Non bearing mulberry tree

All of my childhood summers were marked by lazy days in the mulberry trees, grabbing fistfuls of the tiny, dark fruits for hours of casual snacking.

Today, I am delighted to find my current acreage is dotted with the trees. They provide shade in the summer and habitat for a variety of birds, bees, and butterflies.

Four Species, Three Homelands

Part of the moraceae family which also includes figs, four types of mulberry trees are dominant in the United States.

The red mulberry (Morus rubra) is native to this country, and its deep red, almost black fruit was a favorite of indigenous populations, who ate the fruit dried, in sauces, and in dumplings.

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Gardening Solutions, the Timucua people used the tree’s fruit, leaves, and twigs to make dyes, and Seminoles made hunting bows from the tree’s branches.

Many native peoples also used the plant medicinally. We’ll get to more of that in a bit.

The white mulberry (M. alba) is native to China, where for thousands of years it was cultivated as the food of choice for silkworms.

As the art of silk-making spread to Japan, India, and Europe, travelers from the latter continent brought the tree to North America in hopes of spawning a silk industry here.

While that industry never quite took hold here, the white mulberry did, spreading rapidly throughout the eastern United States and beyond.

The white variety gets its name from the color of its flowers. Its fruit can be pink, purple, black, or white.

Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) is another Asian import that is considered invasive in much of the United States because of its prolific ability to spread. Its name comes from its use as a material to make paper and cloth.

The black mulberry (M. nigra) made its way to our shores from its native Iran. Its fruit is almost always black.

Beware of Polka-Dotted Sheets

All three breeds grow with abandon, producing large clumps of tiny fruit that resemble miniature clusters of grapes.

Red Mulberry, available on Amazon

You can purchase red mulberry trees from Seeds, Bulbs, Plants & More via Amazon.

The fruits are popular with the birds, and you’re sure to see evidence of this – you’ll know they’ve been feasting when the droppings on your car windshield turn from white to a dark purple in early summer. Park carefully!

On that note, you’ll want to guard the clothesline during these weeks, as well. Many a good white bedsheet has been ruined by a bird that gorged on berries earlier in the day.

Since the berries themselves are too messy for some, often getting tracked into the home where they can permanently stain carpets, fruitless versions of these fast-growing trees have become popular in recent years.

The white fruitless variety, available from Nature Hills, is popular with homeowners who want the shade the tree provides, without the fuss!

If you’re lucky enough to have mulberries on your property, I think you’ll find a number of ways to use them.

Fruitless White Mulberry

Read on for our best tips to bring this beautiful tree to your yard, and to raise it well!

Choosing a Proper Location

What if you don’t already have one (or more) of these fine trees in your yard?

If you’re located in USDA Hardiness Zones 5-9, you’re in luck! It’s possible to grow this species yourself with relative ease.

Mulberries shoot up quickly, making them a wise choice for locations where you hope to establish a wooded area in five years or less.

They also reseed without much effort; you’ll have more than a few trees without even trying if the conditions are right.

For this reason, you’ll want to be certain that the area you choose to plant them is far away from underground utility lines or septic tile. The roots grow fast and relatively unobtrusively, but they will wreak havoc on these systems.

The red and black varieties can grow up to 35 feet tall (or more, depending on the cultivar), and may live to be 100 years old, while the white can reach over 70 feet! Papers can get to be about 30 feet tall.

Do your best to select a spot where the tree will be able to thrive undisturbed while it grows to its full potential.

Mulberries do best in areas that get adequate moisture and drain well.

The black mulberry is especially fond of alkaline soils, and they favor locations alongside river beds. For this reason, it makes sense to amend your soil with a bit of sand, loam, or clay to provide it with the conditions it’s accustomed to.

As for light conditions, it thrives in partial to full sun. We always try to grow ours in a full sun area, but keep in mind that when they grow taller, they will partially block out the light from one another.

As long as most of the tree gets full sun at some point in the day, it will grow without issue.

If you are planting a sapling, you’ll want to wait until the frost season is completely over. Use the instructions on your plant’s packaging to determine the appropriate depth to plant the tree.

It’s Like Magic!

It is also possible to plant cuttings from established trees. The USDA’s growing guide recommends that you remove 8- to 12-inch-long branches from a healthy tree at its normal pruning time. Make sure there are at least 3 buds on each branch.

Bury the cuttings right away by covering them completely in soil at a depth of 3 to 4 inches, preferably in June or July.

Water daily, or as needed to keep them moist, for at least a month. The buds will then form shoots, which can be taken out and planted as small trees.

Some Trimming, Some Birth Control

The mulberry tree is one of the easiest to care for, and it only needs very minimal trimming in the dormant months. Only remove the most damaged or sickly branches, and never cut trees during sap production.

How can you figure out when this is? If you see the tree “weeping” with liquid coming out at any location, wait to prune until this stops completely.

Once mature, the mulberry can easily transition from delight to nuisance if it’s not kept in check. They have attained the status of “weed” in many areas, as they do spread without effort and can grow in between sidewalk squares or along the foundation of houses.

If nuisance saplings are not pulled while small, their root systems will damage anything in their path.

Berry Harvest and Serving Suggestions

The beautiful thing about the mulberry fruits is that they are easy to pick – too easy, in fact.

While you’re just barely touching the fruit or a nearby branch, the ripe fruits will just drop to the ground.

For this reason, the best method of harvesting involves placing an old sheet or blanket (one you won’t mind getting purple with stains) around the base of the tree, and gently shaking the branches above. You’ll have buckets of fruits from just one tree with little effort this way.

Mulberries do not keep well, so plan to eat, preserve, or cook with them right away.

It is pretty much impossible to remove the stems and seeds, and the berries are consumed whole. A perfectly ripe fruit can be enjoyed raw — just give it a gentle rinse first.

