Che, Chinese Mulberry - Cudrania tricuspidata Bur. ex Lavallee
Mandarin Melon Berry fruit
Fig. 1

Maclura tricuspidata fruits
Fig. 2
Maclura tricuspidata fruits

Cudrania tricuspidata
Fig. 3

Silkworm Bark. Cudrania tricuspidata by the stream at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Fig. 4
Silkworm Bark. Cudrania tricuspidata by the stream at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Cudrania tricuspidata
Fig. 5

Young Maclura tricuspidata tree
Fig. 6
Young Maclura tricuspidata tree

Maclura tricuspidata tree
Fig. 7
Maclura tricuspidata tree
Scientific name
Cudrania tricuspidata Bur. ex Lavallee
Common names
Che, Chinese che, Chinese mulberry, cudrang, mandarin melonberry, silkworm thorn, and, derivation unknown, storehousebush in English, and in China, tcho sang (wild mulberry), tsa, tse-tsang (thorny mulberry), cha-shu, poh-hsi, shih, nu-che 4
Synonyms
Cudrania tricuspidata (Carr.) Bur.; C. triloba Hance; Cudranus triloba Hance; Maclura tricuspidata Carr.; Morus integrifolia Lév. & Vaniot; Vanieria tricuspidata (Carr.) Hu; V. triloba (Hance) Satake 7
Relatives
Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), Jackfruit (A. heterophyllus), Fig (Ficus spp.), Mulberry (Morus spp.), African Breadfruit (Treculis africana). 1
Family
Moraceoae
Origin
Native from the Shantung and Kiangson Provinces of China to the Nepalese sub-Himalayas 5
USDA hardiness zones
5-6; also grows well into subtropical regions 4
Uses
Use fresh in fruit salad or eat out of hand 2
Height
25 ft (7.6 m) to rarely 60 ft (18.3 m); female trees larger than males 5
Plant habit
Broad, spreading bush or small tree; suckers are produced at the base of the plant; with age develops a spreading flattened top 4
Trunk/bark/branches
Immature wood thorny; bark ripples with deep furrows 4
Pruning requirement
Trees fruit on the current year’s wood; prune heavily in winter to encourage new growth for best fruit production 2
Leaves
Alternate; pale yellowish-green; trilobate; frequently unlobed 5
Flowers
Dioecious, male and female flowers on different plants, green, pea-sized 5
Fruit
Is an aggregate fruit; knotty; ripens to red or maroon-red; juicy, rich flesh; 3-6 small brown edible seeds 5
Season
July-Sept.
Light requirement
Will grow more vigorously and produce more fruit in full sun 2
Soil tolerances
Prefers sandy, mildly acidic soil, but will tolerate a wide range of soil types 3
PH preference
6.0-6.5
Drought tolerance
Tolerant
Flood tolerance
Trees do not tolerate flooding 2
Aerosol salt tolerance
Unknown
Soil salt tolerance
Unknown
Cold tolerance
- 20°F (-28 °C)
Plant spacing
Grafted trees should be planted on 20 ft (6.1) centers 2
Invasive potential *
None reported
Pest resistance
Mandarin melonberry appears to be free of pests and diseases 2
Known hazard
Fruit stains like mulberries 5
Terminal branches may be armed with sharp thorns 3



Reading Material

Information from California Rare Fruit Growers
Melonberry from Just Fruits and Exotics Nursery
Che: Chewy Dolloops of Maroon Sweetness pdf 6 pages from Lee Reich's book Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden
Che from Deane Green of Eat The Weeds website
Fruit of the Month: Che from California Rare Fruit Growers



Origin

This species is native to China and East Asia. It is widely distributed in southern Europe and other warm temperate regions of the globe.

Description
Although it has not yet achieved the popularity it deserves, the che is well suited to dooryard planting in north and central Florida. This small tree is easy to grow, cold hardy, drought resistand and produces a berrylike fruit in great abundance. The flavor is mild, sweet and delicious. No sighnficant faults are associated with the che, apart from sharp thorns and the tendency of some juvenile trees to form suckers around the base. 3
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

Leaves
Leaves alternate, resemble mulberry but smaller, thinner, pale yellowish-green, trilobate, with central lobe sometimes twice as long as the lateral lobes, frequently unlobed. 5

