Many of us will remember eating Loquats from a tree in the garden as children.  What we may not know is that the Eriobotrya japonica has been declared a Category 3 NEMBA invasive species and as such may not be propagated, planted or sold since 2001.

Native to South eastern China, the Loquat was introduced to South Africa as an ornamental tree with edible fruit.  Over the years the tree has become naturalised and can be found in indigenous forests and on roadsides.  Very competitive, the tree can crowd out indigenous species and is also an alternative host for the fruit fly, impacting on the cultivation of fruit crops.

The medium-sized, evergreen tree can grow to a height of 8 m and has sturdy branches and a rounded canopy.  The leaves are dark green and glossy on top with a stiff, leathery texture and prominent veins.  White flowers are produced from May to June and orange-yellow, fleshy fruit follow from late winter to spring.  The fruit has large seeds which are distributed by mammals and birds.

If you have a Loquat tree that has been growing from before the 30th of March 2001, it can be left growing, but care should be taken to remove any seedlings immediately.  Alternative trees to replace the Loquat would be Schotia brachepetala (Weeping Boer-bean) or Euclea natalensis (Natal guarrie).

Not sure if a plant is invasive?  Visit www.invasives.org.za for more information.