Fruitless mulberry tree roots

Cutting problem tree roots


I have a large fruitless mulberry tree in my yard. The roots are right on the surface, sticking up well above the soil and causing problems when I walk around the yard. The shade from the tree is important to me so I don’t want to hurt the tree, but I don’t want the tree to hurt me. If I remove those roots which are on the surface, will the deeper roots be enough to take care of the tree, or should I just put new soil over the offending roots?


If you cut the roots, you may kill or at least severely injure the tree. It depends on how close to the trunk you cut the roots. If you put soil over the roots, you may see the same results.

Trees such as the mulberry are genetically programmed to have shallow roots, and cultural conditions often exaggerate the problem. So, there are no, or at least few deeper roots to support the tree if you cut the roots; however, that does depend on how close to the trunk you cut the roots. As you follow a root from the trunk, you will find that the root produces “sinker” roots which go downward and provide anchoring for the tree. They are not primarily intended for water and nutrient absorption as are the shallow, “lateral”, roots. Also, as you go away from the trunk, the lateral roots become smaller and more capable of regenerating new roots if they are cut. The mulberry is a tree which seems to have a great capacity for surviving such root injury if you cut roots at a distance from the trunk equal to the dripline. So, without knowing where you want to cut the roots, I would advise against it unless you cut the roots beyond the dripline.

Another factor to consider when cutting roots is that these lateral roots are important in the stability of the tree and its ability to resist blowing over in the wind. Cutting roots can increase the likelihood of the tree blowing over and damaging your house, vehicle, or people.

Putting soil over the roots can cause problems in most trees as well. Tree roots need oxygen. By putting a layer of soil over the roots, you will change the oxygen concentration in the soil air spaces and can cause death of the roots. Some trees are more tolerant of this, while others are very intolerant. Even those which can tolerate some added soil will have a limit as to how much depth of soil and oxygen concentration change they will tolerate. The age and vigor of the tree will also determine how well it can tolerate added soil.

So, either cutting the roots or burying the offending roots can cause problems. Be careful.

Wood ashes in the garden


Now that winter is over, I have a lot of wood ashes from the fireplace that I want to spread on the garden. My wife tells me that this is not good, but I’ve read many garden books which say that wood ashes are good for the garden. Please settle this argument that I am having with my wife.


Sorry, I must take your wife’s side in this debate. Here in the Southwest our soils are very alkaline and contain excess salts. Wood ashes add to this problem. In parts of the country, for which many garden books are written, the soils are acid and deficient in some nutrients which are present in wood ashes. So, in the East and other areas with acid soils, ashes are beneficial. In much of the West, especially here in the Southwest, wood ashes can cause major problems when added to the soil (or to the compost pile).

I’m like a kid in a candy store when I come across a mulberry tree laden with fruit ready to pick. Who wouldn’t just stand and eat their fill?

Many of us may have done this, since mulberry trees grow in a wide range of climates and soils. Some are native to China, while others are native in the Midwest. Lately I am asking myself – why I don’t grow my own? I’ve got plenty of room, but can’t help considering the messy parts.

Mulberries are fast-growing trees with aggressive roots that can lift sidewalks and strangle drains. The fruitless kind grown to feed silkworms are large shade trees that need frequent pruning. Not the best tree, ornamental-wise, when there are so many better-behaved trees to choose from.

Fruit-bearing mulberries are the ones worth growing. And there are a few that are easy to grow and do well in drought conditions.

Also read: The dish on the other berries

You do need to take into account that fruiting mulberries are heavy bearers. That means they can drop more fruit than you can eat, and sometimes all at once. And this fruit can stain when it grabs on to your shoes and finds its way indoors.

Planted way out of the way, pruned and picked, a fruiting mulberry can offer buckets of berries for a family, and a treat for neighborhood birds.

In fact, if you’re a backyard birder, you’ll attract a host of fruit-loving birds such as bluebirds, orioles, tanagers and warblers in spring and early summer when the trees are laden with berries.

Cornell University suggests laying a tarp under the tree during the fruit drop season so you can harvest from what falls from the tree. It could keep your fingers cleaner too, since mulberries are known to stain fingertips.