What can you do with these culinary delights?

Mulberries can make a tasty addition to any recipe requiring berries. Remember that mulberries can be very juicy and may cause your creations to be a bit watery. Unlike other berries, however, they do not hold up well to drying.

Mulberry Tart with Cardamom and Black Pepper

Photo by Charity Beth Long, © Vintage Kitty. Used with permission.

With the distinct taste of cardamom added, this tart tastes like an old-fashioned summer day! Topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, it’s truly divine.

Get the recipe from Vintage Kitty.

Fresh mulberries also make a nice substitute for raisins in many recipes. Toss them into a salad, add them to pancakes or muffins, and give them a starring role in your next smoothie or shake.

I also love to serve them frozen in cocktails or lemonade.

Mulberry Lemon Gin Fizz

Photo by Charity Beth Long, © Vintage Kitty. Used with permission.

This refreshing summer beverage is a modern take on the sloe gin fizz, a classic cocktail that, sadly, isn’t made much anymore.

The recipe for this sweet sparkler is available from Vintage Kitty.

You can also make your own mulberry wine. While this is a rather involved process, the results are truly tasty!

Nothing quite compares to homemade wine made with the fruits of your trees, and you really must try it at least once.

Numerous Healing Properties

As we mentioned above, resourceful indigenous peoples made good use of the red mulberry. They also used the plant to treat numerous medical ailments.

The sap was used to treat ringworm. Tea made from the leaves was used for dysentery, weakness, and difficulty urinating.

Today, many continue to use the trees medicinally.

The entire plant — leaves, stems, and fruit — contains antioxidants, which work against cell-damaging substances in your body.

Korean researchers SB Kim, BY Chang, et al found that mulberries contain alkaloids that activate white blood cells and stimulate the immune system.

Natural medicine adherents have ingested white mulberry leaves to help cure a sore throat. Others have used mulberry leaves to support balanced blood sugar levels. And practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine use mulberry as a remedy for redness and swelling.

100 Years of Shade

The mulberry tree is one of my favorites, as it provides shelter and fruit for generations. Unlike other fruit trees, it starts producing within its first two years, and it grows quickly to create a wind block for your residence.

If you’ve cast aside the idea of adding it to your yard, won’t you reconsider? With the fruitless versions available now, there’s no need to fear purple footprints on your rug.

The beautiful foliage and flowers are reason enough to welcome it into your landscape design, and its low-maintenance attributes mean you can keep caring for it long after your desire to work hard has waned.

Do you have mulberries? What are your favorite ways to enjoy the fruits? Please share in the comments section! And don’t forget to check out our article on how to grow elderberries, for something a little different that we think will be right up your alley.

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The staff at Gardener’s Path are not medical professionals and this article should not be construed as medical advice intended to assess, diagnose, prescribe, or promise cure. Gardener’s Path and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet or using plant-based remedies or supplements for health and wellness.

With additional writing and editing by Gretchen Heber. Photo credit: , unless otherwise noted.

About Linsey Knerl

Born and raised in a small Nebraska town, Linsey Knerl is a homeschooling mother of six who enjoys blogging and working hard on her 3 1/2-acre Nebraska homestead. When she’s not working on her next fantasy novel, you will find her in her kitchen, perfecting the Danish recipes of her grandmother with those special ingredients you can only find in a backyard garden.

Morus Alba Fruitless White Mulberry

Available Sizes to buy online All Prices Include VAT Height Excluding Pot:
5m (16ft 4)

Plant shape: Full standard

Trunk height: 2.2 m

Trunk girth: 14-16 cm

Rootball – supplied without a pot

Plant ID: 8351 64
Click to view photo of this size

Morus Alba Fruitless White Mulberry

This image displays plant 5 m tall.

Height Excluding Pot:
5m (16ft 4)

Plant shape: Full standard

Trunk height: 2.2 m

Trunk girth: 14-16 cm

Rootball – supplied without a pot

Plant ID: 8351 64
Was £295.00 40% Off – Now £177.00

Was £295.00 40% Off – Now £177.00
Height Excluding Pot:
3-3.5m (9ft 10-11ft 5)

Plant shape: Full standard

Trunk height: 2.2 m

Trunk girth: 16-18 cm

Pot size: 70 Litres

Plant ID: 3912 64
Click to view photo of this size Was £445.00 40% Off – Now £267.00

For OVERSIZED Plant Orders delivery will be one charge of £60 for Greater & Outer London or £95 or £145 for selected Further Distance postcodes. To check delivery cost add your plants to basket, then you can type your postcode in our Quick Delivery Price Check.

Morus Alba Fruitless or Fruitless White Mulberry is a deciduous cultivar of white mulberry that produces no fruit. It is far less messy and a better choice for gardeners who want trees on the patio or near garden furniture.

This is a male clone of white mulberry that retains all the benefits of mulberry’s glorious dense foliage. It’s glossy green leaves shine in the sun when they first appear in spring. The leaves are large, consisting of a mixture of oval, heart and lobed shapes. They grow with finely serrated edges in a bright fresh green. Small male pendant catkins measuring 5-6 cm appear in May attracting pollinators, but because these are exclusively male, the tree does not go on to produce fruits. In autumn the Fruitless White Mulberry tree transforms into a golden crown of bright yellow foliage that eventually falls with the cold and windy winter months. During winter the Fruitless White Mulberry shows off its grey-green grooved bark in a strong framework of multi-stems or with a single trunk.

Dependant on growing conditions Morus Alba Fruitless will reach between 3 to 7 metres in height, but does tend to keep on the shorter side.

How Hardy Is Morus Alba Fruitless
Mulberry trees are very hardy and this fruitless version is just as tough. It will survive freezing winters and drought summers once established.

