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Garden Detective: Loquat is mystery fruit tree; wild boars in Folsom?

Feral pigs could have done this damage along Folsom Parkway, say readers who have dealt with wild boars.
Feral pigs could have done this damage along Folsom Parkway, say readers who have dealt with wild boars.

Q: Wondering what type of tree this is? A friend gave me the shoot 12 to 13 years ago and said it produced fruit of some sort.

Sandy Veit, Folsom

A: Your friend has given you a loquat, Eriobotryia japonica, according to UC master gardener Annie Kempees. It is an evergreen tree growing 15 to 30 feet tall and as wide when grown in full sun, narrower in shade. Although this loquat produces edible fruit, it is most often used as an ornamental. Plant in well-drained soil. It needs moderate water for ornamental plants; regular moisture for a good fruit crop. It is subject to fire blight as one would see in pear trees.

Most loquat trees are sold as seedlings; good ornamental plants but with unpredictable fruit quality. If you want to harvest a crop, you should look for a grafted variety such as “Champagne,” which grows best in warm areas. For good fruit, thin branches somewhat to let light into the tree’s interior.

Loquat leaves are leathery, crisp and stoutly veined, 6 to 12 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide, deep glossy green above and woolly and rust-colored beneath. New branches are woolly. In autumn, it produces clusters of small, fragrant, off-white flowers. As winter approaches, 1- to 2-inch orange or pale yellow fruit begins to ripen; the fruit is edible in late winter to early spring. Flesh may be sweet, sweet tart, or tart depending on the variety. It can be eaten fresh or used in preserves or pies.

Q: What’s digging up the turf along Folsom Parkway? Several readers had a different answer for Steve Farr of Folsom – wild pigs.

A: Although raccoons or skunks are more common culprits, feral pigs or wild boars could have done the damage, say readers.

“They do the damage at night, unwitnessed in search of food,” said Denny Long of Woodland. “I have whole hillsides roto-tilled by two or three pigs in a single night of foraging.”

“I would not be surprised to learn that an area that has wild turkeys, coyotes, deer and mountain lions, etc., also has feral pigs,” said reader Mike Lee.

“(Feral) hogs typically root in long trails like those pictured,” noted Jeff Millar. “Skunks and raccoons don’t turn up the soil that extensively. Hogs do a tremendous amount of damage to crops and landscapes each year.”

“This area in Folsom has been dug up by feral pigs,” said Linda Simpson of Auburn. “No other animal mentioned can do this kind of damage and in a short time. Fencing is the only way to control this – and ask any winery owner – that doesn’t always work either.”

Garden questions?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&g@sacbee.com. Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:

  • Sacramento: (916) 875-6913; 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday-Thursday
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  • Shasta, Tehama, Trinity: (530) 225-4605
  • Solano: (707) 784-1322; leave a message and calls will be returned
  • Sutter, Yuba: (530) 822-7515; 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Tuesday and 1-4 p.m. Thursdays
  • Yolo: (530) 666-8737; 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or leave a message and calls will be returned
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