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Loquat Tree

Loquat Tree
A plant with a wide appeal, the loquat has become popular, especially due to its fruit. This article briefs you about the care regimen for the tree and some common diseases which may affect it.
Madhurjya Bhattacharyya
The loquat tree, also called the Japanese medlar, originated in southeastern China. Over time, the Chinese travelers introduced it to Japan and since then, it has been cultivated there. It is presumed that Chinese immigrants further introduced it to Hawaii, too. Today, Japan and Brazil are its leading producers.
To ensure proper growth provide it with the ideal climatic conditions. Ideally, these trees grow best in mild-temperate to subtropical climate. The tree can tolerate a temperature of 12 °F, but if it falls below that, there are chances that it would die. On the other hand, if the temperature falls below 19 °F, the buds would die. In summer, if there is extreme heat combined with dry hot winds, it can be detrimental to the tree, causing the leaves to scorch.
These are small evergreen trees with a rounded crown or large shrubs with short trunks. Usually, the tree grows to a height of around 10 feet, but at times it can grow to as high as 20 to 30 feet. Many a time these trees are used as ornamental plants. The leaves are usually lanceolate-shaped and are 5-12 inches in length with a width of 3-4 inches. The upper surface is generally glossy and dark green, while underneath it is rusty, hairy, or whitish. They are stiff and thick, with oblique veins. New leaves may be tinged with red at times.
In early winter or late fall, the tree bears sweet fragrant flowers, which are small and white in color. Before the flowers bloom, they show an unusual rusty-woolly texture. Once pollinated, the flowers form loquat fruits, which can be anywhere between one to two inches long. They grow in clusters and are pear-shaped, oval, or rounded. The skin is usually orange or yellow in color, and sometimes red-blushed. It is found that if the flowers and young fruits are thinned by clipping some of the flower cluster, it enhances the fruit size. To produce fruits of the highest quality, the flower clusters may be bagged so as to protect them from being damaged by birds and sunburn.
Loquat Tree Diseases
The tree is prone to pests and diseases which can affect the overall health of the tree. Some of the common diseases include fire blight, phytophthora root rot, and verticillium wilt.
Fire blight, a bacterial disease, can be serious for the plant if not treated in time and infects all parts of the plant. Initially the twigs and branches weaken and the foliage wilts, accompanied by the infected areas becoming brown. As time progresses the infected area would look as if it has burned. Over time, the plant would begin to experience stunted growth, the branches and twigs would die. You can control fire blight by pruning the plant and applying chemicals to kill the bacteria. The infected areas should be pruned with the help of a pair of sterile pruning shears. You can also use cooper sprays to prevent bloom infection.
A soil-borne disease, phytophthora root rot, infects the root system of the tree. This disease is more prevalent during the rainy season, when the moisture content in the soil is high. Trees situated in areas which do not have a good drainage system, are most prone to this disease. Symptoms include foliage turning yellow or dull green, loss of vigor, and wilting. Initially symptoms appear on the twigs and branches after which it affects the whole tree. It takes some time for the tree to be infected completely. If you manage the application of water you would be able to control phytophthora. The area around the tree should be well-drained and you should ensure that water never accumulates around the tree. You can also use fungicides to prevent this disease.
A fungal disease, verticillium wilt, is a soil-borne disease. The fungus can survive for several years even if it does not have a host to support it. It is through the root system that this fungus infects the tree which causes chronic symptoms. The symptoms include scorching and yellowing of the foliage, stunted growth, and weakening of the stems and branches. Moreover, the leaves may curl and the veins may turn yellow. Fungicides may not be able to treat this disease, you would need to remove these trees and plant new ones which are resistant to verticillium wilt.
Planting Loquat Tree
There are different varieties of loquat, so decide on the variety you would want to plant before you buy the sapling. If you are interested in gardening, make sure that you buy a healthy plant, free of pests and diseases. Choose a plant which is about 4 feet high and choose a spot which receives ample sunshine to plant it. The soil should be fertile, loamy, and well-drained. Moreover, the soil condition should be neutral to acidic, as alkaline soil is not well suited for its growth.
Before planting, get rid of the grass and weed from the selected spot and then dig a hole deep and wide enough to accommodate all the roots of the tree. Once you have dug the hole, place the tree gently in the hole, spreading the roots while doing so. Place soil on the roots so as to hold the tree upright after which you may tap the soil gently.
For the next couple of weeks, water the plant every alternate day. After which you can water it twice a week for the next month. However, if it rains, you don't need to water it. As and when the tree is about 4 years old, you can water it during dry spells or when the fruit begins to ripen.
You may plant it in your garden just as an ornamental plant or use it for its fruit. Use the guidelines mentioned in this article to ensure effective and proper growth of the plant.