown with darker streaks, not clearly differentiated from the sapwood. The grain is straight with an attractive silvery look, and the texture is fine and even. The wood is occasionally slightly fragrant. The wood has very little tendency to split or check, is hard, and takes a good polish. It is suitable for poles and posts, carving and drawing materials such as rulers, and is in demand for making stringed musical instruments. 

Shade or shelter:  The fairly dense crown and a compact trunk make E. japonica useful for shade and as a windbreak.

Medicine:  The fruits are considered a sedative and are used in allaying vomiting and thirst. The tanniferous leaves are astringent and antidiarrhoetic, and in China are used to treat wounds. The flowers are used as an expectorant and, extracted in oil, in cosmetics.

Ornamental:  Because of its ornamental appearance alone, E. japonica is often planted in parks and gardens. It is also grown as an indoor pot plant.

In the Kilimanjaro region of East Africa, the tree is commonly grown on the borders of home compounds.

Soil improver:  The large leaves of E. japonica trees are suitable for mulch.

Alcohol:  The fruit juice of E. japonica can be used to prepare an alcoholic drink.