From new plantings, you won’t wait around for fruit. Mulberries begin bearing at an early age.

The fruit is similar to blackberries and you can use it the same way: for cobblers, muffins, sorbets, pies and pancakes. And throw them into your smoothies. Dr. Oz says the mulberry is a “super-food” that provides protein and antioxidants; and the leaves, made into tea, inhibit the digestion of sugar – a benefit for diabetics.

Gary Matsuoka of Laguna Hills Nursery recommends these trees:

Black Beauty: Large, black fruit with sweet, flavorful flesh. This semi-dwarf variety should stay under 15 feet but can be trained as a bush under 5 feet. Deciduous – it leafs out in midspring.

Pakistan Red: Maroon fruit up to 4 inches in length with very sweet flesh. Fruit can be eaten well before fully ripe. The juice doesn’t stain Ripens in late spring or early summer. The tree can grow 20-30 feet; heavy summer pruning controls size.

Teas Weeping: Small, sweet, black fruit of excellent quality; heavy production. This small tree will weep to the ground – it is a novelty, and popular in children’s gardens.

White: Medium-size, mildly sweet and creamy white fruit. This tree can grow well over 30 feet tall and wide.

Contact the writer: [email protected]

Q. I have a mulberry tree in my backyard. My one neighbor says it is an invasive tree, and another says it is a native tree and good to have. Which neighbor is correct?

Answer: Your mulberry tree looks like a white mulberry. According to Sally S. Weeks, dendrologist at the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, white mulberry is a prolific fruit producer and is often found in open sunny sites. Red mulberry is a rare native tree most often found in shady moist sites in mature woods.

White mulberry is native to China. The tree was introduced in the Long Island, New York, area in 1827 and was planted in many areas of the eastern United States as a potential food source for the silkworm. Unfortunately, the costs to produce silk in the U.S. were too high, and this get-rich scheme failed.

The white mulberry flourished in our temperate climate. Birds and other animals ate the mulberry fruit and quickly spread the seeds – and the tree – to other areas. The saplings have a deep taproot and are very difficult to pull, even at a small size.

White mulberries are generally found in sunny areas and are found more in the northern half of Indiana. Many folks think white mulberries have white fruit. It is more common for white mulberry to have red to purple fruit that may turn white at maturity.

White mulberry can be invasive and can overtake areas such as fence rows. As always, one person’s weed can be another person’s treasure.

All of the mulberries have leaves that occur in three shapes – entire, mitten and three-lobed leaves.

Mulberry is a dioecious species, composed of male (creamy) and female (green) flowers borne on separate trees in mid-spring. Fruits mature quickly on female trees, maturing in early to mid-summer and are relished by birds, squirrels and other mammals.

White mulberry leaves are often shiny and bright green above, with larger more rounded teeth than red mulberry.

Red mulberry, our native tree, is primarily found in southern Indiana. The leaves are usually larger than white mulberry, and are quite rough on the upper surface. The tree is intolerant of sunny conditions.

Red mulberry fruit is delicious, but the fruit is produced in less quantity than white mulberry. The fruit is found along the twigs, unlike white mulberry whose fruit is found in clusters at the ends of the twigs. I always could identity white mulberry by the orange to reddish inner bark; compared to tan inner bark of red mulberry.

Red mulberry bark has fibers in it, which were made into cloaks by the Choctaws. They were also used to make ropes for the ships of the Spanish conquistadors.

Illinois Everbearing, Collier, Weeping, Beautiful Day and Geraldi Hybrid are hybrids between red and white mulberry and can be found at some specialty nurseries.

The Plant Medic, written by Ricky Kemery, appears every other Saturday. Kemery retired as the extension educator for horticulture at the Allen County branch of the Purdue Extension Service.


Morus spp. Moraceae Mulberry Morus alba fruits m

Mulberries can be grown either as (heavily pruned) bushes or standard trees. Be warned some varieties can become very large trees and last 40 years. They are deciduous trees that provide good shade in summer and in autumn leaves turn yellow and then drop.


