2016

 
 

Few trees offer as much reward as this one, and yet, it is hardly ever planted. It is the Black mulberry, a member of the Moraceae family. The genus Morus is known mostly for three species, the White (Morus alba), the Red (Morus rubra) and the Black (Morus nigra). Of these three the Black mulberry is the smallest, and perhaps the best. Its quaint, rounded form is picturesque and of a size that recommends it to most gardens, growing at most to 30 feet and more often 20 to 25. It is long lived and develops a wonderfully wizened air about it. The foliage is thick, bright green and free of pests. And as a shade tree it is superb, cool and welcoming with no sap or twigs dropping. And it produces delicious fruit over a long season that requires no spraying. The only thing to keep in mind is to keep it distanced from pavement where the fruit may prove messy.

The Black mulberry has been cultivated across Eurasia since ancient times and has a long and venerable history. The various species can vary greatly in longevity but Black mulberries have been known to survive centuries, which would place this subject in the category of a Heritage tree. The 8 inch leaves of the Black mulberry are heart shaped, toothed and lobed, and often resemble a maple’s leaf and they develop nice autumn color. The flowers are small but interesting and are wind-pollinated. 

The Black mulberry is a handsome tree and does well as an ornamental owing to its short trunk and spreading, rounded form its width typically exceeding its height. But if only used as an ornamental, then one would want a male, to avoid any mess from the fruit, which brings up the Black mulberry’s other great asset. This is not only a handsome tree but one that will reward you with years of fruit production for very little effort. And of the three main types, it is the fruit of the Black mulberry that is considered to be the highest quality. These fruits, which resemble blackberries, are large and juicy, and a delicious balance of sweet and tart. The flavor is even likened to blackberry, but more exotic. Cross-pollination is not necessary so only one female tree need be planted. There are even cultivars selected for their superior fruit production, such as, "Oscar', "Wellington" and "Black Beauty". And not only can you enjoy the fruit fresh from the tree, but it is also made into jam and jelly, but if you can't get the fruit, don't worry, it won't go to waste as wildlife will eagerly gobble it up. It can tolerate various soil types including alkaline. Performance is best in full sun and good drainage is a must. The black mulberry is the least cold-hardy of the three, although cold tolerance does seem to depend on the clone. In general it tolerates temperatures only to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes it a good candidate for Australia, New Zealand the warmer parts of the UK and the entire southern half of the US. Black mulberries will not be found in the larger nurseries but more likely can be found in the specialty, mail-order nurseries.

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Black mulberry

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