Morus alba L. - White Mulberry
Non-native , Common
By Katherine Gould, Angela Stewart
Not peer reviewed
Last Modified 03/04/2013
Common NamesWhite Mulberry
Field IdentificationTree 30-60 feet tall, bark yellowish brown smooth becoming scaly. Leave bases uneven, often heart-shaped, and lobed. Flowers short, green, nondescript catkins; fruits edible, tasteless, white to pink in color.
Food usesDisclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for food purposes without first consulting a physician.
The fruits of the White Mulberry are edible but tasteless and an ingredient of the supposedly seductive Mulberry wine.
Medicinal usesDisclaimer: The information provided here is for reference and historical use. We do not recommend nor do we condone the use of this species for medicinal purposes without first consulting a physician.
The fruit juice is used in folk remedies for tumors and is reported to be a laxative and fungicide. Used as a gargle the juice is thought to relieve sore throats; the juice combined with sugars, and made into a syrup, relieves asthma and other bronchial discomforts.
Other usesThe White Mulberry tree is native to China; it is valued as food for the silk worm in southern Europe, India. Korea and China. Wanting to establish a silk industry, the British introduced the tree to southeastern American colonies. Though the attempt to establish a silk industry failed the white mulberry tree is now distributed throughout the United States.
The light weight wood used in the production of sporting goods is favored for its elasticity under heat and steam. The light wood, however, is too weak for heavy construction purposes.
Morus alba L., Sp. Pl. 986 (1753).
Morus alba 3. integrifolia K. Koch in Linnaea, 22: 603 (1849), nom.
Morus alba a. vulgaris Bureau in De Candolle, Prodr. 17: 238 (1873).
DescriptionPLANTS Perennial, deciduous, phanerophytic, trees, diclinous and monoecious or diclinous and dioecious, 10-15 m tall,with scanty milky sap.
STEMS Main stems erect, round, Prickles absent. Bark ridged or furrowed, not exfoliating, dark red or dark orange-red or dark brown or brown or light brown or dark orange-yellow or dark yellow or gray or dark gray, twig bark tan or grayish, ridged, mature bark brown, tinged with red or yellow, thin, shallowly furrowed, with long, narrow ridges. Branches ascending. Twigs dark red or dark orange-red or green or dark green, not odoriferous, rounded, moderate to slender, lenticellate, glabrous or with short and unbranched hairs, not glabrescent, without glands, reddish- or orange-brown or dark green with reddish cast, pubescent or occasionally glabrous, lenticels reddish-brown, elliptic, prominent. Pith present, white, round, continuous, nodal diaphram absent. Thorns absent. Aerial roots absent. Sap white or translucent. Resin absent.
BUDS Axillary only, dimorphic, scattered along stem; axillary buds 1 per axil, triangular-ovoid, short and closely appressed, oblique, 3-6 mm long, blunt or pointed, sessile, solitary or collaterally multiplied; inflorescence buds with 3-4 brown, leathery scales, 3-5 mm broad, with darker brown margins. Bud scales 3-6, dark orange-red or dark brown or light brown or dark orange-yellow or dark yellow, imbricate, chartaceous, glabrous or with short and unbranched hairs, sparse, distributed marginally, reddish-brown or yellowish-brown with dark margins. Bud scale scars not encircling the stem. Leaf scars round or half-round or obtusely triangular, somewhat raised.
