New York Metropolitan Flora

Morus rubra L. - Red Mulberry

Native , Occasional

By Katherine Gould, Angela Stewart

Not peer reviewed

Last Modified 02/06/2012

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Morus rubra

Common Names

Red Mulberry

Field Identification

Small tree, bark brown-red with long ridges; leaves papery, orbicular, 0-3 lobes; male and female flowers green catkins; fruits fleshy drupes, resembling blackberries.

Food uses

Disclaimer: 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 berries can also be dried and ground to a fine powder, and mixed with flour to make bread. Mulberries are used in jellies, desserts and other dishes.

Medicinal uses

Disclaimer: 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.

As with the white mulberry the juice of the red mulberries has qualities as a laxative and expectorant. Likewise, when used as a gargle, the juice will relieve sore throat most and affections of the mouth and throat. An infusion of the bark can be utilized to expel tape worms, and known to open up blockages of the liver and spleen. In modern medicine the juice is used to color cough syrups.

Other uses

The juice is used as a dye for fabrics, wood and leather, and the soft tough and durable wood is used in the construction of furniture, fences and tools.


Morus rubra L., Sp. Pl. 986 (1753).
Morus virginica rubra W. Young, Arb. Arbust. Am. 15 (1783), nom.
Morus canadensis Poiret, Encycl. M6th. Bot. 4: 380 (1797).
Morus virginiana Poiteau & Turpin in Duhamel, Trait6 Arb. Fruit. 3: M. no. 2, t. 69, fasc. 12 (1808).
Morus scabra Willd., Enum. Hort. Berol. 867 (1809).
Morus tomentosa Raf., Fl. Ludovic. 113 (1817).
Morus riparia Raf., New Fl. N. Am. 3: 46 (1838).
Morus reticulata Raf., Am. Man. Mulberry Trees, 28 (1839).
Morus rubra tomentosa Bureau in De Candolle, Prodr' 17: 246 (1873).


PLANTS Perennial, deciduous, phanerophytic, trees, diclinous and monoecious or diclinous and dioecious, 25 m tall, trunk sometimes buttressed.

STEMS Main stems erect, round, Prickles absent. Bark ridged or furrowed, not exfoliating, light yellowish orange or light brown or dark orange-yellow or dark gray or black, scaly, grayish to almost black or gray-brown with orange tint, furrows shallow, ridges flat, broad. Branches ascending, Twigs dark red or dark orange red or dark orange-yellow or dark yellow or dark gray, not odoriferous, rounded, moderate to slender, often twisted, lenticellate, with short and unbranched hairs, glabrescent, without glands, reddish to gray-brown to light greenish-brown, often downy above, lenticels light-colored, elliptic, prominent. Pith present, white, round, continuous, nodal diaphram absent. Thorns absent. Aerial roots absent. Sap white or translucent. Resin absent.

BUDS Axillary only, monomorphic, scattered along stem; ovoid, oblique, elongated and somewhat spreading, 3-7 mm long, pointed, sessile, solitary or collaterally multiplied. Bud scales 3-6, dark orange-red or dark brown or brown or light brown, imbricate, chartaceous, with short and unbranched hairs, sparse, distributed marginally, tan, dark brown at the margins, often pubescent and minutely ciliate. Bud scale scars not encircling the stem. Leaf scars round or half-round or obtusely triangular, somewhat raised numerous, scattered or in an ellipse.

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, linear-lanceolate, 6-11 mm long, pale green to reddish-tinged, sericeous (silky), early deciduous, stipule scars narrow. Leaves petiolate, petiole terete, 1-3.5 cm long, withshort and unbranched hairs, spreading, unicellular, moderately dense or dense, distributed throughout. Not glabrescent, without glands, villous to wooly. Leaf blades: abaxial surface light yellowish green or yellowish green or dark yellowish green or light green, adaxial surface green or dark green, elliptic or ovate or widely elliptic or widely ovate, plane, bilaterally symmetric, 5-15 cm long, 3-13 cm wide, base truncate or cordate, margin lobed or toothed, serrate, apex acuminate, abaxial surface with short and unbranched hairs, spreading, unicellular, moderately dense or dense, distributed throughout. Not glabrescent, without glands. Adaxial surface papillose. Without glands. Leaf lobes symmetrical or asymmetrical, 1-5, apex acuminate, 1/2 - full distance to the midvein, sinuses rounded, 1-5(-9) obspatulate lobes. Margins coarsely serrate, often deeply divided into 1-5(-9) lobes, upper surface darker green, sparsely scabrous to muricate or nearly glabrous, lower surface villous throughout, densely villous to wooly along veins. Spines absent. Tendrils absent.

INFLORESCENCES Bisexual or unisexual, simple, other, axillary, female or bisexual inflorescence an oval to short-cylindric catkin, 5-9 mm long, 3-6 mm broad, becoming a dense, juicy syncarp in fruit. Peduncle present, 0.6-1.8 cm long, villous to wooly, terete and stout. Rachis absent.

FEMALE FLOWERS Unisexual, lacking either sepals or petals, 4-merous, perianth of one whorl. Calyx present, stereomorphic, urceolate, of fused sepals, persistent, shallowly 4-lobed, connate over much of its length, accrescent to form a swollen, juicy, purple urceolate sac over the achene. Epicalyx absent. Corolla absent. Carpels 1. Locules 1. Stigmas 2, inconspicuous, papillose. Styles persistent, 2, 2 mm long, filiform to ligulate.1.2-1.5 mm long, 0.8 mm wide, ovoid, glabrous. Anthers, staminodes absent.

MALE FLOWERS Male inflorescence simple, other, axillary, a flexuous catkin, 2-4 cm long, ca 1 cm wide. Peduncle present, 6-18 cm long, Rachis present, with bracts, villous to wooly, flattened and early deciduous. Perianth of one whorl. Calyx present, actinomorphic, acetabuliform, of fused sepals, abaxial and adaxial surfaces the same color, light greenish yellow, 1.5 mm long, calyx limb 1.5 mm long, deeply 4-lobed nearly to the base. Sepals or sepal lobes 4, narrow oblongor obovate, 1.5 mm long, margin ciliate, with short and unbranched hairs, cucullate, greenish with a fringe of pubescence. Corolla absent. Androecium alternate, phanerantherous, introrse. Stamens 4, 3 mm long. Anthers globose. Filaments free, straight, glabrous, without glands, linear above, more or less coherent with the sepals at their tips. Staminodes absent. Gynoecium absent.

FRUITS Achene or drupe, dark red or violet-blue or dark violet-blue, short-cylindric (syncarp), 11-28 mm long, 6-14 mm wide, glabrous, without glands, dark red to purple (rarely paler or very dark), 1.1-2.8(-3.8) cm long, 0.6-1.4 cm broad; 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 1.5-3.8 mm in diameter, condensed (but not coherent) with other fruits into a syncarp. Seeds 1.


Red mulberry grows on a variety of moist soils at elevations below 600 m (2,000 ft). Birds carry seeds great distances by birds so trees may be found on any soil that is not too dry. Best development is on well-drained, moist soils of sheltered coves along streams and in forested woodlands.


Native to North America

United States-- AL, AR, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, VA, VT, WI, WV

Canada -- BC, ON

New York Metropolitan Region – Native to the NYMF area.

Rarity Status

Heritage global rank – G5

Connecticut – S1

New Jersey – not listed

New York – not listed

Species Biology


May [week 2] – June [week 2]


June [week 2] – August [week 2]


Wind pollinated


Seed Dispersal

While small mammals are thought to play role in seed dispersal, birds are the most active foragers of the fruits.