Rosaceae (Rose) Family
Loquat is also known as Rush Orange. Although very similar in appearance to the Kumquat, there is no relationship. The Kumquat is in the rue family and Loquat is a rose.
This is a tree of moderate size, reaching 20 to 30 feet in height. The tree has a rounded crown, short trunk, and woolly twigs. Its preferred habitat is yards, gardens, and low moist areas. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region, but is generally confined to domestic cultivation.
The leaves are evergreen, mostly whorled at the branch tips, elliptical-lanceolate to obovate lanceolate in outline. The adult leaves are 5 to 12 inches long and 3 to 4 inches wide. The color is dark green and glossy on the upper surface, whitish or rusty-hairy beneath. The texture is thick, stiff, with conspicuous veins, each terminating in a short, prickly tooth.
The flowers are fragrant (cinnamon), borne in rusty-hairy terminal panicles of 30 to 100 blooms; bisexual in nature and symmetrical in form. The five petals are whitish, 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide. Flowers occur in late autumn and early winter.
The fruit is clusters of several oval or rounded pulpy kumquat-like fruits; each being 1 to 2 inches long, with smooth or downy yellowish-orange skin. The pulp is succulent, sweet to subacid in flavor. There may be several seeds, though ordinarily there will be no more than 3. Each seed is dark or light brown and about 5/8 inch long.
The loquat is indigenous to southeastern China and possibly southern Japan. Although the western world first learned of the Loquat in 1690 from the botanist Kaempfer, it was not seen by the westerners until 1712. It was the botanist Thumberg that provided an elaborate description of the plant. Following Thumberg's description, the plant was introduced in the National Gardens in Paris, but those plants were apparently taken from China. In a short time, more plants were introduced to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, England. Soon afterwards, fruits were appearing in local markets.
In America, the Loquat is treated primarily as an ornamental on the southern landscape. The fruit is eaten raw or rendered into jelly. No efforts have been made to naturalize the trees although they will persist for many years after a homesite has been abandoned.