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

Fruit
Like the related mulberry, the che fruit is not a berry but a collective fruit, in appearance somewhat like a round mulberry crossed with a lychee, 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The ripe fruits are an attractive red or maroon-red color with a juicy, rich red flesh inside and 3 to 6 small brown seeds per fruit. The flavor is quite unlike the vinous quality of better mulberries. While still firm they are almost tasteless, but when fully soft ripe they develop a watermelon-like flavor that can be quite delicious. The sugar content is similar to that of a ripe fig. In colder areas with early leaf drop the bright red fruit are an attractive sight dangling from smooth, leafless branches. 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

Varieties
Few named cultivars are available in the United States. 'Darrow' is sometimes planted in north Florida. 3

Harvesting
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. You’ll know the fruit is ripe when the stem doesn’t bleed white sap after picking. 2
Do not pull the fruit from the tree. If it doesn't come off with a gentle pull give it another day. If you pull the fruit off with force it will be dripping sap and will not taste good. 9

Pollination
No fruit is produced by the Male but without his flowers the Female won’t fruit. The Male will cause seeds to be produced in the fruit of any Female Melonberry variety within pollination range. If you have a Female Melonberry that isn’t producing well or drops all its fruit, and you don’t mind seeds in the fruit, then plant a Male Melonberry within 15-20 ft of the Female. 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

Planting
Because space is usually limited, savvy gardeners have planted the male and female che in the same hole. The male is kept pruned to about ¼ of the total canopy for adequate pollination and best fruit production. 2
Plant away from walks, drives or patio, as fallen fruit stains porous surfaces. Terminal branches may be armed with sharp thorns. 3

Pruning
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

Fertilizing
The type of fertilizer you choose may be chemical or organic. Make sure that the fertilizer contains iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, molybdenum, copper and boron. These minor elements are very important to plants and most soils are low in these elements. 2

Irrigation
The first year is a critical time for the establishment of a new tree. Water thoroughly twice a week on light soils and once a week on clay soils. Soak the entire root system deeply – this usually takes 40-50 minutes. Mandarin Melonberry should receive at least 1 inch of water each week for best growth and fruit production. Water regularly, especially during dry periods. Fruit may drop prematurely if insufficiently irrigated during dry spells. 2

Food Uses
Use fresh in fruit salad or eat out of hand. 2

Other Uses
The plants have been valued by the Chinese for their leaves, as feed for silkworms. Although the silk produced from them was said to produce lute strings with a particularly clear sound, their leaves were used only to supplement mulberry leaves as feed, perhaps because thorny stems make picking them more difficult. 4

General
Female trees are larger and more robust than male trees. Osage orange is sometimes used as a rootstock because che on its own roots can sucker badly. Osage orange as a rootstock for che gives you a plant that is more easily trained as a standard, single-trunked shrub or small tree. 6
The Tanzhe Temple west of Beijing, China is named for this tree 8


List of Growers and Vendors


Bibliography

1 "Che." crfg.org. 1997. Web. 4 Jan. 2014.
Gilbert, Brandy Cowley. "Melonberry." justfruitsandexotics.com. N.d. 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.
5 Deane, Green . "Che." eattheweeds.com.  n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
6 Del Hota, Tom. "Fruit of the Month, Che." crfg.org. Dec. 2012 Newsletter. Web. 17 Jan. 2016.
7 Cudrania tricuspidata synonyms. gbif.org. Global Biodiversity Information Facility. Web. 15 May 2017.
8 Maclura tricuspidatawikipedia.org. Web. 15 May 2017.
9 dself65. Che (mandarin melon berry) Cudrania tricuspidatatropicalfruitforum.com. Web. 15 May 2017.

Photographs

Fig. 1 Gilbert, Brandy Cowley. Melonberry.  N.d. justfruitsandexotics.com. Web. 5 Jan. 2015.
Fig. 2 SKas. Maclura tricuspidata fruits. 2016. wikipedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 4.0). Web. 15 May 2017.
Fig. 3 Arb O'Retum. Cudrania tricuspidata. 2013. flickr.com. Under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Web. 15 May 2017.
Fig. 4 Severinghaus, Steven. Silkworm Bark. Cudrania tricuspidata by the stream at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. 2012. flickr.com. Under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Web. 15 May 2017.
Fig. 5 Arb O'Retum. Cudrania tricuspidata. 2015. flickr.com. Under (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0). Web. 15 May 2017.
Fig. SKas.. Maclura tricuspidata tree. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 15 May 2017.
Fig. 7 Abrahami. Maclura tricuspidata tree. 2008. commons.wikimedia.org. Under (CC BY-SA 3.0). Web. 15 May 2017.

UF/IFAS Assessment of Non-native Plants in Florida's Natural Areas

Published 5 Jan. 2015 LR. Last update 15 May 2017 LR
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