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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Mulberry

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Common or white mulberry (Morus alba tatarica) is a tree characterized by its unusual leaves, some of which are lobed and some of which are not. The tree was brought to North America from China years ago in an attempt to begin a silk industry. (Its leaves are the main food of silkworms.) It was introduced into the upper midwest for its fast growth and edible fruits. Only the female trees bear fruit.

Red mulberry (Morus rubra) is a rare native species found only in rich, moist woods of southeastern Minnesota, rarely in the landscape. It is distinguished from the more common white mulberry by rougher, less lobed leaves.

In June these small trees bear fruit which look somewhat like elongated raspberries. Red mulberry fruit is more flavorful than the fruit of white mulberry. The fruits of both are eaten fresh from the tree as an early summer treat, especially by young children. Those from red mulberry make a decent jelly and a refreshing juice drink. Though edible, the flavor of the white mulberry is rather insipid. If eaten in excess, they can have a cathartic effect on the digestive system. Birds often eat the fruit before it ripens fully, then spread the seeds with their droppings. Seedling trees will then pop up along alleys and along fences where birds sit. Because of this tendency, the common mulberry has a reputation as a weed.

Mulberries are only marginally hardy in Minnesota. It is not unusual to see some die-back following a harsh winter. Severe die-back and death can occur after an extremely bad winter. When planted in a protected or favorable site, this tree may reach a height of thirty feet or so, but it is far more common for them to run into trouble before growing that tall.

You may wish to plant a mulberry or two for fun but don't count on them as a permanent part of your landscape.


Reviewed 1999

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