Mulberry trees are very hardy, they like a pH soil of 5.5 – 7 and preferably a loamy soil in a warm location. Mulberries are self-fertile, so you only need to plant one tree to get heaps of the soft, luscious fruit every year. The best for small gardens are grafted weeping mulberry purchased as bare-rooted trees. Plant when the plant is dormant during the winter. Be extra careful when back-filling the hole that you don’t damage the roots they can be quite brittle and fragile. Potted plants can be planted out in the early spring. Prepare the hole early with a good amount of aged compost, well-rotted farmyard manure and some blood and bone to give the young tree a good start.

Plant Care

Mulberries like to be well-watered, especially to help them establish a good root system, which is fairly shallow, in the first 2 years. Avoid planting other plants under your mulberry tree and place the mulberry away from paths and buildings that may be disturbed as the tree grows and its roots expand outward.

Water as needed and adding a layer of mulch would be highly beneficial for your plant. Again water well when the fruit begins to form, especially if you live in a hot climate, in case your fruit drops before they have even begun to ripen


Mulberries are self-fertile and will pollinate themselves, so you don’t have to plant more than one tree to get the soft, luscious fruit every year. Your garden planted tree will fruit the very first year, and in each successive year the crop will be better than the last. It will fruit well for at least 40 years. Keep pinch pruning to reduce tree size and be able to reach the fruit and keep netted when ripening if you wish to avoid the birds leaving strong mulberry stains on everything. Trees grafted onto dwarf rootstock are slow to establish and may take many years before your first crop.


Mulberries are usually eaten fresh from the tree are also ideal to use in jams, wines or apple and mulberry pies. Unwashed the berries will keep several days in a refrigerator in a covered container.

Varieties suitable for the Sydney Basin

Black mulberry (Morus nigra) fruit is large, resembling a blackberry and are considered the tastiest and most versatile of the mulberries, juicy with a good balance of sweetness and tartness.

Red mulberry (M. rubra) has delicious sweet fruits that can reach 10cm in length

White mulberry (M. macroura -‘Shatoot’) is a smaller tree, although, the largest of the mulberries, sometimes coming in at 10 cm in length! White in colour, they begin to go sweet when they are still half green, and become honeyed and sweet when fully ripe. With 30% sugar content the fruit can be dried and reduces down to an intensely sweet little snack.

White mulberry (M. alba ‘Pendula’) Is a pretty weeping form mulberry and another smaller variety of tree with greenish yellow fruit and provides good food for silkworms.


Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), a native of Asia, was promoted in the 1980s as a permaculture species for paper making.

It is a significant invasive weed in several countries where it threatens local native vegetation.

In addition to its environmental impacts, its pollen is thought to cause inhalant allergies.

Reference: Californian rare fruit growers

Fruitless mulberry keeps coming back | The Sacramento Bee

Garden Detective: The fruitless mulberry is a popular shade tree in the Sacramento area, but its shallow roots can be problematic – even after the tree is gone. Sacramento Bee file

Experts tackle readers’ garden questions.

Q: Last year, we cut down a fruitless mulberry whose roots were creating havoc with our cement driveway. We rototilled and cut out the tree roots, or as many as we could, and made a small garden. This spring, a plant started growing there and is now quite large. The leaves do not look like the tree we took out, and the “stem” is kind of speckled green, not like a tree trunk. Can you tell us what it is?

Mary Lou McNeill, Sacramento

Master gardener Linda O’Connell: Fruitless mulberry trees (Morus alba) grow well in a variety of soil types. They do well in climates with long, hot summers and can withstand air pollution. They are fast-growing trees and can reach up to 35 feet tall in three years. However, they form many large surface roots, making it difficult to garden under and around them. The surface roots also cause problems to walkways and driveways near the tree.

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From a photo you provided, it appears that your new plant is a young fruitless mulberry, growing from the remaining roots. The leaves may not look like the ones on the tree you removed for a couple of reasons. Although not common with fruitless mulberry, some trees are grafted onto root stock, so any plant growing directly from the roots may not look like the grafted plant. Also, mulberry trees can have leaves of variable form, size and shape on the same tree, so you may be seeing leaves that you never noticed on the tree you removed.

You can remove shoots as they appear, but the roots will continue to put out more shoots. The only way to eliminate the shoots from coming into your garden is to completely manually remove or kill the roots. Post-emergence herbicides can be used. Take extra care to keep the material from contacting desirable plants. Follow label mixing and application instructions carefully.

