White Mulberry

Morus alba
Moraceae (mulberries)

A medium-sized tree with a short trunk, broad, round crown and many fine twigs.

Leaves alternate, simple, 2–6 inches long, with 0–5 lobes, coarse teeth, pointed tip. Three main veins arise from the base. Undersurface smooth, paler than above. Bleeds milky sap. Leaf stalk smooth.

Bark thin, brown, sometimes tinged with red or yellow, with shallow grooves and long, narrow ridges; ages to resemble elm bark.

Twigs reddish-brown, smooth to slightly hairy, turning gray and smooth with age. Bleed milky sap.

Flowers April–May, with male and female flowers on the same tree or on different trees. Male catkins ½–1½ inches long; female catkins ½–¾ inch long.

Fruits June–August, blackberry-like; white to pink to purple; globe-shaped to oval; ½–¾ inch long.

Our native red mulberry (M. rubra) has leaves hairy underneath, more often lobeless, with hairy leaf stalk; its fruits are cylindrical and start out red (not white or pink); its catkins and leaves are larger.

Height: to 40 feet.
Habitat and conservation: 
Escaped from cultivation and found in old fields, pastures, fencerows and low, wet ground along streams. An Asian species, white mulberry was introduced by early settlers, who cultivated it for its berries and as fodder for an attempted silkworm industry. Birds have helped spread the white mulberry so much that in many places it is more common than our native red mulberry. Considered a noxious weed, white mulberry should not be planted.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Now considered a noxious weed, it was introduced to North America so early that anthropologists recorded use of the tree for medicine and food by Cherokees. White mulberry has few ornamental assets and its fruit is messy, staining sidewalks and cars. If you are wanting to plant a mulberry tree, plant the native red mulberry instead—but keep in mind that its berries are quite messy, too.
Human connections: 
White mulberry is the favorite food of the silkworm caterpillar and in Asia is an important part of the silk-making industry. The fruit can be eaten fresh or made into jams, wine and even ink. The wood has had various uses. In China, the leaves and bark are used for medicinal teas.
Ecosystem connections: 
Birds flock to mulberry trees when the fruit is ripe. Biologists understand that plants produce sweet fruits as a way to disperse seeds: The fruit costs the tree energy to produce, but it rewards birds and other animals for dispersing the indigestible seeds after they eat the fruit.
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