Mulberry is the name given to plants in the Moraceae family which were introduced to the US from Asia. There are different types of mulberry that grow into tall trees or short bushes. White mulberry grows incredibly tall while the black type only grows into a 30 feet mulberry bush. Red mulberry lies somewhere in the middle but rarely grows beyond 70 feet.
The tree’s name might get you thinking that it produces berries but that isn’t botanically correct. Mulberry trees and bushes produce a collective fruit that can be eaten raw. The type of tree doesn’t dictate color of fruits produced. White mulberries can give you lavender, white or black fruit which is very sweet. Black mulberry fruits are highly regarded for the rare combination of sweet and tart but red trees produce fruit whose flavors are in between. Quality clones of the red mulberry often come close in flavor to the black types.
White, red and hybrid mulberry fruits are ready for harvesting spring while black is ready in summer. To get fruit from white mulberry simply lay a sheet on the ground and shake the tree for a bountiful harvest. Black mulberry tree fruits tend to be quite a hassle as they easily stain clothes. Once collected, mulberry fruits can keep fresh in the fridge for several days but only if stored in a covered container. When you are ready use them to make jellies, wine or tarts and pies. Fresh fruits can also be eaten out of hand. Black varieties make excellent dried fruits.
People who don’t wish to eat the fruit or keep collecting it prefer planting non-bearing mulberry trees. These are kept for their stunning foliage and excellent shade in hot summer days.
Mulberries need adequate sun and space to grow with recommended distance of 15ft between trees. It is not ideal to grow them in sidewalks as the fallen fruit will strain walkways. The trees grow well in warm, well drained soil preferably loam. Mulberries are quite drought resistant but you need to water them in drought to keep them from dropping fruit before it has ripened naturally. When choosing the mulberry to plant, make sure it is suited to your environment. There are several cultivars of mulberry each of which might survive in certain conditions and fail in others.
Pests and diseases
These trees are quite sturdy against pests and diseases but there are some conditions that affect them. Cankers and die backs could occur but it is popcorn disease that is a real problem for mulberry fruits in some areas. Birds can also be a problem as they are very much attracted to the ripe fruit. However since the mulberry trees produce so much fruit you will be left with a lot to harvest|to reap after the birds have had their fill.
Mulberries have a reputation of growing quite rapidly when young but that rate dwindles as they age. The trees often start bearing fruit at a young age and continue do so well into old age. Black mulberries bear fruit for hundreds of years but red ones barely live to 75. Most trees grown in landscapes live only an average of 30 years.
Caring for mulberries
Like many deciduous plants the mulberry needs some pruning to remove dead and overcrowded wood. If you don’t want a mulberry bush, keep things tidy by developing a set of main branches. Heavy pruning is not ideal as it could cause the tree to bleed at the cuts. It is wise to check out mulberry growing regulations in your area before planting. This is because they are considered invasive in some parts where people are not even allowed to plant new trees. You should also conduct research into the plants to understand their needs and provide the right environment for growth.
If you notice that the main branches are drying and dying, it is probably the right time to remove the tree.
Mulberries are quite a misunderstood plant but that isn’t to say that they aren’t important. Everything from the fruits, foliage and even dried wood can be sued to improve daily life. It could be a tasty treat, great shade or excellent firewood that go on to prove that the mulberry is indeed a great plant.