Botanical Name: Morus rubra
Common Name: Red Mulberry, Moral
Description: Red Mulberry is a native understory tree that naturally occurs along streams and riverbanks and in woods. It shelters smaller trees and plants with its wide leaves and is itself protected by large trees in the ecosystem. It is a deciduous tree that allows light to filter to the plants on the ground in winter, then blooms in spring. Its long, narrow berries appear red and darken to purple. The native range of Red Mulberry extends east from Central Texas to Florida, and north to Ontario, Canada. In Texas it grows in East and Central Texas, west to the Devils River, preferring rich, moist soils of river bottoms.
Very versatile as to how much sun it gets: sun, part sun, or part shade is fine. It grows at a medium rate of 1-2′ per year to 50′ tall x 25-35′ wide. Bloom time is spring, with fruit growing June through September. They usually start producing fruit at 2-3 years old.
Moderately drought tolerant. Fall leaf color is yellow. These are self-fertile, so one tree in your yard is fine.
Soil Description: Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
The ripe fruit and new leaf growth of Red Mulberry are eaten raw or cooked. The fruit is ripe when it is a dark purple color. Unripened fruits should not be eaten. Conflicting information exists as to whether the unripened fruit contains a hallucinogenic or slightly toxic compound until ripened. It is not unusual for fruit of various species (native or exotic) to be inedible until chemical changes occur in the ripening process.
Likewise, botanists advise that the tree’s milky sap has low toxicity and should not be swallowed, but Native Americans used it to expel tapeworms. They also used root tea to expel parasites, resolve constipation and cure dysentery, and mixed ripe mulberries with animal fat to preserve food as pemmican. The fruit was eaten or used in drinks. They cooked mulberries in dough and baked them in cake and bread. Today the ripened fruit continues to be dried and crushed to powder to preserve its use. Red Mulberry fruit is a traditional treatment for fever. Appalachians utilize fruit as Native Americans did, and additionally preserve the harvest through fruit pies and mulberry wines. Native Choctaw used tree fiber for weaving. Humans have extensively used Red Mulberry wood in fencing, furniture and tools.
Red Mulberry is the larval host of Nymphalis antiopa “Mourning Cloak” butterflies. Its fruit sustains birds and mammals.
Please do not plant the exotic/invasive White Mulberry tree.
This plant in 3-gallon containers is 2-5′ tall, not including the container. It is 3-5 years old.
Interesting Tidbit: Like the honey mesquite in West Texas, red mulberry is one of the harbingers of spring in East Texas and it is said that the appearance of its leaves means that all danger of frost has passed.
Hardiness Zones 4 – 8