Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mulberries Up Close and Juicy

These three pictures (taken yesterday) are of a single mulberry tree growing next to my cottage. It is one of several trees which I originally believed to be Black mulberry trees (Morus nigra), and given Sam’s helpful info on how to distinguish mulberry trees (which I reposted yesterday), I now believe that my first hunch may have been correct.

These trees, while shade tolerant, appear to prefer full sun when they can get it. This particular specimen only gets sun in the evening (which is when these images were taken). They all have the leaning trunk Sam mentions, and the strongly cordate leaf shape. While some of the leaves occasionally have two or three irregular lobes, most do not.

And, as we can see in these pictures, the fruits ripen to a deep, dark purple. My friends the catbirds (Dumatella carolinensis) are busy in these trees right now, and the deer are right behind them!


  1. Your pictures are beautiful. What a wonderfull natural eye you have to taking nature shots. I very much enjoyed looking at them. Your trees are lucky to have you.

  2. It is by no means unusual for a Mulberry tree to produce leaves of several different shapes, or differing considerably in outline. As a rule, abnormalshaped leaves are produced from stem-shoots or sucker growths, and frequently by very vigorous young branches. The Chinese White Mulberry (Morus alba, Linn.), cultivated in other countries as food for the silkworm, is even more variable in leafage than the Common Mulberry, and quite a score of different forms of leaf have been gathered from a single tree and several from one shoot.

  3. Jenn, many thanks! I'm so glad you enjoy my work. :)

    Susan, thank you so much for helping our discussion on mulberry tree identification. The variation in leaf shape is definitely one of the factors contributing to my confusion!

  4. mmm...I can taste them through my monitor.

  5. The new photos are a big help, those are white mulberry (Morus alba). Sorry for the earlier misidentification!

    Good info on Black Mulberry (M. nigra) is hard to find in the U.S. Even Dirr in his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" just sort of gives up trying to distinguish them.

    I got my hands on a British tree ID book, where black mulberry is much more common, and a chance to see a black mulberry. Susan is also absolutely right about about mulberry, (especially white) having a very variable leaf shape.

    With black mulberry, the veins on the leaves are more impressed than on your photos. Also the underside of black mulberry leaves are covered with fine hairs (pubescence). White mulberry either has no hairs on the leaf underside, or the hairs are just along the veins.

    Also, the buds of black mulberry have a dark purple tone to them, they are not just the usual Mulberry tan/brown. Whoever it was who mentioned that mulberry can and does hybridize is also correct.

    Thanks for all your hard work.

  6. Jesse, they really are delicious - but it's hard to beat the birds to the fruits!

    Sam, thank you for returning and adding to your thoughts on mulberry tree identification. I truly apprecite everyone's thoughts and experiences on this topic! Mulberries are tricky trees indeed. :)

  7. Thank you for posting picturs of you Mulberry tree with fruit. I am checking internet sites as I have a tree that neighbors tell me has been there for maybe 15 years. I have lived in the house seven. The tree is growing into the side of my shed and I have thought about removing this tree but I just don't have the heart it is so very pretty. Here is the strange thing. It has never in my seven yesars produced fruit until this year? I am sure of this as I trained my puppies under this very tree last May into September? Well I will continue my internet search but your sight has been very helpful....

  8. Where can I purchase a Mulberry tree? Our local places only have the weeping mulberry trees which do not bear fruit. Any one know how to propagate an existing tree, or where to purchase a starter tree?

  9. So I'm new to this whole blogging thing and don't know how often I'll get to check it. Anyway, my husband and I just bought a house and I found a Mulberry tree in our back yard. From the pictures posted, I believe it is a black mulberry. I've always loved mulberries and was ecstatic to find this! However, I went out last night to pick a bowl full and realized that bugs LOVE mulberries, too! I had a bunch of lady bugs, one that we call a stink bug, and a bunch of little tiny larvae-looking bugs. I tried rinsing the berries and found that it just squeezed the juice out and didn't get the little bugs off! Have any of you witnessed this? Do you know if these bugs are harmful? I never noticed them when I just pick the berries off and eat them, it was just when I put them in the bowl. I'd like to make wine or something our of the berries, but I'm scared with these little bugs. I hope someone can help!

  10. Tara, welcome to Arboreality!

    Without seeing the bugs, my guess is that the "little larvae looking bugs" are aphids. I'm guessing this because ladybugs LOVE aphids - ladybugs are your friends! Make sure you set them free into your garden, they are eating the aphids.

    Now, regardless of whatever kinds of bugs you have, my first suggestion would be to soak the berries in a bowl of lightly salted water. This is what I do with vegetables - although I've never tried it with berries. Since the berries are more fragile than veggies (as you know), this may be a gentler method of shaking loose the little pesties.

