The Mystery of the Disappearing Loquats

We have a loquat tree in our back yard. The loquat is native to China but has a widespread range; in the USA, however, it's generally limited to southern states. We had never seen one before we moved to Horseshoe Bay, and even here they're not very common, but we've grown fond of it. It's an evergreen and its big leaves provide us with some privacy during the winter months when most other trees drop their leaves. When it flowers, it attracts bees and butterflies, and the hummingbirds like to sit on its branches to keep watch over the feeders.

Photo - the loquat tree in our back yard

If you're unfamiliar with loquats, here's a quick primer. They're in the same family (Rosaceae) as roses, photinia, and pyracantha, as well as fruit-bearing plants such as apples, pears, strawberries, plums, cherries, peaches, and apricots. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), they're not botanically related to the kumquat.

The loquat fruit is not large -- about the size of a golf ball -- and ripens in the spring to early summer. The taste varies from tangy to sweet depending on the variety and the ripeness; some describe it as a combination of peach, citrus, and mango.

Why am I waxing so eloquently about the tree? Simply this: we have a bumper crop of loquats this spring, I suppose because of the mild winter and abundant rain. We've never had enough to even catch our attention...much less harvest and eat. Well, I tasted one; Debbie has eaten a couple. I wasn't that impressed with the flavor, and we agreed that in one respect they're like crawfish: a lot of work goes into getting just a tiny taste.

Nevertheless, something enjoys them...and therein lies the mystery.

Debbie harvested a grocery sack full of them, either directly from the tree or off the ground. After we decided that they wouldn't become a staple of our quarantine diet, she tossed them over the back fence as potential food for birds and critters. One day she disposed of 20 or 30; they disappeared overnight.

I theorized that some of our omnivorous varmints -- possums, skunks, raccoons...possibly even armadillos, although they were at the bottom of my list of suspects -- were dining on the fruit. We were anxious to identify the gluttons, so we scattered some more fruit between the fence and the creek and I placed a game camera in hopes of solving the mystery. And that's exactly what happened around 3:00 a.m. this morning.

Slide the vertical yellow bar to the left in the following photo to reveal the identify of the loquat-gobbling visitor:

Photo - Loquats on ground 'Photo - Deer eating loquats

While armadillos were at the bottom of my list of suspects, deer didn't even make the list. But the photographic evidence is clear: at least one of them is hooked on loquats.

I also edited one of the videos from the gamecam into an animated gif (see below), and if you look closely, you can tell that it's a buck by the just-beginning-to-bud antlers.

The deer didn't consume all the loquats, and I'm not sure why. About 45 minutes after the deer appeared and then left, a possum entered the scene but didn't seem to express any interest in the fruit. Shortly after that, a strong storm rolled through, and that might have limited the appearance of additional diners. Regardless, we now know that whitetail deer are not only vegetarians, but also fruitatarians (that's a technical scientific term).

By the way, the seeds in loquats contain a cyanide compound, similar to that in apricot pits. I wonder if whatever is chowing down on them experiences any ill aftereffects as a result.

Animated gif - Game camera movie of a deer eating a loquat

2 Comments

I enjoy your articles very much. You back up your writing with research and images. I just realized that you are evolving into a modern day Euell Theophilus Gibbons. He came on the scene in the 60’s with books and appearances on various shows where he would prepare meals from items he found in the wild. He was a better man than me as I usually know where to find Jack Links teriyaki jerky or a Snickers bar. Keep up the good work. I’m hoping I’m in a conversation soon where I can drop the word “loquat”. I’m sure it will end embarrassingly when I’m asked to expound on the same. I will just give them your name and contact number.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric published on April 29, 2020 3:33 PM.

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