Cricket Hill Garden
Che, 'Norris' female Chinese Melonberry
Cudrania tricuspidata 'Norris'
Name in Chinese and pin yin: 柘 zhe
Variety description: This under appreciated fruit is a relative of mulberry and fig, and is native to central China. In addition to being grown for its fruit, traditionally Che leaves were used as a secondary food source for silk worms. Trees bear a prolific crop of maroon-red, 1/2" fruit. Ripe fruit have a sweet flavor which is often compared to that of a fig with notes of watermelon.
This female selection is said to bear seedless fruit in the absence of a pollinator. This may be true in areas with warm summers, but we have found that this tree only produces fruit when it is pollinated. PLANTING A MALE POLLINATOR TREE OR GRAFTING A MALE BRANCH ONTO AN EXISTING TREE IS RECOMMENDED for zones 6 and below.
We graft our Che onto Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) rootstock so that as the plant matures it will develop less of a bush and more of a standard tree form. Young plants have small thorns.
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.
We grow several different varieties of che trees. See our full selection here.
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.
Size at maturity: 10-30' tall, up to 25' wide, depending on pruning. Keep it pruned for a smaller size. Very fast growing.
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.
Pollination: This cultivar was advertised to us as being self-fruitful and thus seedless. Experience has shown, that at least in our cold USDA zone 6 climate, this tree needs a male pollinator for the fruit to fully ripen.
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.
Plant size: Grafted tree, small sized 1-2', large size 3' tall. Both with strong central leader.
When we ship: Spring 2022.
Shipping restrictions: None.