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In the Magazine

Mulberry

In the Garden > Flowering Plants & Shrubs

If you are thinking about having silkworms for your kids then you need access to a mulberry tree to have a ready supply of leaves to feed the silkworms. (See 'Silkworms').

Details

Common name: Mulberry tree, black mulberry

Botanic name: Morus nigra. The genus name Morus is the Latin word for mulberry and the species name nigra means black.

Other species and named varieties:

  • M. macroura 'Shatoot' - smaller growing mulberry tree with long white fruit. It is said to be the best mulberry for home gardens as it is a small tree which does not produce fruit that stains. It is native to India, Pakistan, southern China and Sri Lanka.
  • M. alba 'Pendula' - The weeping mulberry is another smaller variety of mulberry and provides good food for silkworms and has greenish yellow fruit.
  • M. nigra 'Hicks Fancy' - This black mulberry variety is recommended for cool areas, ripe fruit is slightly red fruiting for many months.
  • M. nigra 'Black English' - Another black mulberry variety that has prolific fruit over a short season.
  • M. rubra 'Everbearing Downings' - A variety of the red mulberry which is red when ripe and comes from North America.

Climate (see map)

All areas except hot tropics and arid inland which requires extra water in summer.

Good points:

  • Fast growing tree when young which makes it an ideal choice for a new garden.
  • If a large tree is wanted, mulberries grow to a height of 8-12m (25 40') and spread as wide as 20m (60').
  • Deciduous tree that gets new leaves in early spring. The foliage is thick and dense with lush green leaves that will feed an army of silkworms.
  • Green flowers appear with the new leaves and develop into red fruit that later ripens to purple. Fruit forms from late spring through to summer and can be eaten straight from the tree.
  • Pick fruit when black and ripe as the fruit does not ripen off the tree.

Downsides:

  • The tree grows very large and can fill an entire backyard.
  • Dropping fruit can stain paths or cars so position over the lawn.
  • When birds eat the fruit their droppings can also leave a purple stain on washing on the line or the car.

Uses:

  • Fruit for the family and leaves to feed silkworms.
  • A beautiful tree when a big tree is needed in the backyard or a large landscape.
  • Deciduous, so gives shade in summer, foliage turns yellow in autumn and allows sun to shine through in winter.

Likes:

  • Deep, fertile soil.
  • Well-watered, especially through summer.
  • Protection from coastal winds.
  • It is tolerant of cold conditions (to -10C).
  • Needs some chilling to fruit well and so does not do well in the hot tropical zones.
  • Prune carefully in winter or after fruiting which will encourage new growth.
  • It is best to grow from a cutting in winter or buy a plant from the nursery which can be planted in soil enriched with manure.

Getting started:

Plants are available from nurseries throughout Australia from late spring into summer. Prices start at around $25 for a grafted and named cultivar in a 20cm/8" pot.

Copyright CTC Productions 2006

Disclaimer:  Burke's Backyard and Backyard Blitz do not accept payment to promote products. All recommendations are genuine. Details on the fact sheets are accurate at the time of publishing, however prices and contact information are not updated and may change.

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