Red Mulberry

Morus rubra

red_mulberry_leaves_10-07-13.jpg

Photo of red mulberry leaves
Paul Wray, Iowa State Universitiy, Bugwood.org
Edible
Family

Moraceae (mulberries)

Description

A medium-sized tree with a short trunk and a broad, rounded crown.

Leaves alternate, simple, 4–8 inches long, usually lacking lobes but some leaves with 1–3 lobes; teeth dense; tip pointed. Three main veins arise from the base. Undersurface hairy, paler than above. Bleeds milky sap. Leaf stalk hairy.

Bark thin, dark brown to gray with an orange tint, grooves shallow, ridges narrow, tight, sometimes with loose scales.

Twigs reddish-brown to light greenish-brown, smooth, slender, bleeding milky sap.

Flowers April–May; male and female flowers on the same tree or on different trees. Male catkins 2–3 inches long; female catkins 3/8 inch long.

Fruits June–August, blackberry-like; red at first, ripening to purplish-black, cylindrical; ¾–1¼ inches long.

The introduced white mulberry (M. alba) has leaves smooth underneath, more often lobed, with smooth leaf stalk; its fruits are rounded or oval and start out white or pink; its catkins and leaves are smaller.

Size

Height: to 60 feet.

Habitat and conservation

Occurs in moist woods in lowland areas or on moist upland slopes. An attractive, fast-growing tree, it is sometimes planted in parks and in yards large enough to accommodate the large spreading crown and juicy, falling fruits. Originally this was our only mulberry in Missouri. However, early settlers introduced the white or Russian mulberry and cultivated them both for their berries and as fodder for an attempted silkworm industry.

image of Red Mulberry distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Human connections

The juicy, edible fruits are considered by some to be obnoxiously messy, but by others to be a prized source for jams, jellies, pies, drinks or just eating fresh. The wood has had various uses.

Ecosystem connections

Numerous birds and mammals eat the delicious fruits. The tree provides shelter and habitat for many animals, including insects and spiders.