We’ve been having a great loquat season here in North Florida, and one seedling loquat tree that’s been languishing in a neglected part of my grove has made its first crop of fruit. They’re outstanding, among the best loquat fruits I’ve ever eaten.
It’s always exciting when a new seedling tree starts making fruit for the first time – you never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes the fruits on a tree grown from seed are inferior, often they’re pretty good, and sometimes they’re excellent. Those occasional superior seedling trees are the ones we propagate vegetatively, and distribute as named varieties.
The tag on this tree says that I planted it in 2004, from seed collected from the loquat trees at Larry Shatzer’s place in Orlando. Many years before that, Larry had collected all the best named varieties of loquat he could find, and planted them out in the landscape at his place. All those excellent loquat varieties cross-pollinate every year, mixing their superior genes, and so seedlings from Larry’s place have often turned out to have excellent fruit themselves. Larry has found a number of the seedling trees that have popped up at his property have made such high quality fruit that he’s named them and distributed them in the nursery trade as a series of high quality cultivars.
During the years the Edible Plant Project was active in Gainesville, we distributed many seedling loquat trees grown from seeds collected at Larry’s place, calling them “super loquats”, to distinguish them as being likely to make fruits superior to those on average landscape loquat trees. This tree is one of those “super loquats”, so it’s got good parentage.
It’s taken fifteen years from when I planted the seed for this tree until it fruited for the first time. I suspect that in a better growing situation, it could have fruited much faster – the tree was really in adverse conditions. Having gotten zero care from me for many years, it was covered by climbing vines and largely shaded by bamboo canes leaning over it. I’m impressed that this tree was able to make fruit at all in such a tough situation. The tree is about nine feet (3m) tall, and produced several clusters of fruit.
The fruits are oval, and some have a bit of a neck. They’re large, in the same size range of the largest named loquat cultivars I’ve encountered, with a flesh that’s a whitish cream-color to yellow (unlike the more orange color of some loquats). I didn’t get a chance to measure their weight, but I’ll do that next year. Many of the fruits have just a single seed, with the largest fruits having several seeds. Flavor is outstanding, very sweet, so delicious that I found myself saying out loud, “Wow!” several times when eating these. Based on the large fruit size and excellent flavor, I’d say this tree has the potential to produce fruit among the best of the named loquat varieties currently available in the nursery trade in Florida.
I’ve since cleared the vines and limbs that were shading this tree, so it now gets full sun during the mid part of the day. I will be taking much better care of it now that I know how special it is, keeping it clear of competing vegetation, keeping it mulched, fertilized and irrigated. If it can make fruit so good under adverse conditions, I’m really interested to see what it can do when given some pampering.
I’m also going to propagate this tree vegetatively, by grafting and air layers. If future fruit production is as good or better than this year’s crop, I’ll name it and distribute it as a superior loquat cultivar.
Location of the tree is at the grove grid 15K block in my fruit grove.