A member of the Mulberry family (Moraceae), Mandarin Melon Berry is closely
related to Osage Orange, and more distantly related to Mulberry, Fig, and Jackfruit. Seedless
cultivars have been developed with several flavors.
A thorny, suckering shrub or small tree.
At least 40 years.
Evergreen in warm regions. In cold regions, the leaves are deciduous and turn red in
Slow to moderate depending on location.
25' high and as wide after 30 years. Female trees are larger than male trees.
Green, small, separate male and female flowers grow on different trees.
Mid to late spring.
Depends on cultivar. For some cultivars, females produce seedless fruit without pollination
(parthenocarpy). If growing a seedless female tree, a male tree must not be present or the
fruit will be excessively seedy.
Years before fruiting:
Ten years from seed, 2-3 years if grafted. The tree tends to drop ripening fruit when
very young, but gets better at retention with age.
The "berry" is an aggregate fruit, red to dark red in color, with many small fruits
clustered together. If not from a seedless cultivar, the berry is very seedy with each
fruit containing 3-6 seeds. The fruit is poor tasting until very ripe. When ripe, it
lacks acidity and is somewhat sweet, like watermelon. The chewy texture resembles that
of a strawberry. Fallen fruit will stain sidewalks.
Months for fruit to ripen:
5. The fruit are ripe when soft and darkening with age, possibly tinged black. Ripe
fruit can be removed from a stem with a gentle pull. If a hard tug is required, the
fruit is not ripe. The stem does not bleed white sap when the fruit is picked fully
ripe. Fruit ripen on the tree individually, not all at once, and do not ripen further
once picked. One female tree can produce up to 400 pounds of fruit.
Storage after harvest:
The fruit can be kept refrigerated unwashed for several weeks in a covered container. They
can be eaten raw or cooked.
Light-green, three-lobed to ovate, variable in shape, with leaf-out occurring later than
Thorns exist in random locations on young wood, but disappear with age. The plant has milky
Mandarin Melon Berry should be grafted onto Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera) rootstock to
speed fruiting, reduce thorns, and eliminate suckering. On its own roots, it is less
vigorous and grows as a thorny shrub with abundant suckers.
Cultivars of Note:
'Darrow Melon Berry' female, seedless, cantaloupe
to papaya flavor, USDA zones 5-10.
'Norris Mandarin Melon Berry' female, seedless,
watermelon flavor with fig overtones, more vigorous, USDA zones 5-9.
Leaves and fruit attract browsing deer. The leaves can be used to feed silk worms.
Toxic / Danger:
The milky sap is a skin irritant and is mildly poisonous. Unripe fruit can cause stomach
Origin: East Asia for Mandarin Melon Berry. Osage
Orange was limited to the Red River Valley of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas in pre-Columbian
Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones:
Full sun, including on the soil over the root area.
Locate in an area with full sun, good drainage, and not prone to flooding. Place trees 15'
Very well drained, tolerant of most soil types but best with moderate to high organic content.
PH 6.1-6.5 (slightly acidic) is preferred, but tolerates pH 6.6-7.8 (neutral to slightly
alkaline). This tree responds poorly to flooding. Its native habitat is rocky soil.
Use an organic fertilizer three times a year in February, May and late July. Spread fertilizer
under the canopy but 8" away from the trunk. Apply a citrus micronutrient solution in
irrigation water at the same time.
Water after becoming established:
every one or two weeks during fruiting.
Fruit and leaf drop signifies insufficient water.
Apply organic mulch inside the drip line, and 8" away from the trunk, to retain soil moisture
and reduce summer soil temperatures.
First Year Care:
Deep water twice a week.
Prune only in winter when the plant is dormant and sap flow is low. The milky sap is a skin
irritant. Heavy pruning encourages new growth and fruiting. Prune branches back about half
way. Remove up to half of newly formed branches, especially those crossing or growing inward.
Flowers and fruit are produced on new wood.
Leaves, and abundant, staining fruit, which drop in the fall if not harvested.
Cuttings grafted onto Osage Orange rootstock.
Mandarin Melon Berry is primarily grown as a highly attractive ornamental. The fruit is
edible, but bland, possibly due to a lack of nutritional value. It is rarely harvested
as a food crop. For residential use, sliced berries can be served with lemon juice and
sugar, or blended with other fruit in smoothies.
Cudrania tricuspidata is a former scientific name. Other names are Che and
Do you have additional information or a different experience for these plants that you would
like to share? Email info@GardenOracle.com. All contributions are welcome and appreciated.