How To Use Morus Alba Fruitless
The Morus Alba Fruitless is a well-shaped tree with style, and it makes a unique specimen tree for the lawn – particularly because this fruitless version creates no mess. It can be grown as a single stemmed version or multi stemmed depending on your preference. It is a medium size so suits smaller more compact spaces with ease. You can place it in the border, or it will grow happily in a large well-watered container.

If you prefer a fruiting variety, that produces edible mulberries, we sell Morus Alba (White Mulberry) and Morus Nigra (Black Mulberry), which are both attractive trees with differing colour fruits.

How To Care For Morus Alba Fruitless
Fruitless White Mulberry is hardy and requires very little care. It prefers a moisture-retentive but well-drained soil, and a spot that catches the sun, but it will tolerate poorer soils and partial shade too. You can boost its health with a thick layer of manure in the spring and by watering during dry spells, particularly if it’s planted in dry soil.If you want to prune a mulberry do so in the winter months once the foliage has dropped.

The Fruitless White Mulberry is a great choice for those that love unusual foliage and the compact nature of mulberry trees, but want to avoid the mess that its abundant fruits create each year.

FREQUENTLY BOUGHT WITH >>Morus Alba Tree White MulberryMorus Nigra Black Mulberry TreeCatalpa Bignonioides Nana Standard TreeRhus Typhina Stags Horn

Fruitless Mulberry Tree

The Chinese Fruitless Mulberry tree was first introduced to North America as a food source for a potential silkworm industry. The industry never got off the ground, but the tree has since become widely naturalized. The original form is considered undesirable in most landscapes because of its messy fruits, which stain clothes and furniture. They are also weedy because birds love to eat them and carry the seeds far and wide, spreading the tree as they go. Fruitless clones, like Striblingii, offer none of those disadvantages and are becoming popular as landscape plants.

Description of fruitless mulberry tree: The fruitless mulberry develops an extremely dense, round-topped crown and reaches 30 to 50 feet in height. Its deciduous, toothed leaves, yellow-green to lustrous dark green, are extremely variable in form, with some being nearly heart-shaped and others deeply-lobed — often all on the same plant. Young branches have an orange tinge to them, which they lose as they age.

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Growing fruitless mulberry tree: The seedless mulberry is an easy tree to grow in every respect; it will even grow in nearly pure gravel. It is drought-resistant and fast-growing, preferring full sun to light shade.

Uses for fruitless mulberry tree: This tree is ideal where fast shade is needed. Pollution resistant, it is a good choice for urban conditions and succeeds near the ocean as well.

Related varieties of fruitless mulberry tree: There are several weeping mulberries, including Chapparal, a choice small-growing, fruitless variety.

Scientific name of fruitless mulberry tree: Morus alba Striblingii

Want more information on trees and gardening? Try:

  • Shade Trees: Towering overhead, shade trees can complement even the biggest house, and define the amount of sunlight that reaches your yard.
  • Flowering Trees: Many trees offer seasonal blooms that will delight any visitor your yard or garden.
  • Types of Trees: Looking for fresh ideas about what to plant? Find out about different species that can turn your yard into a verdant oasis.
  • Gardening: Get great tips about how to keep your garden healthy and thriving.

Growing Mulberry Trees: How To Grow A Fruitless Mulberry Tree

The problem with growing mulberry trees is the berries. They create a mess on the ground beneath the trees and stain everything they come in contact with. In addition, the birds that eat the berries disburse the seeds, and the species has become invasive in the wild. Fruitless mulberry trees (Morus alba ‘Fruitless’) are just as appealing as the fruited varieties, but without the mess or the invasive potential.

So what is a fruitless mulberry tree? A fruitless mulberry tree is an excellent choice for a medium to large shade tree in home landscapes. It grows 20 to 60 feet tall with a dense canopy as much as 45 feet wide. This handsome tree has dark green foliage in summer which turns yellow before it drops in fall.

How to Grow a Fruitless Mulberry Tree

When growing fruitless mulberry trees, you should plant the trees in full sun or partial shade. You’ll also want to plant the trees at least 6 feet from sidewalks, driveways and foundations because their strong roots can lift and crack cement and pavement.

The trees tolerate almost any type of soil, but do best in a well-drained, loamy soil.

Trees benefit from staking the first year. Young trees tend to be top-heavy and the trunks snap easily in strong winds. If the stake is left in place more than a year, it may do more harm than good.

Fruitless Mulberry Care

Growing fruitless mulberry trees is easy because the trees require very little care. Once established it withstands both drought and extended flooding, but it will grow faster if watered during dry spells.

The tree doesn’t need fertilizer until its second year. A 2-inch layer of compost in spring is ideal. Spread the compost under the canopy and a few feet beyond it. If you want to use a granular fertilizer instead, choose one with a ratio of about 3:1:1.

Pruning Fruitless Mulberry

Pruning fruitless mulberry trees is another factor of fruitless mulberry care. Mature trees seldom need pruning, but you may need to shape young trees and remove or shorten branches that droop too close to the ground.

The best time to prune mulberries is in winter after the leaves have dropped. Remove broken or diseased branches any time of year.

The fruitless mulberry tree is an excellent choice to be made as a landscape tree for the garden. In this following Gardenerdy article, we will go into further detail about this very interesting species and give you pointers on how to grow them.

The fruitless mulberry tree―botanically known as morus alba―is a genus of 10-16 species of deciduous trees. This non-bearing tree, sometimes known as the male trees of the white mulberry, has been in use in China for over 4,000 years as the primary food source for silkworm larvae. The silkworm has been the sole reason for fueling the ancient Chinese textile industry, and continues to do so even today―not just in China but in many other Asian countries as well.

