Environment Planet Earth Understanding and Classifying Mulberry Trees By Steve Nix Steve Nix Writer University of Georgia Steve Nix is a member of the Society of American Foresters and a former forest resources analyst for the state of Alabama. Learn about our editorial process Updated June 1, 2019 ikon/Pixabay/Public Domain Share Twitter Pinterest Email Planet Earth Outdoors Weather Conservation Red mulberry or Morus rubra is native and widespread in the eastern U.S. It is a rapid-growing tree of valleys, flood plains, and moist, low hillsides. This species attains its largest size in the Ohio River Valley and reaches its highest elevation (600 meters or 2,000 feet) in the southern Appalachian foothills. The wood is of little commercial importance. The tree's value is derived from its abundant fruits, which are eaten by people, birds, and small mammals. The white mulberry, Morus alba, is native to China and has several differences including size, foliage, and color of fruit. Fast Facts Scientific name: Morus rubra Pronunciation: MOE-russ RUBE-ruh Family: Moraceae USDA hardiness zones: 3a through 9 Origin: Native to North America Uses: Bonsai; shade tree; specimen; no proven urban tolerance Availability: Somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree Native Range Red mulberry extends from Massachusetts and southern Vermont west through the southern half of New York to extreme southern Ontario, southern Michigan, central Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, central Kansas, western Oklahoma and central Texas; and east to southern Florida. It is also found in Bermuda. Description Size: 60 feet tall; 50 foot spread Branches: Dense branches that droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for clearance; should be trained to a single leader. Leaf: Alternate, simple, broadly ovate to roughly orbicular, pointed, 3 to 5 inches long, serrate margin, even base, rough and fuzzy undersides Trunk and Bark: Showy trunk; Gray colors with flattened and scaly ridges. Flower and Buds: Small and inconspicuous flowers with off-center buds; usually dioecious but can be monoecious (both male and female flowers on different branches); male and female flowers are stalked axillary pendulous catkins and appear in April and May Fruit: Reddish black and resembling blackberries; reach full development from June to August; composed of many small drupelets developed from separate female flowers ripening together Breakage: Susceptible to breakage either at the crotch due to poor collar formation, or the wood itself is weak and tends to break. Special Uses Red mulberry is noted for its large, sweet fruits. A favored food of most birds and a number of small mammals including opossum, raccoon, fox squirrels, and gray squirrels the fruits also are used in jellies, jams, pies, and drinks. Red mulberry is used locally for fence posts because the heartwood is relatively durable. Other uses of the wood include farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior finish, and caskets. In landscape use. the species is considered invasive and fruits cause a mess on walks and driveways. For this reason, only fruitless cultivars are recommended. Differentiating White Mulberry When compared to red mulberry, the white mulberry has several key differences: Size: Smaller, at 40 feet tall and 40 foot spread Branches: Less dense with fewer branches Leaf: Brighter green, smoother, and more rounded with uneven bases Trunk and Bark: Brown with thick and braiding ridges Flower and Buds: Centered buds Fruit: Less sweet, smaller, and lighter in color, with creamy brownish white berries that start as green, purple, or even black; only females bear fruit Red and White Mulberry Hybrids Red mulberry hybridizes frequently with white mulberry, which has become naturalized and somewhat more common than its native sister throughout parts of the Eastern United States.