Pi Pa Ye
Botanical name: Eriobotrya japonica
Common name: Loquat leaf, Eriobotrya
Family: Rosaceae, rose family
Part used in Chinese medicine: leaf
Major Chinese medicine actions:
Transforms phlegm, clears Lung heat, directs Lung qi downward,
harmonizes Stomach, clears Stomach heat, alleviates nausea
Photo Credits: (top to bottom)
Photo 1: Eriobotrya japonica; 10/2004; author Kurt Stueber; permission under GFDL
Photo 2: Eriobotrya japonica; 12/2005; author Rickjpelleg; permission under GFDL
Photo 3: Eriobotrya japonica; 10/2008; author Jean-Pol Grandmont; permission under GFDL
Eriobotrya japonica is known as the loquat, a fruit tree indigenous to Japan and southeastern China, often mentioned in ancient Chinese literature and poetry. The loquat fruit is called “pi pa”, because its shape resembles that of a mandolin-like Chinese musical instrument called pi pa. Though the fruit is rarely eaten, because it ripens in spring, loquat fruit is considered a lucky symbol. The phrase “loquat gateways and alleys” is symbolic of brothels, and young schoolboys were said to be “running under the loquat blossoms” when they visited famous courtesans.
The plant is a small evergreen tree or a shrub reaching 15-30 feet tall. The large, dark green leaves are tough and leathery with a rusty color on their underside, giving the plant a tropical look. Very fragrant, white flowers appear late in the year, in fall or early winter, followed by clusters of yellow to orange fruit in early spring. The fruit is sweet and tangy, though somewhat insipid, and the best tasting variety is considered to be the “White Loquat”. The fruit of some trees is sour and very acidic and can cause allergic reactions in those with citrus sensitivities.
Growing and Propagation
The loquat is easy to grow and commonly found as an ornamental tree in warm climates. It requires full sun and is drought tolerant once established. Hardy in USDA zones 7 to 11, it will survive in temperatures down to 0 degrees F. Cold spells can cause the leaves to burn, but it will recover quickly. Only trees growing in regions where temperatures stay above 27 degrees F (citrus growing areas) will produce fruit.
The tree can be propagated by seed, woody stem cuttings, and by grafting. Seeds should first be germinated indoors in a damp towel, though the tree will often self sow naturally if dropping ripe fruit is left on the ground.
Harvesting and Preparation
For medicinal use, good quality Pi Pa Ye consists of whole, large leaves that are green or reddish-brown in color. Yellow leaves indicate poor quality.