Additional information on removing unwanted woody plants is available in the Woody Weed Invaders pest notes at the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management website,

Linda O’Connell is a UC Cooperative Extension master gardener with Sacramento County.

Garden questions?

Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties. Send questions to Garden Detective, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Send email to h&[email protected] Please put “Garden Detective” in the subject field and include your postal address. To contact UC Extension directly, call:


If you are thinking about having silkworms for your kids then you need access to a mulberry tree to have a ready supply of leaves to feed the silkworms. (See ‘Silkworms’).


Common name: Mulberry tree, black mulberry

Botanic name: Morus nigra. The genus name Morus is the Latin word for mulberry and the species name nigra means black.

Other species and named varieties:

  • M. macroura ‘Shatoot’ – smaller growing mulberry tree with long white fruit. It is said to be the best mulberry for home gardens as it is a small tree which does not produce fruit that stains. It is native to India, Pakistan, southern China and Sri Lanka.
  • M. alba ‘Pendula’ – The weeping mulberry is another smaller variety of mulberry and provides good food for silkworms and has greenish yellow fruit.
  • M. nigra ‘Hicks Fancy’ – This black mulberry variety is recommended for cool areas, ripe fruit is slightly red fruiting for many months.
  • M. nigra ‘Black English’ – Another black mulberry variety that has prolific fruit over a short season.
  • M. rubra ‘Everbearing Downings’ – A variety of the red mulberry which is red when ripe and comes from North America.

Climate (see map)

All areas except hot tropics and arid inland which requires extra water in summer.

Good points:

  • Fast growing tree when young which makes it an ideal choice for a new garden.
  • If a large tree is wanted, mulberries grow to a height of 8-12m (25 40′) and spread as wide as 20m (60′).
  • Deciduous tree that gets new leaves in early spring. The foliage is thick and dense with lush green leaves that will feed an army of silkworms.
  • Green flowers appear with the new leaves and develop into red fruit that later ripens to purple. Fruit forms from late spring through to summer and can be eaten straight from the tree.
  • Pick fruit when black and ripe as the fruit does not ripen off the tree.


  • The tree grows very large and can fill an entire backyard.
  • Dropping fruit can stain paths or cars so position over the lawn.
  • When birds eat the fruit their droppings can also leave a purple stain on washing on the line or the car.


  • Fruit for the family and leaves to feed silkworms.
  • A beautiful tree when a big tree is needed in the backyard or a large landscape.
  • Deciduous, so gives shade in summer, foliage turns yellow in autumn and allows sun to shine through in winter.


  • Deep, fertile soil.
  • Well-watered, especially through summer.
  • Protection from coastal winds.
  • It is tolerant of cold conditions (to -10°C).
  • Needs some chilling to fruit well and so does not do well in the hot tropical zones.
  • Prune carefully in winter or after fruiting which will encourage new growth.
  • It is best to grow from a cutting in winter or buy a plant from the nursery which can be planted in soil enriched with manure.

Getting started:

Plants are available from nurseries throughout Australia from late spring into summer. Prices start at around $25 for a grafted and named cultivar in a 20cm/8″ pot.

If you are passionate about gardening, somewhere along the line includes planting trees. Certainly, know that some trees and shrubs are better than others.

There are several important aspects you must take into account before planting them in your yard.

Curb appeal is certainly very important for every home. Choosing the right trees to plant in your yard is not difficult, it takes some time and research.

Unfortunately, many homeowners only take into account a tree’s ability to provide shade and coolness during the hot summer months. However, there are other essential aspects to consider.

Some backyard trees have very deep and strong roots that can slowly damage the foundation of your house. Others can grow sky-high and pose a serious risk at a certain point in the future.

Others have weak wood or are known to attract various diseases and pests. Having said that, below you will find 21 of the worst trees to plant. Trees known for their rather undesirable qualities, and why you should steer clear of them.


One of the trees you should avoid having in your backyard is certainly cottonwood.

Many homeowners prefer cottonwood over various other plants, given its aesthetically pleasant appearance and its low maintenance. However, the cottonwood has a very shallow and soft root system. Its wood is prone to rotting, making it very unstable during severe storms.