The tree was introduced in North America for the very same reason―to provide a natural food source for a potential silkworm industry. Though the intended industry never realized its potential in the country, the tree with its graceful spreading branches became an excellent alternative to fruiting mulberry trees, especially for landscape uses. In fact, the fruitless variety of the mulberry is a preferred choice when compared to the fruit-bearing variety for two main reasons;one, it does not litter the ground with fallen berries, which have a tendency to stain the ground, and two, the fallen berries are not eaten and the seeds disbursed by birds, thus causing the tree to become an invasive species.

Details

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The fruitless mulberry tree develops a very dense and round-topped crown, and the tree itself could grow to a height of 20-60 feet, with a trunk that may be as wide as 45 feet wide. The result is that, it provides for a deep and shady foliage and makes for a lovely addition to any landscape. Some varieties within this cultivar have a drooping appearance of a gigantic creeper. The young branches may have a orange-colored tinge to them, which is lost as the tree matures. Though the tree is deciduous in temperate regions, when grown in a tropical climate, it can be evergreen as well.

Although a tall tree, the fruitless variety can be shaped to have a central leader with a short, stout trunk and a crown made from lateral branches.

The fruitless mulberry tree in a field

On young shoots, the leaves of the tree grow up to 30 cm long, and are intricately, roundly lobed. On older trees, the leaves are 5-15 cm long and are unlobed, heart-shaped at the base, having serrated tips that narrow to a slender tip.

The leaves of the mulberry tree

Tree Care:

This tree can be easily propagated through cuttings of young wood or even mature wood. They are fast growers and non fussy. They do well in most soils, but prefer a soil with a pH of 6.1 to 6.5. However, it is best to avoid heavy clay soils. These trees need full or partial sun and it has been observed that they do not grow half as well in shade. The fruitless mulberry likes to be watered well but being drought-resistant will tolerate dry spells too.

Tree Roots:

These mulberry tree roots are shallow and lateral, and not deep ranging. This causes a problem because roots have a natural tendency to head towards a water source, and being lateral roots, these will definitely try to get into sewage and other water pipes, mostly by breaking into them. Which is why it is necessary to choose a site with care. For established trees, a root prune is generally recommended. Get professional help to look into the mulberry tree root system and cut out undesirable roots. It is necessary to employ professionals because the wrong trimming could cause the tree to die.

Yellowing of Leaves:

To ensure that the lushness of your mulberry tree does not turn yellow, pay attention to the fungus that generally infects the underside of the leaves and the quantity of water given to the tree. The varied fruitless mulberry tree diseases affecting this tree include mulberry leaf spot which affect the leaves, and cotton root rot that sets in the roots, which will lead to yellowing of the leaves. Both these diseases can be treated, though root rot is a little difficult to contain. Not supplying enough water to the plant is another cause for leaves yellowing. The roots of this tree are shallow and tend to dry up quickly, hence always water deeply and regularly.

Pruning:

Always prune the fruitless mulberry after it has shed its leaves. A pollard tree pruning technique is applied especially for this variety. Since the idea is to maintain a short, stout trunk, this method encourages vigorous, leafy, lateral branching growth near the trunk of the tree. However, this method must be applied when the tree is young, since established trees can get damaged in the process. In this method, most of the branches that are 1 to 2 inches from the main stem (intended trunk) are cut off, resulting in closely spaced shoots to appear laterally. Prune any other branch that may grow out farther down on or from the trunk. If you do not want to follow this method, give your tree an overall prune in fall, and cut back all out-of-shape, damaged, diseased, or broken branches.

The only problem with the fruitless mulberry tree is its extremely fast growth, shallow lateral roots, and requirement of plenty of water, but if you can get around to them, you will be graced with a beautifully shaped, thick and shady tree gracing your landscape.

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Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client’s Request: Just moved into this about 50 year old house. I have a Fruitless Mulberry in my front yard that isn’t looking too good. I don’t think the prior owners took very good care of it. I”ve already pruned back most of the overgrwon branches and I’m wondering what I should do to get this tree looking healthy again. Please advise.
MGCC Help Desk Respons Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk with your question about your fruitless mulberry tree.

Fruitless Mulberry Leaves Fruitless mulberries (Morus alba) grow best in full sun to partial shade and will tolerate aridity when established though they prefer more moisture. With adequate moisture and fertilizer, they can grow 3 feet or more per year. Fruitless mulberries do best with deep irrigation along their outer leaf margins, where rain naturally drips from their canopies. Mulberry trees require ample space for their shallow, spreading roots and, as a result, are not recommended for planting in lawns. They prefer well-drained, moist, acidic soil. Soil pH between 5.5 and 6.5 is ideal. You may feed with 10-10-10 fertilizer in January and July.
Fruitless mulberries are moderately drought-tolerant, but they can sometimes lose leaves in prolonged dry weather. We suspect this might be the case with yours since our summer and fall have been hotter than normal.
Our recommendation at this point is not to worry unless you notice increased branch die off or the appearance of other unusual symptoms that could indicate disease or pests. It’s good that you have already pruned your tree so be sure to give good irrigation until the rains start this fall and give your tree good cultural care as noted above.
The link below gives you additional information about growing fruitless mulberry and pests and diseases that they can suffer from:http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/GARDEN/PLANTS/mulberry.html
Please let us know if you have any additional questions!
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SLH)

HOrT COCO Editor’s Addendum: Having lived with and cared for several Fruitless Mulberries the past 50+ years, I have a few comments to add to the great response above. First, you can almost tell the age of a subdivision by the tree planted in front. My subdivision built in the late 1960s once had a Fruitless Mulberry in the front yard of every house, except for mine. Isaid that I would take the tree. but I wanted to plant it on the east side of the house to block the summer sun. In that the tree is deciduous, I wanted the winter sun, but not the blazing summer sun. The tree is a great shade tree with its big leaves and rapid spring growth, but a lawn tree it isn’t. Shallow roots are a pain from this tree of which I have first hand experience when I hand dug the foundation for a kitchen addition. The rock was easy compared to all the roots I encountered and removed. Of the 7 houses on my court, 4 front yard mulberrys still survive and are in good health without much water, but all of us will be raking leaves for the next month or so. Some neighbors prune early to take the leaves down at the same time. Pruning now isn’t recommended for the tree’s health, but it is a tough tree, and all the survivng trees are healthy and still growing. However, overall most of the front yard mulberrys in the subdivision are now long gone, usually to reduce homeowner (now mostly gardener) maintenance.

