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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. For example, most white mulberry cultivars have black or purple berries.

Form: Tree.
Lifespan: Up to 500 to 1000 years for Morus nigra, black mulberry, 100-250 years for Morus alba, white mulberry, and 75 years for Morus rubra, red 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. Male flowers produce excessive amounts of allergy-causing pollen.
Bloom: Spring.
Self-fruitful: Most commercially available cultivars set fruit without pollination and have no seeds. A few cultivars are self-pollinating and their fruit contains seeds. Some, less desirable, require a second cultivar as pollenizer.
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-fruiting cultivars are stainless.
Months for fruit to ripen: 2-3. Berries ripen a few at a time on some cultivars. For several cultivars, the fruit is ripe when it changes from shiny black to dull black. Berries will continue to ripen to black if picked when red.
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 the 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. Milky sap contains latex.
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 Everbearing' Self pollinating, strongly red-staining, very flavorful berries, produces berries over a long period, grows 6-8' high.
'Pakistan Fruiting' Self pollinating, extra long, thin fruits, raspberry flavor, seedless, less juicy and not as messy. Grows 25-30' high, 150 chill hours, USDA 9B-11, hardy to 25°F. This has become one of the most popular cultivars because of its flavor and general lack of problems. Possibly non-staining.
'Shangri La' Self pollinating, grows 20' high, 300 chill hours, USDA 6-9.
'Weeping Mulberry' / 'Pendula' Self-fruitful, black-colored, poor-tasting fruit. Grows 8-12' high and 8-16' wide, an ornamental.
'White Fruiting Mulberry' Self-fruitful, non-staining, white colored berries, mild and sweet, said to taste like mild honey or white peach. Grows to 30' high.
Wildlife: Attracts birds and squirrels. Bird netting or holographic bird scare tape should be used to protect fruit. Bird droppings will stain unless berries are white in color. Silkworms eat only white mulberry leaves and not those of other species.
Toxic / Danger: Milky sap is a skin irritant. 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: 5-11, depending on cultivar.
Chill hours: 150-500.
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.

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 alba 'Pakistan' fruit

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