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Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Mulberry Mystery

In one corner of our backyard, there is a section that often gets left to become tall and weedy because my children want a piece of land left alone to grow naturally. Last summer on one of the occasions when my husband did mow it, he found a small sapling tree, about two to three feet tall. He asked me whether to did it up or leave it to grow. We elected to let it grow because it was an attractive tree in a good place in our yard for a tree to be.
This spring it has grown to this height... and much to my surprise it had berries on it!
I had actually never seen a tree with berries on it, but I knew that with little ones I had to find out whether these were poisonous or not. I went on an Internet search for berry bearing trees and since there are not too many of them, it did not take me long to narrow it down to a Mulberry tree.
Mulberry leaves vary considerably on the same tree and almost seems like it is impossible for all these different type leaves to be on the same tree occur in three general shapes– entire, mitten, and three-lobed, much like Sassafras tree leaves but they bear large blackberry like berries.
I believe I have identified it correctly as a White Mulberry, but it could possibly be a hybrid of a White and Red Mulberry, which is very common.

Looking at the fruits did not help my identification of which it was as both the Red and White Mulberry trees have similar looking fruit. There is a common misconception that the fruit of the White Mulberry tree is white, but that is rarely true. Our berries are red until fully ripe when they turn black. Red Mulberry fruit is always nearly black when ripe, while those of White Mulberry may be white, red, or deep purple.
I learned that the White Mulberry is usually found in open, sunny sites. In contrast the Red Mulberry is rarely found away from the shade of mature, moist woods. Well that made me think we have a White Mulberry as it is most certainly not in the woods, but in an open, sunny spot of our yard.
I learned that the Red Mulberry is native to this area but that the White Mulberry came to us from China, where it is native. For thousands of years, it was cultivated as the preferred food source for the silk worm. The art of silk-making spread to Japan, then to India, and eventually into Europe. Although earlier attempts to establish mulberry in the New World failed, it was introduced in the Long Island area in 1827, being touted as the basis of a great commercial enterprise. Word spread quickly and White Mulberry was eagerly planted throughout the eastern United States. Costs of producing silk, however, were too great and the industry failed. Unfortunately for some as it is considered a nuisance, White Mulberry flourished and spread quickly here. It is not desired for the same reason it spread; birds and mammals relish Mulberry fruit and helped spread the seeds through their feces (leaving purplish stains everywhere.)

Looking at the leaves, makes one think my tree is either a White Mulberry or a hybrid. It has the characteristics of the White Mulberry for although the leaves are bright green and smooth, it does have some of the characteristics of the Red mulberry because its leaf margins (edges) are finely serrated. White mulberry leaf margins usually have larger, more rounded teeth.
I can't tell any distinguishing features from the buds as I only paid attention to this tree once it started bearing fruit. White Mulberry bark has thick, braiding ridges that are tannish-brown where as the Red Mulberry bark is grayish with flattened, scaly ridges. Well, from looking at the bark it seems more like a Red Mulberry, but that could be because my tree is still young. Most of the bark pictures I could find were of more mature trees.


It seems my tree has characteristics of both types, so I believe it may be a hybrid, but more of the characteristics seem to be of the White Mulberry, so if I had to narrow it down to one or the other, I would pick the White Mulberry.

Then, what do you suppose I found hanging over my front yard from my neighbor's yard?
Yes, another Mulberry tree.

At least I knew this time what kind of tree it was.

About how to make Mulberry Syrup here.
Spring Tree Study

3 comments:

  1. What a great way to learn more about a tree right in your own backyard! It is a very nice looking tree too and one that is new to me as well.

    Thanks for sharing your curiosity and your adventure.

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  2. Oh the joy and excitement of finding new tree! What beautiful berries! Thanks for your wonderfully informative post to teach us!

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  3. Wonderful study! We have a mystery tree in our back yard as well. We tried to identify it last year and ruled a few out, but did not positively identify it. Maybe now that it is bigger, we should try again. :)

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