|Che, Chinese Mulberry - Cudrania tricuspidata
Common Names: Che, Chinese Che, Chinese Mulberry, Cudrang, Mandarin Melon Berry, Silkworm Thorn.
Charles R. Boning quotes:
"It is probably somewhat better suited to north Florida than south Florida, although its perfromance in southern parts of the peninsula has not been adequately assessed." 3
Growth Habit: The deciduous trees can eventually grow to about 25 ft. in height, but often remains a broad, spreading bush or small tree if not otherwise trained when they are young. Immature wood is thorny but loses its thorns as it matures. Female trees are larger and more robust than male trees. 1
Plant away from walks, drives or patio, as fallen fruit stains porous surfaces. Terminal branches may be armed with sharp thorns.
Flowers: The che is dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants. Appearing in June, both types of flowers are green and pea-sized. The male flowers turn yellow as the pollen ripens and is released, while the wind-pollinated female flowers develop many small stigmas over the surface of the immature fruit. Male plants occasionally have a few female flowers which will set fruit. 1
Although che fruits ripen late in the growing season, be patient with their harvest because they are tasteless until softened and dead ripe. Do not expect the fruits to drop into your hands at that time; each che has to be plucked individually (a case for parthenocarpy). Likewise, do not expect to pick the fruits all at once, because they have a long ripening season, a month or more. 4
Harvest: It is important that the fruits be thoroughly ripe to be at their best. A darker shade of red with some blackening of the skin is a good indication of full ripeness. 2
Propagation: The che is readily grown from seed, although the plants can take up to 10 years to bear. Seeds should be sown as soon as extracted from the fruit. The plants are often propagated from softwood cuttings taken in midsummer and treated with rooting hormone. The che is also easily grafted to Osage orange rootstock using either a cleft or whip-and-tongue graft. 1
Pruning and Care: Trees fruit on the current year’s wood. Prune heavily in winter to encourage new growth for best fruit production. Remove approximately half the branches formed the previous year and head back remaining shoots by about half. If the male and female have been planted together, keep the male to about 25% of the total canopy. This may entail addition summer pruning of the male. The trees can be allowed to reach full height or kept smaller for ease of harvest. 2
No pests or
diseases have been noted. The ripe fruit is attractive to birds.
1 "Che". crfg.org. 1997. Web. 4 Jan. 2014.
2 "Melonberry". justfruitsandexotics.com. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.
3 Boning, Charles R. "Florida's Best Fruiting Plants." Sarasota, Florida. Pineapple Press, Inc. 2006. Print.
4 Reich, Lee. "Che: Chewy Dollops of Maroon Sweetness." leereich.com. Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden. 2004. Web. 7 Jan. 2015.
Gilbert, Brandy Cowley. Melonberry. N.d. justfruitsandexotics.com. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.
Published 5 Jan. 2015 LR. Updated 17 Jan. 2015 LR