Silkworm Thorn – Cudrania tricuspidata

Silkworm Thorn – Cudrania tricuspidata
Mulberry Family: Moraceae.
This Chinese native
is commonly called Che, Chinese Mulberry, Cudrang, Mandarin Melon Berry, and storehousebush.

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Bark and thorns are reminiscent of the very closely related Osage Orange, Maclura pomifera.
A deciduous tree reaching 25 feet, the silkworm thorn is native to many parts of eastern Asia from the Shantung and Kiangson Provinces of China to the Nepalese sub-Himalayas. It became naturalized in Japan many years ago. In China, the leaves of the che serve as a backup food for silkworms when mulberry leaves are in short supply. The tree was introduced into England and other parts of Europe around 1872, and into the U.S. around 1930. [2]

Like the closely related Mulberry, the silkworm thorn fruit is not a true berry, but a collective. Much larger than mulberries, the Che fruit can be up to 2 inches in diameter. The ripe fruits are deep red, containing juicy flesh and small brown seeds. Nearly tasteless when young, they can develop into a delicious, sugary fruit. Sold locally in markets in China and elsewhere in east Asia, the fruit attracts little commercial interest elsewhere. The fruit can stain roofs, driveways or sidewalks, hence the tree should be placed in and isolated location in full sun. [2]

Silkworm Thorn - Cudrania tricuspidata
This Silkworm Thorn was started from seed 28 years ago.
Shrubs or small trees, 1-7 m tall, deciduous. Bark grayish brown. Branchlets slightly ridged, glabrous; spines 0.5-2 cm. Winter buds reddish brown. Petiole 1-2 cm, sparsely pubescent; leaf blade ovate to rhombic-ovate, occasionally 3-lobed, 5-14 × 3-6 cm, abaxially greenish white and glabrous or sparsely pubescent, adaxially deep green and glabrous, base rounded to cuneate, margin entire, apex acuminate; secondary veins 4-6 on each side of midvein, tertiary veins reticulate. Inflorescences axillary, single or in pairs. Male inflorescences capitulate, ca. 5 mm in diam.; peduncle shorter than capitulum. Female inflorescences 1-1.5 cm in diam., axillary; peduncle short. Male flowers: calyx lobes fleshy, margin revolute, apex thick; pistillode pyramidal. Female flowers: calyx lobes with margin revolute, apically shield-shaped; ovary immersed in lower part of calyx. Fruiting syncarp orange red when mature, ± globose, ca. 2.5 cm in diam. Fl. May-Jun, fr. Jun-Jul.

Sunny forest margins, mountain slopes; 500-2200 m. Anhui, Fujian, SE Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Shaanxi, Shandong, S Shanxi, Sichuan, Yunnan, Zhejiang [Japan (cultivated), Korea].

The bark fibers are used for making paper, the leaves are used as food for silkworms, the fruit are edible, and the bark is used medicinally. [3]

Silkworm Thorn Tree thorns and foliage
Foliage and eponymous thorn. Silkworm larvae will eat these leaves.

1. ITIS Standard Report, Cudrania tricuspidata  (Carr.) Bureau ex Lavallée.
2. California Rare Fruit Growers Inc.,
3. Flora of China, Maclura tricuspidata
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Mulberry Family: Moraceae consists of flowering trees, shrubs, herbs or lianas (vines), both evergreen and deciduous; mainly woody and tropical, they are most abundant in Asia.  Moraceae includes both self-supporting and epiphytic (plants that use an immobile object such as another plant, or a building to support their structure) vines. The largest genus is Ficus, with about 750 species of figs.
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