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melonberry seeds

In his book, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, horticulturalist Lee Reich writes that his first encounter with che fruit was at Dr. Darrow’s Maryland home. Reich recounts: “I wish that I had become better acquainted with che soon after our introduction. That first meeting was in 1979 at the home of renowned fruit breeder George M. Darrow, then ninety years old and retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His dooryard che, unfortunately, had no fruits ripe for sampling.”

Variety description: This under appreciated fruit is a relative of mulberry and fig, and is native to central China. In addition to be ing grown for its fruit, traditionally Che leaves were used as a secondary food source for silk worms. Self-fertile seedless female trees bear a prolific crop of maroon-red, 1-2″ fruit. Ripe fruit hav e a sweet flavor which is often compared to that of a fig with notes of watermelon.

Size at maturity: 10-25′ tall, 25′ wide, depending on pruning.

Site requirements: Full sun location. Che will grow in a range of soil types provided that the roots stay evenly moist throughout the heat of the summer. Deep, well drained loam is ideal.

Hardiness: USDA zones 5b-9. There are some reports of Che growing in USDA zone 5. Cooler climates may have insufficient summer heat to fully ripen the fruit.

This cultivar was discovered by nurseryman Cliff England growing in an orchard of unusual fruit trees planted in the 1930s on the site of the TVA’s Norris Dam in northern Tennessee.

Site requirements: Full sun location. Che will grow in a range of soil types provided that the roots stay evenly moist throughout the heat of the summer. Deep, well drained loam is ideal.

Pests and Diseases: None observed. Birds will eat the fruit if you are late to harvest and deer may browse both the fruit and foliage. We protect young trees with a circle of wire mesh to keep the deer away.

Hardiness: USDA zones 5b-9. There are some reports of Che growing in USDA zone 5. Cooler climates may have insufficient summer heat to fully ripen the fruit.

Melonberry seeds

Fertilization
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. Application rates vary according to age of plant. See chart below.

Mandarin Melonberry ( Cudrania tricuspidata ) is a beautiful, small rounded tree with broad green olive leaves. It’s also called Che or Chinese mulberry and is a member of the mulberry family. The tree flowers in mid spring and the fruit matures in mid summer. The fruit looks like a large, round raspberry, with a few seeds; the taste has a distinct cantaloupe-like flavor. Use fresh in fruit salad or eat out of hand. Mandarin Melonberry is one of the easiest, most problem-free fruits you can grow – a little care will go a long way with this tree. Female trees will fruit by themselves (ours did!). If you want to increase fruit yield you may want to add a male che later. Two types of trees are available. We graft some trees onto Osage orange rootstock to ensure early, heavy fruit production without root suckering. Cutting-grown trees are also available – these will spread into a hedge, but root suckers will be thornless.

Uses in the Landscape
Mandarin melonberry grow to approximately 30 feet tall. Trees can be allowed to grow into large fruiting shade trees or pruned into a smaller bush. Use as a small specimen tree or mix in with apples, peaches and plums for months of fresh fruit.

Mandarin Melon Berry fruit

If desired, construct a water basin around the base of the tree approximately 36 inches in diameter. Mulch in spring and summer with approximately 4-6 inches of mulch. Pull mulch a couple of inches away from the trunk for good air circulation. Grafted trees should be planted on 20-foot centers. Non-grafted plants for hedgerows should be set 6 feet apart.

Pollination
Male Mandarin Melonberry Tree He’s the Pollinator!
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 15-20ft of the Female.

Water
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.

Fact Sheet from the Just Fruits and Exotics Nursery
by Brandy Cowley Gilbert