However, the cottonwood tree problems begin with having a very shallow and soft root system. Its wood is prone to rotting, making it very unstable during severe storms.

Aside from the fact that the tree itself is fairly brittle, it can also be damaged by insects and diseases, which makes it even more exposed to the elements.

The last thing you want or need to experience is a cottonwood tree falling on or over your roof, garage or car, after last night’s storm!

Bradford Pear

Many homeowners and professional gardeners regard the Bradford pear tree as a rather exotic one – and for a good reason, given the fact that it was imported little over a century ago.

The Bradford pear quickly become very popular in the United States. It is very durable and requires little to no long-term maintenance. The tree was particularly popular around the 1960s, but it was primarily planted in urban settings, as opposed to residential developments.

The reason why you should never plant the Bradford Pear tree in your backyard is because the characteristic pyramidal shape of the tree makes it very fragile.

Its branches tend to break during storms or strong winds – just like the cottonwood.

Even though you might be tempted to think that regular pruning may address the problem… it does not.

Apart from the branches, the tree is also known for producing white flowers that have a very pungent odor. Fortunately, there are many alternatives to this tree!

Mimosa Tree

Like the cottonwood, the mimosa tree is also known for its extremely frail wood that does not make it a particularly reliable tree.

This tree is known to attract webworm, and aside from the fact that it is a soft plant with branches that are prone to breakage, the mimosa is also known to produce large seeds that germinate very quickly.

In other words, you will be left with a whole “plantation” of mimosa trees before you even know it, if you are not careful enough!

Mulberry Tree

While some trees are known for their soft woods and weak root system, the Mulberry tree is radically different. The reason to avoid planting this in your backyard, however, is because it is known to produce impressive amounts of pollen. In turn, this attracts numerous insects… and silkworms in particular.

The Mulberry tree is one of the best choices if you want some extra shade during the summer but, at the same time, think about all the insects that will be roaming freely around your house!

Chinese Tallow

Commonly known as the Popcorn tree, given the appearance of its flowers. The Chinese Tallow stands out through its broad leaves that are known to provide great shade, as well as to turn bright colors during the autumn.

However, the Chinese Tallow ranks as one of the most invasive species of trees you can plant in your backyard. Given the fact it can reach up to 30 feet in width and 40 feet in height… think about how massive the roots of this tree will grow, in a couple of decades!

Norway Maple

As the name suggests, the Norway Maple is not indigenous to the United States, but it is actually one of the most versatile varieties of maple, as it can adapt fairly easily.

It is known to offer great shade but, at the same time, it kills any other plant or shrub that tries to thrive around it.

Not only does the dense shade prevent other plants from getting the sunlight they so much need, but the fibrous roots of the Norway Maple are quite “greedy”, as they absorb all the nutrients from the soil before any other plant gets the chance to.


Eucalyptus extract is used in a variety of ointments and treatments nowadays, and the strong scent of this tree appeals to most people.

However, if you have decided to plant it anywhere near your home, you might want to reconsider.

The Eucalyptus tree is known to be one of the fastest growing plants in the world. Besides this, it does require lots of maintenance!

Quaking Aspen

The quaking aspen is one of the most durable and versatile types of trees you can opt for. As with many trees you could plant… the problem is with the tree’s root system.

This tree can turn out to be very “thirsty” for nutrients – so thirsty that it can end up weighing tons! Imagine having to care for that kind of tree in your backyard.

Weeping Willow

Also known as the Golden Weeping Willow, this tree stands out through with its very long and slender branches that make it look as if it is crying (thus the name of the tree).

As beautiful and appealing as the Weeping Willow might be at first sight, its willow tree roots are ready to suck out all the water from the soil.

This is particularly dangerous if you plan to grow anything else aside from the willow, nearby.

Besides, you should know that the average height of the weeping willow typically ranges between 75 and as much as 100 feet.

Linden (Tillia)

Tall growing deciduous tree reaching a height of about 60 feet.

Attracts aphids, secreted sap from the tree gets all over cars and driveway making for a sticky mess.

