Pronounciation: MORE-us AL-ba
Landscape Use: Mostly a shade tree, often winter pollarded. Great tree for dense summer shade in turf covered parks. Pendulous cultivars used as accent of focal points most effectively around water.
Form & Character: Deciduous shade tree for mesic design themes, rounded to spreading, some cultivars have a weeping form. Mulberry is usually fast growing with a ragged and irregular branching habit. Thought of today as an old fashioned shade tree with limited value.
Growth Habit: Vigorous and upright, rounded to pendulous, 20 to 60 feet in height.
Foliage/Texture: Leaves alternate, medium green, serrate margins, glaborus to scabrous adaxial surface with pronounced patterns of veination on the abaxial surface, 3 to 6 inches long, turning yellow in late fall. Leaf shape can be highly variable ranging from entire and ovate with serrate margins to clefted with lobed margins; medium coarse texture.
Flowers & Fruits: Some texts report this tree to be monoecious with a unisexual flowering habit, however it is really polygamo-dioecious, and bee pollinated. Male flowers are catkins; female flowers produce a multicarpulate blackberry like (and tasting) fruit. Very sweet, but man it stains everything it contacts.
Seasonal Color: Inconsistent yellow fall color in Phoenix (this image is from December 2010). Fall color is more consistently golden yellow in seasonal climates.
Light: Full sun
Watering: Apply infrequent to regular water, especially during summer. Can endure drought.
Pruning: Depends on use, mulberry trees need intense structural pruning due to their undisciplined branch topology. This tree is often pollarded on a yearly basis.
Disease and pests: Trunk heart root and bacterial canker.
Additional comments: An oft misunderstood tree. Mulberry is an incredibly adaptable tree to a diverse range of conditions including drought. It has an aggressive and invasive root system. Mulberry was frequently planted in the Phoenix area before the days of air conditioning when people valued trees for their cooling effect in the landscape. The pollen is highly allergenic to some people. Most municipalities restrict (or have banned outright) landscape use of mulberry to the planting of non-flowering forms. There are many named cultivars of various forms ranging from spreading to upright to small and pendulous like 'Chaparral'. For use as an ornamental tree, plant fruitless forms. Use fruiting forms as fruit trees. Great JAM! Note though that unripe fruit and milky sap from all parts have been reported to cause hallucinations and stomach upset.
In south (India) and southeast Asia, silkworms are reared for silk production with mulberry leaves as a food source. Thai silk is especially famous for it's exotic luster, clothes made from it can last for centuries. In the U.S., the Shakers, a religious sect, once attempted several times to establish silk production at their colonies in Kentucky and other states. After failing several times with native tree species, the Shakers imported white mulberry trees, planting around the village and harvesting the leaves to feed the worms. The silk industry again failed, but the white mulberries became naturalized throughout the eastern United States and will naturalize in Phoenix only in mesic, flood irrigated portions of the city.