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Mo’ Mulberry — A guide to probably everything you need to know about growing Mulberry

Oct 11, 2017 · 20 min read

Not many plants offer so much to the grower while demanding so little in return. A tree that requires so little attention and care, that even if there were an RSPP — Royal Society for the Protection of Plants (which there should be judging by the amount of tortured house and garden plants I come across) no-one would ever get prosecuted for Morus neglect 🙂

Mulberry for Permaculture/Polyculture and Agroforestry

Mulberry is one of the fastest growing temperate trees I know of, produces an abundance of excellent fruit every year and is virtually pest and disease free. It is one half responsible for the finest fibres known to man, i.e silk, can be grown nearly everywhere that has soil and is a source of high quality animal fodder plus quite a bit more, as we shall see.

Mulberry fruit from various trees in our gardens.

During this post we’ll take a close look at these incredible plants including how to grow them, the uses of Mulberry, growing Mulberry in polycultures, permaculture and agroforestry and i’ll introduce some relatively rare Bulgarian cultivars that we are offering from the bionursery this season.

But first I want to take this opportunity to let you know that we’ve just launched a brand new Regenerative Landscape Design — Online Interactive Course — How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms.

Regenerative Landscape Design — Online Interactive Course — How to Design, Build and Manage Polycultures for Landscapes, Gardens, and Farms.

You can find out more about the course here to see if it tickles your fancy 🙂 and if you’d like to take part we are currently offering a 20% discount to the first 10 people to enroll. Register here with promo code 1st102020 to take advantage of this offer.

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience — as far as we know the very first of its kind! If you are looking for reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out.

Overview

There are about 68 species of the genus Morus, and the majority of them occur in Asia. In China alone there are over a thousand cultivars grown.

We’ll be focusing on the White Mulberry — Morus alba that we grow in our gardens and we’ll also touch on Black Mulberry — M. nigra and Red Mulberry — M. rubra, two other popular plants in cultivation. Let’s start with an attempt to clarify the differences between these three species and then take a detailed look at White Mulberry.

The differences between Red, Black and White Mulberry

  • White Mulberry are native to northern, eastern, and central Asia and are one of the primary species used to feed silkworms.
  • Black Mulberry are native to southwest Asia. It was brought to Europe before the Roman Empire where it has continued to be grown for its fruits.
  • Red Mulberry are native to eastern North America

There is a fair bit of confusion over these three species. The colour of the fruit does not identify the mulberry species. White Mulberries, for example, can produce white, lavender or black fruit. White Mulberry fruits are generally very sweet but often lacking in tartness. Red Mulberry fruits are usually deep red, almost black, and in the best cultivars have a flavour that almost equals that of the black mulberry. Black Mulberry fruits are large and juicy, with a good balance of sweetness and tartness that I personally prefer the most.

White and Black Mulberry fruit

Black Mulberry can be distinguished from White Mulberry by a hairy lower leaf surface on the Black Mulberry plants. The juicier Black Mulberry fruit will also stain your fingers when you pick them. The fruits of the White and Red Mulberry are more difficult to tell apart but a sure way of telling the two species apart is from the leaves. The upper surface of the Red Mulberry leaves are noticeably rough, similar in texture to fine sandpaper while in stark contrast the upper surface of the leaves of White Mulberry are lustrous (Glossy, smooth and shiny).

Confusing the situation further, Red Mulberry and White Mulberry often hybridize, resulting in trees with intermediate characteristics.

According to Ovid (Metamorphoses — Book IV) you have the Babylonian lovers Pyramus and Thisbe, and the Greek Gods to thank for at least some of this confusion. In short, Pyramus and Thisbe denied their love of each other by their rivaling families decided to run off together (sound familiar??) The rendezvous was under a White Mulberry tree out of town. Thisbe turned up first and while waiting for Pyramus, a lioness with jaws stained from the blood of a previous kill started towards her. Thisbe darted into a nearby cave dropping her shawl under the tree as she fled. The lioness approached the shawl, dripping blood all over it just as Pyramus showed up. Pyramus chased the lioness away and seeing the blood stained shawl assumed that Thisbe had been mauled to death. In desperation he plunged a sword into his belly just moments before Thisbe emerged from the cave. Finding Pyramus taking his last breath she falls on the sword herself and they both bleed out in tragic unity. The blood splashing from the bodies stained the previously White Mulberry fruit, and the Gods forever changed the Mulberry’s colour to honour their forbidden love. All I can say is thank the Gods for mobile phones 🙂

A parable on the perils of tardiness.

White Mulberry — Morus alba

Latin name — Morus alba

Common name — White Mulberry, Silkworm Mulberry

Family — Moraceae

History — White Mulberry cultivation has a long and rich history dating back thousands of years ago as a requirement for silkworm rearing. They were beloved by Persians, Romans and Greeks and moved throughout Europe along with the spread of culture from these places.

Growing Range — Morus alba has a very wide distribution range in Asia and Europe (from Korea to Spain, including China, India, Central Asia and the Near East); in Africa (North and East Africa) and in the Americas (from the United States to Argentina, including Mexico, Central America, Colombia and Brazil). The origins of most cultivated mulberry varieties are believed to be in the China/Japan area and in the Himalayan foothills.