LEAVES Alternate, spiral, 1 per node, spaced somewhat evenly along stem, divergent from stem, simple. Stipules present, lateral, deciduous, free from the petiole, scale-like, margins entire, ovate to lanceolate, 4-9 mm long, pale green, sericeous (silky), early deciduous, stipule scars narrow. Leaves petiolate, petiole terete, 1-5 cm long, with short and unbranched hairs, spreading, unicellular, sparse or moderately dense, distributed throughout. Not glabrescent, without glands, ribbed, velutinous. Lanceolate or ovate, plane, asymmetric or bilaterally symmetric, 4-12 cm long, 3-9 cm wide, base obtuse or truncate or cordate, margin lobed or toothed, serrate, apex acuminate or acute, abaxial surface glabrous or with short and unbranched hairs, spreading, unicellular, distributed along midveins. Not glabrescent, without glands. Adaxial surface glabrous or papillose. Without glands. Leaf lobes symmetrical or asymmetrical, 1-9, 1/4 - 1/2 the distance to the midvein or 1/2 -full distance to the midvein, sinuses rounded. margins irregularly, coarsely serrate, often shallowly to deeply cut with rounded sinuses, upper surface glabrous, minutely muricate, lower surface glabrous but with velutinous hairs along the major veins and tufts in their axils. Spines absent. Tendrils absent.
INFLORESCENCES Bisexual or unisexual, simple, other, axillary, female or bisexual inflorescence an oval to short-cylindric catkin, 7-17 mm long, 5-9 mm broad, becoming a loose to dense, cylindric syncarp in fruit. Peduncle present, 0.5-1.3 cm long, villous to puberulous, produced on greenish short-shoots or singly. Rachis absent, Lanceolate, 3-4 mm long, 1 mm wide, abaxial surface with short and unbranched hairs, villous, early deciduous.
FLOWERS Unisexual, lacking either sepals or petals, 4-merous, perianth of one whorl. Calyx present, stereomorphic, urceolate, of fused sepals, persistent, 1.5-1.8 mm long, shallowly 4-lobed, connate over much of its length, accrescent to form a swollen, urceolate sac over the achene. Epicalyx absent. Corolla absent. Gynoecium apocarpous. Carpels 1. Locules 1. Stigmas 2, inconspicuous, papillose. Styles persistent, 2, 1 mm long, filiform, branches divergent, curling, red-brown. 1.5 mm long, 1 mm wide, ovoid, glabrous, absent, Anthers Staminodes absent.
MALE FLOWERS Male inflorescence simple, axillary, a cylindric, flexuous catkin, 1-3 cm long, ca 1 cm wide. Peduncle present, 0.5-1.3 cm long, Rachis present, with bracts, same as female inflorescences. Perianth of one whorl. Calyx present, actinomorphic, acetabuliform, of fused sepals, abaxial and adaxial surfaces the same color, light greenish yellow, 2-3 mm long, calyx limb 2-3 mm long, deeply 4-lobed nearly to the base. Sepals or sepal lobes 4, narrow oblong or obovate, 2-3 mm long, 1 mm wide, margin entire, with short and unbranched hairs, creamy-greenish, cucullate. Corolla absent. Androecium alternate, phanerantherous, introrse. Stamens 4, 3 mm long. Anthers globose. Filaments free, straight, glabrous, without glands,slender, 2-3.5 mm long. Staminodes absent. Gynoecium absent.
FRUITS Achene or drupe, light greenish yellow or violet-blue or dark violet-blue or light violet or white or black, cylindric (syncarp), 10-30 mm long, 8-15 mm wide, glabrous, without glands, greenish-white to rose-tinged (less often dark purple to black), 1-3 cm long, 0.8-1.5 cm broad, juicy; actual fruit an achene, ca 2 mm long, 1 mm wide, light brown, ovoid lenticular, surrounded by a fleshy, accrescent perianth and slightly exserted at its tip, the resulting drupe-like accessory fruit 1.8-3.4 mm long, 1-3 mm wide, condensed (but not coherent) with other fruits into cylindric syncarp.
HabitatGrows in a variety of areas including rich and poor soils, open woods, and fence rows.
DistributionThe White Mulberry tree is native to China
United States -- AL, AR, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, HI, IA, ID, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY
Canada – BC, ON
New York Metropolitan Region – Introduced and naturalized within the area. Recorded in all 25 NYMF counties.
Rarity StatusHeritage global rank – not listed
Connecticut -- not listed
New Jersey -- not listed
New York -- not listed
May [ week 2] – May [week 4]
June [week 1] – June [week 4]Pollination
While small mammals are thought to play role in seed dispersal, birds are the most active foragers of the fruits.