Morus alba (White Mulberry)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Genus:Morus
Family:Moraceae (Mulberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:China
Status:
  • Invasive - ERADICATE!
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist to dry disturbed soil; woodland edges, fencerows, thickets, along streams, railroads
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:20 to 50 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: spike

[photo of male flowers] Male and female flowers are borne separately, usually on different trees (dioecious), in clusters called catkins, a few catkins emerging from buds along 1-year-old branches at about the same time as the leaves. Male catkins are ascending to pendulous in flower, ¾ to 2 inches long, green to yellowish, each flower in the cluster with 4 stamens.

[photo of female flowers] Female catkins are erect to ascending and more compact, oval to short-cylindric, to 3/8 inch long, each flower with a somewhat flattened, oval green ovary and a whitish to reddish, 2-parted style. Cluster stalks on both male and female catkins are hairy.

Leaves and bark: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[leaf scan] Leaves are alternate and simple, unlobed or irregularly 2 to 7-lobed, most lobes with rounded tips, the terminal lobe pointed or with abrupt taper to a pointed tip. The blade is generally egg-shaped in outline, 3 to 4 inches long, 1¼ to 3 inches wide, on a hairy stalk 1 to 2 inches long. Edges are coarsely toothed often with rounded teeth, the upper surface dark green, usually smooth and somewhat shiny, the lower surface lighter green with sparse hairs along veins or sometimes tufts of hairs in the vein axils. Three major veins radiate from the base where the stalk meets the blade.

[photo of twig with raised lenticels] Twigs are reddish to orange-brown with scattered, raised lenticels (pores). New growth is slightly hairy becoming hairless the second year with the lenticels flattening out and turning whitish. Bark is thin and somewhat rough, turning gray to gray-brown with maturity. Twigs and leaves exude a milky sap when cut.

[photo of mature trunk] Older bark forms flattish, gray-brown ridges with shallow, orange-brown furrows. Trunks can reach 20 inches diameter at breast height (dbh).

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit ©B.navez] Female catkins become nodding to pendulous fruit clusters, ½ to 1½ inches long, resembling elongated raspberries or blackberries. The color of fruit ranges from white to pink to red, usually turning purplish-black when mature but sometimes remaining white.

Notes:

White Mulberry is native to China where it is the favored food of silk worms. It was initially introduced to North America in the 1600s in the first of several failed attempts to establish a silk industry here. A fast growing tree that tolerates a variety of soil and moisture conditions, many cultivars have been bred and planted globally as a shade tree or ornamental and for its sweet, edible fruit. It escapes cultivation primarily via birds, which love the fruits and spread the seed far and wide; it has become a pest plant in parts of most countries where it has been introduced, crowding out natives. It even pops up in my own suburban lawn occasionally but is promptly removed.

White Mulberry is often confused with the native Red Mulberry (Morus rubra). While the leaf shape of both species can be quite variable, Red Mulberry usually has (mostly) unlobed leaves that are dull and somewhat rough on the upper surface and hairy on the lower, while White Mulberry leaves are (mostly) 3 to 7-lobed, smooth and shiny on the upper surface, hairy only along the veins on the lower, and tend to be smaller (max 4 inches long vs. 7 inches). White Mulberry twigs and bark also tend to be more orange than Red Mulberry. The two species are known to hybridize, which complicates matters, and the hybrid has been recorded in Minnesota scattered across our southern counties and as far north as Sherburne county (see the county distribution map above). The hybrid is not well-documented but is likely intermediate between the two.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos by Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties. Morus alba fruits By B.navez, via Wikimedia Commons, used under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Comments

Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: harold thomas - Roseville
on: 2018-05-25 11:54:06

older tree

Posted by: David Quick - Eagel's Net Township near Ely, MN
on: 2018-06-21 07:50:34

Older tree producing a huge volume of long white catkins.

Posted by: Jake Brand - NE Minneapolis
on: 2018-07-10 23:16:28

I have a Mulberry in my backyard. Unsure to whether it’s a red or white because of the common confusion. If it’s a white, I’d like that eradicated because it attracts so many pests and rains it’s berries all over.

Posted by: Nina Karsky - Nisswa
on: 2019-07-07 12:52:44

Hello, I grew up with Mulberries and now that we have acreage, I would love to get some planted. I would like both purple and white. I am not sure where I can find them and if there are different varieties other than the color. Any advice is appreciated.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2019-07-07 15:20:02

Nina, the berry color does not necessarily indicate the species. The two in Minnesota are the native red mulberry (Morus rubra) and the non-native white mulberry (M. alba), which can be invasive so please do not cultivate it. Check with native plant nurseries to see if any carry the native.

Posted by: Crystal Saenz - Lakeville, MN
on: 2020-05-26 19:31:05

There is a huge tree in my backyard and babies sprouting elsewhere. Also another tree in my neighbor’s yard. I just learned it was invasive and would like to get rid of it.

Posted by: TC - Minneapolis
on: 2020-08-31 01:50:28

There are several of these growing on the border between my apartment complex and the business next door. I do not know which property they belong to, but there is no mistaking such oddly shaped leaves.

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