Morus alba leaf variation —

Description — A fast-growing, small to medium-sized tree growing to 10 –20 m tall. It is generally a short-lived tree although there are some specimens known to be over 250 years old. Fruits can be white at maturity on a few trees, but are usually dark purple and 3 to 6 cm long. The fruits ripen from mid spring — late summer (depending on species and cultivar). The leaves are usually shiny, dark green and smooth but can be yellowish green. Most leaves are not lobed, but some can be. The juvenile growth is often lobed.

Sexual Reproduction — The trees can be dioecious or monoecious, and sometimes will change from one sex to another. The flowers are held on short, green, pendulous, catkins that appear in the axils of the current season’s growth and on spurs on older wood. They are wind pollinated and some cultivars will set fruit without any pollination. The White Mulberry is notable for the rapid release of its pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound!

Mulberry flowers — in some cases the male and female flowers are on the same tree (monoecious) and in other cases the male and female flowers are on separate trees (dioecious).

Light Preferences — Mulberries thrive in full sun but can grow well in partial shade.

Water needs — The plants are drought tolerant but grow best and yield high in areas with rainfall between 600 -1500 mm/yr. In our location with average annual rainfall of 580 mm they grow well without irrigation. I have seen Mulberry growing well in wetlands and on riverbanks, as the plants are tolerant to sporadic water logging although they usually occur in non-wetlands.

Habitat — Morus alba commonly invades old fields, roadsides, forest edges, urban environments, and other disturbed areas. It grows well in natural forests, planted forests, range/grasslands, ruderal/disturbed areas and urban areas.

Hardiness USDA — 4b — 9a A very hardy tree tolerating temperatures down to -36C but also comfortable in sub tropical and Mediterranean climates. Morus alba is the most cold resistant of the Mulberry trees

Ecology — Many small mammals feed on mulberries, including birds, foxes, squirrels and rodents. Deer browse on the twigs and foliage and a range of insects inhabit the crowns of mature trees. In our experience Ladybirds are attracted to the Mulberry fruit. Mulberry is often associated with Mycorrhizae including Glomus mosseae and Glomus fasciculatum.

Where to Plant

Climatic Limitations — Mulberries thrive over a very wide range of climates especially warm temperate but also Mediterranean, sub-tropical and tropical, where they can be grown as evergreens.

Soil — They prefer a warm, moist, well-drained loamy soil in a sunny position. However they are adapted to coarse, medium, and fine soils. They tolerate a pH range of 5.0–7.0.

Location — The trees are tolerant of wind, drought, cold and partial shade so you can pretty much plant them anywhere. The plant is also quite salt tolerant once established. A few things to consider when choosing a location is that the fruit fall can extend 6–8 weeks and once mature it’s practically impossible to harvest let alone consume all that fruit, so placing the tree in a place where the fruit fall will not be a nuisance is a good idea. Much to the pleasure of our pigs we set their pen under one half of our Mulberry tree with some of the tree overhanging the chicken coop also.

Pig pen located under a mature White Mulberry — Morus alba in our back garden

The trees can get large and will cast a heavy shade when mature so this should also be taken into consideration. We lift the lower limbs of our trees to allow space and light for a range of smaller trees, shrubs and herbs (see Mulberry polyculture later).

Pollination/Fertilisation — Some cultivars will produce greater yields if allowed to cross-pollinate, although many cultivars (monoecious types) do not need cross-pollination at all. Some Mulberries can even produce fruit without any pollination. Pollination occurs by wind.

Feeding, Irrigation and Care

Feeding — Mulberry require little fertilisation. When planting out new trees top dressing the planting hole with 20–30 L of compost and repeating this in early spring for the first 2 years will be more than enough to get them going. After this they should be fine, especially so if you are growing the tree in polycultures.

Irrigation — The trees will grow faster and produce more fruit with access to water during the flowering and fruiting period. Young trees should be mulched well each spring and irrigated for the first 2–3 years with 30 L of water every 2–4 weeks without rain. The trees develop deep taproots that should be able to access ground water if available.

Weeding — Mulching plants with a 10 -20 cm deep mulch each spring and pulling weeds that start to grow through in the summer is good practice when the plants are young. As the trees mature they grow well amongst other plants of all kinds.

Pruning — Mulberry are low branching. We have lifted the lower limbs of our trees to approx 5- 6 m high allowing us to plant under the tree and to allow easy access around the tree. The trees respond well to this type of pruning. If pruning young trees bear in mind the flowering and fruit buds develop on second year old growth.

Harvesting — The easiest way I know of to harvest a White Mulberry is the shake and catch method.

Fresh fruit only keeps for a few days, and is best kept refrigerated if you don’t eat them immediately. This is one of the main reasons you don’t see much Mulberry fruit in the shops. The fruits can also be dried or frozen (never tried it personally).

Propagation — There are many reports on the internet of how easy it is to propagate mulberry from branches. Simply cut the branch from the tree and push it into the soil and presto! it will root within a season. I’ve tried this many times with our White Mulberry Morus alba trees with no success. In fact I have tried hard wood cuttings in every season with no successes. It seems to me that this method is probably effective method for Red Mulberry and perhaps Black Mulberry.

White Mulberry can be grown from seed and is best sown immediately after fruiting. Cold stratification for 4- 16 weeks can improve germination rates. Layering is also reported to work well.

Potential Problems

Invasive — This species is considered ecologically invasive in most of North America. The threat is to the native Red Mulberry (M. rubra) though hybridization. It does not seem to be a problem in Europe.

Pest and Disease — Mulberries suffer few disease and insect pests. I have never experienced any problems with the Mulberries we grow or any I have seen. It’s an oddity that based on this more people do not grow them at home and commercially. The main pest to Mulberry is probably deer that will browse on the leaves of these plants, but this is generally only a problem with young trees and regrowth from coppice. If you are growing for biomass pollarding the trees at a height the deer cannot reach is a good solution.