    Also, while this is more about removing stems than bugs, the techniques in this article about elderberry harvests *might* help you:

    Harvesting the Elderberry

    If I find any other good ideas, I'll be sure to share.

    Good luck!


  11. Hello, I found a huge black muberry tree in my back yard today, and there were so many ripe berries that had already fallen to the floor. I don't know how long the have been there, but they don't look sun dried at all. Are these ok to wash and eat? Also my lawn was sprayed with a weed killer a few days ago, will this affect the fallen berries? Thank you so much for the help! -Robert

  12. Robert, welcome to Arboreality.

    My advice would be to NOT eat any berries which have fallen on your lawn - weed killer isn't the kind of thing you want in your food.

    My non-professional opinion: stick with the berries that are still on the plant. You'll have to work fast to pick them - birds LOVE mulberries!


  13. We have a tree growing right beside our house about 3 feet from my window, at first I was pretty happy to have a tree growing at all since we have such terrible ground (shale & rock), but have since been told that it is possibly a mulberry and should remove it. How do I tell if it is a mulberry tree and what kind?

  14. Reese, welcome to Arboreality!

    A helpful way to identify any plant is with a handy identification book (I like the Audubon Society Field guides). It's important to look at several features of the plant in order to make a proper identification - leaves can be the most misleading part of the plant.

    As for removing your tree, that's tough call. Certainly if a tree is too close to the home, it's important to consider removal before it gets big enough to cause structural damage. On the other hand, there is much to be said for the company of trees, as one neighborhood in New York is currently considering:

    Cobble Hill Journal
    "A Sapling Grows Into a Giant; The Streets Around It Change, Too"
    Published: June 20, 2008

    Good luck,


  15. Thank you, JLB for your words of welcome and your advice. I just hate not being able to eat those delicious berries! It seems such a sin! I did ask around at work and they said to try spraying it. Seeing as most of the fruit has already fallen, that'll probably be next year's solution, but I'll definitely try the salt water this year. I'll let you know my findings! Thanks again.

  16. I have an urban yard where the prior owners (130yo house... many owners) and their neighbors planted several trees that they didn't apparently research before hand. (40' wide yards here...)
    I won't talk about my battle with the Catalpa tree on the south side of the property, just over on the neighbor's yard but... well... you can imagine. My major problem is a mulberry tree on the other side, several thick trunks from a main root stem, that covers 2/3 of my backyard, encroaches on my neighbor's yard, and leaves my backyard almost unusable most of the summer, due to the carpet of berries, bugs, flies, birds, squirrels, groundhogs... not to mention the cloying smell of fermenting berries on the ground. Most of the summer it sounds like it is raining in the yard, as the birds and squirrels jog the berries loose. Even they can't keep up with them! Despite an aggressive pruning effort on my part over the past 7 years, this tree is over 40 feet tall and has become an absolute pest. If my wife would let me have it taken down to the ground I would do it! Just thought I'd add my not-so-pastoral viewpoint to keep things real. If any one of you yearning for one of these trees can figure out a way to get it out of my back yard alive, I'd gladly approve!

  17. I have a mulberry tree in my front yard that while pretty and full of fruit is a uttter annoyance de to the flies, is there anything i can do to repel the flies without harming the tree or my lawn?i have a 2yr old and she cant even go out front and play due to the flies, hey swarm like there is a deadbody..... and when i open my door the try to swarm into my home because the tree branches are directly over my front stoop.

  18. Last week while pulling weeds in a small L shaped area behind the house where my hose and airconditioner live,I noticed some "blackberries" on the ground. I continuned my cleanup thinking about how birds carry seeds. Eventually I looked up and was astounded to see the same tree from your pictures filled with HUNDREDS of small berries! They looked so edible, I tried one. The taste is better than any rasberries or blackberries I've ever had. It is much more delicate and brings back memories from my childhood.
    I called my sister and told her that I didn't know what they were, but I was gorging myself on them anyway because if I died from them it would be well worth it.
    I've been going out every morning and eating all the berries I can reach- turning my hands and lips purple.
    I am not positive, but I don't think this tree has had any fruit in the 11 years that I've lived here!! Is that possible?

  19. I work at an urban soup kitchen, and the abandoned house next door has what appears to be a white mulberry. They spatter our driveway, and you're right -- it's a terrbile mess, and the flies are drawn like to a carcass!

    Is it possible that they ferment, and as sqirrels get at them in this state, they can get tipsy? I have seen this in cows or deer that graze in late season apple orchards. I ask because our squirrels seem rather erratic and agressive lately, and I'd rather think they were drunk than rabid.

  20. tell me... how can i cultivate this berries? teach me any methods for growing it. We have two mulberry trees in our school and i would like to grow some at home.


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