There are about 30 species of Eriobotrya, occurring only in the tropical and subtropical regions of eastern Asia. They are evergreen trees or shrubs with simple, stipulate leaves. The leaf margins are serrate or entire, with strong veins either reaching the margin or looped just within it; petiole usually present. Inflorescences are terminal panicles with numerous white (rarely yellow) flowers. The flowers are 5-merous, with emarginate petals and 20 stamens. The fruit is a yellow, red, orange or black pome with a persistent calyx and one to three large seeds (Robertson et al. 1991, Gu et al. 2003).
The Loquat, Eriobotrya japonica (Thunb.) Lindl., is the best-known member of the genus, and although Bean (1981a) stated that it is ‘not hardy enough to have ever become widely cultivated’, and that it could only be grown against a warm wall at Kew, this handsome tree is now frequently seen in English gardens. Perhaps both global warming and the importation of fruits from Mediterranean holidays are implicated.
In addition to the taxa discussed below, Eriobotrya cavaleriei (H. Lév.) Rehder is cultivated by Tony Avent at Plant Delights Nursery, Raleigh, North Carolina. His 2.5 m tree has typically leathery leaves, flushing bronze, and was grown from Shanghai Botanic Garden seed in 2003. It has tolerated –12ºC without damage (T. Avent, pers. comm. 2006). A tree of E. elliptica Lindl. has been growing in the Temperate House at Kew for decades, derived from a collection made by Tony Schilling in Nepal in 1966. Although it originated at only c.2500 m asl south of Kathmandu and has generally been considered to be tender (Zappi & Cooke 2001), in the current climate it would be interesting to try this species outdoors.
A genus of about ten species of evergreen trees, natives of E. Asia. It is allied to Photinia, but differs in the larger, three- to five-celled fruit.