Allergies — The plant’s pollen has become problematical in some cities where it has been blamed for an increase in hay fever.

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Mulberry Uses

Silk Production — The Asian Mulberries are widely cultivated to feed the silkworm — Bombyx mori employed in the commercial production of silk. Silk was once grown across the world but since it is a very labour-intensive industry much is now focused in countries with low labour costs. China has 626, 000 hectares of Mulberry for silkworm.

Mulberry is usually associated with sericulture, the production of silk through the silkworm (Bombyx mori).

The silkworm is a pretty amazing little creature. Feeding exclusively on Mulberry leaves the caterpillars emerge from eggs and fatten up, spin a cocoon (the silk part) and when not used for silk production hatch into beautiful moths. When used for silk production the caterpillars are boiled to death in their cocoon before they hatch. The boiled cocoons can be eaten and in China and Vietnam they are seasoned and fried.

Original source here

Fruit — White Mulberry fruits are generally very sweet but often lacking in the tartness that can be found in the Red and Black Mulberries. The fruits ripen over an extended period of time unlike many other fruits which seem to come all at once. The fruiting period can be from 6–8 weeks.

Wood — Especially in the Indian subcontinent, mulberry wood is used for handicrafts, cabinet work and for sporting woods (e.g. grass-hockey sticks and tennis rackets). The thin branches can be woven into baskets. Coppiced mulberry produces fairly straight strong poles that we use for stakes and tree props. The plant grows very fast and makes a medium-quality fuel wood with a calorific value of 4370–4770 kcal/kg.

Erosion control: A useful species for stabilizing physical soil-conservation structures.

Reclamation: Can be grown on wastelands.

Soil Improver and Biomass: Fast growth and tolerance to pruning makes this a great chop and drop plant. Growth can increase soil fertility through litter fall.

Animal Fodder — As well as the feed stock for silkworms the leaves and branches make great food for livestock (cattle, goats, pigs and rabbits) and are used across the world especially so in areas with poor soils and low rainfall where fresh forage is not always available. It’s often reported that the foliage can be used to feed chickens. Our flock won’t eat it.

The leaves contain between 18–25% protein (dry matter content) and have high digestibility (70–90%). Yields of leaves and stems used for forage, range from 3.2–21 tons/acre/year (8–52 tons/hectare/year) with most in the 8–12 tons/acre/year (20–30 tons/hectare/year). If you are interested in growing Mulberry for animals check out this article from FAO.

Leaves — The leaves are prepared as tea in Korea. The tea can be made from fresh or dried leaves. They are highly nutritious and contain vitamins B complex (except B12), C (200–300 mg/100 g), D and flavonols. They are sometimes eaten as a vegetable.

Shahara Khaleque from Growing Smart.HK introduced me to Issei Shinagawa from Hong Kong who claims a cup of Mulberry leaf tea a day will turn your grey hairs black as well improve your general health.

All fresh leaves are fine to use for the tea. You can simply run your hand down a branch and strip all the leaves, they come off really easily. The leaves can be dried whole or cut into strips. I dried some cut leaves on our kitchen table by a sunny window and they were dry within a day and half.

Simply crumble a few leaves into a cup and poor on hot water and you have a very decent tasting cuppa. I’ll see about those grey hairs 🙂

Landscaping — Their resistance to pruning, their low water requirements and tolerance of pollution make them very suitable plants for urban conditions, house gardens, street shade and city embellishment. They are often grown on roadsides and avenues as an ornamental tree.

The compact Morus alba ‘pendula’ — Varna Botanic Garden — Ekopark — Universitetska Botanicheska gradina

Hedging / Windbreak — I’ve not seen or tried these plants in a hedge but I see no reason why they would not be very suitable. They take well to repeated pruning, grow fast and have large leaves that provide a good screen from late spring to Autumn. Being fast growing and in little need of attention White Mulberry is a great option for shelter planting such as protecting orchards from wind.

Bee Fodder — The pollen from the flowers is utilized by bees and other pollinators and sometimes juice of overripe berries or fallen fruit.

Medicinal uses — The bark is said to be good in the treatment of stomach-ache and the leaves and twigs can be used for treating heavy colds, cough, red eye, insect bites and wounds. The fruit is used in the treatment of sore throat and melancholia. The Chinese have used Mulberry fruit for centuries for its aphrodisiac qualities.

Mulberry Yields

Trees grown from seed will start to fruit in the 5th or 6th year. Cultivar whips should start to fruit in the 2nd or 3rd year.

Younger trees can be expected to yield between 3–5 kg in the first 2–4 years when fruiting begins. A mature tree of 20 -30 years will produce well over 300 kg of fruit.

To harvest the trees we hold a net under and shake the branches. As the fruits ripen at different stages starting in early June and ending in early August inevitably you shake down some unripe fruit but the majority of the fruit is in good condition.

Harvesting Mulberry with nets in our garden

If you coppice or pollard the tree you will need to wait a year before they start to produce fruit again as the flowering buds are borne on the second year growth.

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Mulberry Coppice/Pollard

Mulberry is the one of the fastest growing temperate trees I know of. The wood is relatively strong and the small diameter poles make good stakes and larger diameter poles are good for fuel logs. The trees respond very well to coppicing and pollarding. If you have deer pressure in your area pollarding is best as the regrowth is out of reach.

We keep a few trees in the garden as pollards and regularly cut the regrowth back for the rabbits and pigs. We pollard as opposed to coppice as the trees are planted among a density of fruiting shrubs (Blackberry, Raspberry, Aronia and Goji). Other trees we allow to grow larger and cut back on a 5 year cycle to provide fuel logs and poles for vegetable supports and fence posts.

There is a rich history of mulberry coppice in Asia and it’s becoming more popular across the world as a biomass producing plant particularly for animal food.