Empress Tree

As majestic as this tree may sound, the Empress Tree (also known as the Royal Empress Tree) is a plant native to China and it stands out from the rest of the trees through its fragrant flowers.

Although this tree grows to a reasonable height and it rarely exceeds 30 feet tall, it is rather weak and it does not cope very well with storms.

Think twice before planting it, especially if you live in an area where the climate is unpredictable.

Lombardy Poplar

Once popular and a favorite tree to plant due it’s distinctive columnar shape and speedy growth. It has fallen out of favor.

They have lots of bugs and diseases that make them look ugly and their root systems are difficult to control and eradicate.


As sweet as it may sound, the sweetgum tree has ridiculously large surface roots.

The root system that can – and will – take their toll not only on your home’s foundation but also on your lawn, pool, patio and any other structure nearby.

Besides, it produces some awkward fruits that are quite difficult to remove from the ground.

Ginkgo Biloba – Female Tree

The Ginkgo Biloba tree has been used for thousands of years in the traditional Chinese medicine. It is known for its therapeutic properties – however, this does not mean that you should start planting it in your backyard.

As a matter of fact, these trees can grow to as much as 80 feet in height, and the problem is with the Ginkgo Biloba fruit.

They tend to be very messy trees once they fall on the ground, driveway or patio.

Nonetheless, it must be mentioned that this only seems to happen with the female Ginkgo Biloba tree – the male tree is fine and can be grown in your backyard, if you wish to.

Russian Olive

The Russian Olive certainly has a very distinctive look, it also ranks as one of the most invasive species you can possibly find.

It crowds out other surrounding plants, stealing all their water and nutrients.

Black Walnut

The Black Walnut is yet another tree that you should never plant in your backyard. Mainly because it produces dangerous toxins that kill any other vegetable, flower or landscaping plant nearby.

Besides, just like it happens with the female Ginkgo Biloba tree, the Black Walnut tree’s fruits are also very difficult to clean, once they hit the ground.

White Pine

Although the white pine does not reach staggering heights like other trees, the problem is that this tree is actually extremely sensitive and it requires a lot of maintenance in the long run.

It is not a great choice for cold climates, as it can quickly suffer injuries due to the winter burn or ice damage.

Besides, the white pine is also known to attract all sorts of pests, ranging all the way from the sapsuckers to bagworms, therefore you should ask yourself whether this tree is truly worth the effort!

White Birch

There are numerous different types of birch you can opt for, and they certainly add a great luxurious touch to your backyard.

The problem with white birch is that it cannot thrive in hot and dry climates, and it is also susceptible to a notorious tree killer known as the bronze birch borer.

Moreover, the white birch tree roots is another of the trees with shallow roots making it rather unstable and dangerous to grow anywhere near your home.


The ash tree is known as one of the sturdiest and most durable trees you can come across. The problem is… often when it comes under attack – the emerald ash borer is the ash tree’s biggest enemy, as this small beetle can easily destroy it.

Leyland Cypress

The Leyland Cypress is a very special type of tree, as it grows very fast and it does not require too much maintenance either – overall. It is safe to say the Leyland Cypress is fairly hassle-free.

Nonetheless, the cypress tree roots often get uprooted during storms and severe winds, even if they are tens of years old, which makes them dangerous to grow around houses.

Silver Maple

The Silver Maple is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and majestic trees out there. Not only does it offer great shade during winter, grows quickly, but it is also very easy to trim and prune.

Once again, the problem is with this tree’s brittle and rather weak wood. In spite of its strong root system (that can often crack walkways or driveways).

Silver maple is one of the most popular types of trees, as it is planted all across the United States, primarily in urban areas.

Inexpensive, easy to establish and low-maintenance, the Silver Maple has quickly become one of homeowners’ favorites.

But you must know that this tree’s roots have become its worst enemy. The largest Silver Maple in the United States of America measures more than 110 feet tall and it has a circumference of over 340 inches.

Do you really want one of these around your house?

Honey Locust

Last, but not least, another tree that you should really stay away from is the Honey Locust.

This deciduous tree with an average height of about 70 feet has a very distinctive leaf structure.

The biggest problem with this tree is that it is often attacked by the honeylocust bugs in late spring.


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