Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Wanting to Mull Over A Berry

One of my favorite plants that I grow is my White Mulberry tree. As a child in New Jersey, we had a Black Mulberry and a White one. There is also a Red cultivar, but I haven't tried that one yet. I would sit in the tree for hours just gorging myself on the fruit. What was funny back then, I knew the black one was really good. I was actually afraid of the white one for quite sometime. I thought there might have been something wrong with it, because it was white, not black. I was a child, what did I know? There was nothing even close to the internet back then. This was probably mid to late 70's. Once I tried the white one, and didn't die, I figured it was just a different kind and began eating it all the time too.
Sometime ago, maybe 3 or 4 years back, I actually found somebody online that wanted to trade a Mulberry tree for some Citrus I had, this was back when I could swap Citrus before any of the quarantines were in place. I couldn't wait to get it, childhood memories growing in my own backyard. I was shocked when it produced fruit the first time, and discovered it was a white variety.
The White Mulberry (Morus alba)is native to eastern and central China. The tree was introduced into America for silkworm culture in early colonial times and naturalized and hybridized with the native red mulberry. I lived on a very old farmland/plantation, I figure that is how it got to New Jersey.
The White Mulberry, and to a lesser extent the Red Mulberry, (Morus rubra) is quite tolerant of drought, pollution and poor soil. The White mulberry is considered a weed tree in many parts of the country including urban areas.
Mulberries need full sun and lots of room. You want or need about 15 feet between trees. Depending on the variety, they can reach anywhere from 30 to 80 feet tall. They need a well drained soil. They are considered drought resistant, but if they dry out too much during fruiting, they may abort most of the fruit.
They do not need much fertilization. With that being said, and I know there will be gasps of YUCK from some of you, the tree I use to sit in and eat that wonderful fruit from, was directly over a septic tank. Looking back at it now, I bet that thing had more fertilizer than it knew what to do with.
Pruning is not really needed, except to cut out deadwood and crossing branches. If you do need to prune it for size or shape, it is better to do it while dormant, they tend to "bleed" a lot.
Mulberries can be grown from seed, although the plants can take 10 years or more to bear. Softwood cuttings of White Mulberries root easily when taken in midsummer and treated with rooting hormone. Red Mulberries are less easily rooted. Black Mulberries (Morus nigra) are also somewhat difficult to propagate since they tend to bleed a lot. The Mulberry tree can live anywhere from 75 to hundreds of years, again depending on the variety.
They suffer from very few pests and diseases.
The fruit of the White and Red Mulberries are ripe in late Spring. The fruit of Black Mulberries ripen in Summer to late Summer.
The fruit of the White Mulberry:

The fruit of the Black Mulberry:

The fruit of the Red Mulberry:

The trees that I grew up with are long gone, plowed under for apartment complexes or some such thing. I wish I could go back in time and get some cuttings from those trees, or even bring the trees back. Being that can not happen, I will just enjoy my White Mulberry tree for the time being. It looks like it will be a very heavy crop this year. The fruit is just starting to form. Maybe someday I will get a Black one and a Red one, I would love to compare them side by side.
Happy Growing!


  1. Most importantly - what do they taste like? Are they sweet? They look juicy.

  2. The white ones only have a hint of sweetness. They do have a berry texture but the flavor seems to be missing. I wouldn't use them as a main dish. I would rather mix them with other fruit.