Mulberry leaves as a forage crop for livestock including monogastrics (pigs, rabbits, etc.), ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats, etc.) Our pigs and rabbits enjoy it, but our chickens and ducks are not into it.

Coppice shoots from a 20 year old stool have showed a mean annual diameter increment of 1.5 cm and a mean annual height increment of 1 m. Early growth is very fast: 4.5 m in the 1st 2 years. Currently we have multiple regrowth shoots of 2.5–3 m tall in one year from the tree pollarded in the above video. To get an idea how fast these trees grow that tree was 8 years old (from seed) and has been pollarded 3 times to date.

Mulberry Polycultures

Mulberry are excellent plants for use in polycultures. They are tolerant of partial shade so suitable in the edges of an under storey of a larger tree, are not very nutrient demanding or competitive. They tolerate pruning very well and can be used for chop and drop plants grown between fruit trees or in hedgerows. If fruit production is priority they can be given a position in full sun and although they grow tall and wide, by lifting the lower branches you can accommodate a range of productive and useful plants underneath them.

Perhaps one of my favorite polycultures in our home garden features a grand old Mulberry tree — Morus alba. The tree is approx. 10 m tall and 12 m wide. As previously mentioned the mulberry overhangs the pig pen and some of the chicken coop. The slow but sure delivery of fruit fall for 8 weeks in the spring and summer is much appreciated by the animals.

Sketch of our White Mulberry Polyculture

On the edges of the canopy we have a fig tree and a Cornelian Cherry that both produce exceptionally well and we have planted a few hazels on the south side last year.

Figs and Cornelian Cherry from the Polyculture

Directly under the Mulberry tree there is an Apple and a Pear tree. Both trees are semi standards but the shade of the Mulberry has resulted in the trees taking on a dwarf habit. The Apple produces a negligible quantity of small red fruits (we keep it as it serves as part of the electric fencing in the pig pen) but the Pear tree on the western side of the tree produces a reasonable quantity of delicious Pears.

Pear Tree with the White Mulberry Towering overhead

Under and around the Pear we grow Asparagus plants with Chinese Lantern and Tuberous Comfrey ground cover and we have a few black currant plants. Finally there are two patches of Raspberry one to the north of the tree and one on the eastern edge of the canopy.

Raspberry with the pear and Mulberry in the background

We also have 4 raised beds to the east of the mulberry where we grow tree saplings that appreciate the shade of the Mulberry during high summer.

Tree seedling beds under the mulberry. You can see the lifted Mulberry canopy on the top left corner of the photo

I’ll be making a detailed write up of this polyculture in the near future

More info and registration here

Agroforestry Potential Of Mulberry

There is great potential for Mulberry in agroforestry systems. It’s deep-rooting habit and drought tolerance makes it a suitable tree for Alley cropping with grains grown in between alleys. The fast growing nature of the tree and it’s tolerance to wind makes it great candidate for windbreaks and biomass belts. Furthermore the high quality animal fodder that can be produced from the trees make it an excellent choice for silvoarable systems although the fodder is generally cut and carried as the plant is not suited to continuous grazing.

We’ll be experimenting with optimal cutting intervals in our upcoming perennial polycultre trials growing the biomass for fodder and for mulch material.

I’ve included mulberry in a few agroforestry designs the most recent being an alley cropping system with single row mixed contour plantings (with Hazel and Pea Tree). The alleys in between the rows will be used for free ranged pastured poultry and growing grains for the poultry.

26 m stretch of a polyculture tree row for an alley cropping design for Catherine Zanev’s farm in Debnevo, Bulgaria

Mulberry Cultivars

We have some great mulberry cultivars on offer this season. The cultivars have been developed in Bulgaria and are suitable for all climates where Mulberry grows well. We have a selection of heavy cropping plants as well plants grown for biomass/animal fodder or sericulture. All of these plants are resistant to all major pest and diseases.

The price is €12 per tree and we are offering 10% discount for orders over 30 trees.

White Mulberry — Morus alba — ‘Vratza 24’

Fruit — Abundant large purple fruits ripening from June — August

Sex and Pollination — Dioecious — Female Plant will produce fruit with a male pollinator such as ‘Kokuso 27’ or any fruiting mulberry nearby

Hardiness — Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C

Leaves — Large entire leaves (22 cm x 19 cm). Thick and nutritious

Fodder Potential — The leaf yield under rain fed conditions with planting distance 3 m x 1 m, 3300 trees per hectare is higher than 13,000 kg/ha.

Water needs — Very drought tolerant

Mulberry cultivars — Biomass and Fodder Plants

These plants have been selected specifically for vigor and their huge nutritious leaves.

Large leaved mulberry, great trees for biomass production for sericulture, mulches and animal fodder

White Mulberry — Morus alba — ‘Kokuso 27’

Fruit — Fruitless

Sex and Pollination — Monoecious — Majority male flowers

Hardiness — Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C

Leaves — Large lobed leaves (22 cm x 17 cm). Thick and nutritious

Fodder Potential — The leaf yield under rain fed conditions with planting distance 3 m x 1 m, 3300 trees per hectare is higher than 16,000 kg/ha.

Japanese Mulberry — Morus latifolia — ‘Kokuso 21’

Fruit — Fruitless

Sex and Pollination — Monoecious — Majority male flowers

Hardiness — Full hardy withstanding temperatures as low as -34 C

Leaves — Large entire leaves (23 cm x 17 cm). Thick and nutritious

Fodder Potential — The leaf yield under rain fed conditions with planting distance 3 m x 1 m, 3300 trees per hectare is higher than 15,000 kg/ha.

To order some Mulberry cultivars for delivery this winter contact us at [email protected]

We offer a range of plants and seeds for permaculture and forest gardens from our plant nursery including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. Delivery to all over Europe available from Nov — March

Seeds for Forest Gardens and Permaculture Balkan Ecology Project Bio-Nursery

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