How to Manage and Identify Mulberry

Red mulberry
ikon/Pixabay/Public Domain

Red mulberry or Morus rubra is widespread in the Eastern United States. It is a rapid-growing tree of valleys, flood plains, and low moist hillsides. This species attains its largest size in the Ohio River Valley and reaches its highest elevation (600 m or 2,000 ft) 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.


Scientific name: Morus rubra
Pronunciation: MOE-russ RUBE-ruh
Common name(s): Red Mulberry
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.


Leaf: Alternate, simple, broadly ovate to roughly orbicular, 3 to 5 inches long, serrate margin

Flower: Small and inconspicuous

Trunk/bark/branches: Droop as the tree grows, and will require pruning for clearance; showy trunk; should be trained to a single leader.

Breakage: Susceptible to breakage either at the crotch due to poor collar formation, or the wood itself is weak and tends to break.

Flower and Fruit:

Red mulberry is mostly dioecious but can be monoecious, with male and female flowers on different branches of the same plants. Both male and female flowers are stalked axillary pendulous catkins and appear in April and May. The blackberry-like fruit reaches full development from June to August. Each fruit is composed of many small drupelets which develop from separate female flowers ripening together.

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 fenceposts because the heartwood is relatively durable. Other uses of the wood include farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior finish, and caskets.

Red and White Mulberry Hybrids:

Red mulberry hybridizes frequently with white mulberry (Morus alba), a native of China which has become naturalized throughout parts of the Eastern United States.

In the Landscape:

The species is invasive and fruits cause a mess on walks and driveways. For this reason, only fruitless cultivars are recommended.