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Growing Mulberry: Morus

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The Mulberry family, which includes Jackfruit, Figs and Osage Orange, has 10-16 species in the Mulberry genus. Many hybrids of various species exist, making identification difficult. The name of the species does not indicate the color of the fruit.

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: 500 to 1000 years for black mulberry.
Leaf retention: Deciduous.
Growth rate: Slow to rapid, depending on temperature.
Mature Size: 10-50' high and 10-30' wide, depending on cultivar.
Flowers: Separate male and female catkins, short and green, can be present on the same tree or different trees, depending on cultivar. In some cases, the trees can change sex. Male flowers produce excessive amounts of allergy-causing pollen.
Bloom: Spring.
Self-fruitful: Yes, on many cultivars with female flowers or male and female flowers, but seeds will be missing or non-viable if male flowers are not present. Some female cultivars are non-self fruiting.
Years before fruiting: 2-3 if grafted, 10 years if grown from seed.
Fruit: The "berry" is an aggregate fruit, with many small round fruits clustered together. Dropped fruit will stain sidewalks and carpets, although white cultivars are stainless.
Months for fruit to ripen: 2-3. Berries ripen a few at a time on some cultivars. Black mulberries are difficult to pick because they do not release from the stem, so scissors or clippers are needed. In the kitchen, scissors are used to remove the rest of the stems from the berries.
Storage after harvest: Unwashed berries will keep two days in a refrigerated, closed container. Freezing, eating same day, or baking immediately is recommended. They can also be dried. Fresh mulberry fruit is too delicate to ship and is not carried in stores.
Leaves: Green, serrated edges, variable shape, turn yellow in fall.
Stems: No thorns.
Roots: Aggressive, extensive, lateral roots are no more than 2' deep, extending beyond the tree's drip line. Smaller, vertical sinker roots grow from the laterals. Keep these trees away from sidewalks, driveways and foundations to avoid damage from roots.
Cultivars of Note:
'Dwarf Black Mulberry' Morus nigra, Grows to 10' high, self-fruitful, strongly red-staining berries, the best flavor of all mulberry species, produces berries over a long period.
'Pakistan Mulberry' Morus macroura, long thin fruits, raspberry flavor, grows 25-30' high. Also called Long Mulberry. It can be identified by its extra long fruit.
'Shangri La' Morus alba, early bloomer susceptible to late frosts, self-fruitful, large black tasty fruit, grows 20' high and 15' wide.
'Weeping Mulberry' Morus alba 'pendula', self-fruitful, black-colored, poor-tasting fruit, grows 8-12' high and 8-16' wide, an ornamental.
'White Fruiting Mulberry' Morus alba, self-fruitful, non-staining, white colored berries, mild and sweet, said to taste like mild honey or white peach, grows to 30' high, an ornamental for the bird garden.
Wildlife: Attracts birds. Bird netting should be used to protect fruit. Bird droppings will stain unless berries are white. Silkworms eat only white mulberry leaves and not those of other species.
Toxic / Danger: No, however, unripe fruit will cause an upset stomach.
Origin: Western Asia for black mulberries, east Asia for white mulberries. North America for red mulberry.

Cultivation and Uses
USDA hardiness zones: Black 5-11, Himalayan 9-11, White 5-9a.
Chill hours: 300-500.
Heat tolerant: Yes.
Sun: Full sun.
Drought tolerant: Somewhat.
Water after becoming established: At least monthly during drought, but weekly when fruiting if fruit is to be harvested. Water at the drip line and beyond.
Soil: Well drained, deep, tolerant otherwise, pH 6.1-7.8 (slightly acidic to slightly alkaline) for black mulberries.
Fertilize: A balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer can be used once a year in the spring but is not usually necessary.
Mulch: Organic mulch kept at least one foot from the trunk.
Spacing: Distance between trees must be at least 15'.
Planting: Can be grown in containers. Plant away from a house to avoid carpet staining from fallen fruit.
Pruning and weeding: Large trees can die from shock if pruned severely. Start pruning when the trees are young to keep them to a desired height. Avoid "pollarding" which gives trees a clumsy appearance.
Remove all vegetation growing under the canopy of the tree to avoid competition for nutrients.
Litter: Fruit if not harvested, leaves in fall.
Propagation: Grafting, seed developed in the presence of male and female flowers, hardwood cuttings taken in January and bunch planted. Seeds do not always breed true. Black mulberry is more difficult to start from cuttings than other mulberry species.
Uses: Fruit, ornamental, shade, bird garden (with white-colored berries).

Black mulberries can be used as a substitute berry in blackberry recipes and wine. Mulberry jams and jellies are favorites. White mulberries pair well with apples and pears and can be used in most recipes needing a mild-flavored berry.

Some major municipalities ban mulberry trees as pollen producers. However, self-fruiting female trees are often allowed.

Mulberry plants can be ordered online, but double-check for botanical name. Most commercial nursery mulberry plants are female only.

Do you have additional information or a different experience for this plant that you would like to share?
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Morus macroura: Packistan Mulberry fruit
Morus macroura: Pakistan Mulberry fruit

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