red mulberry (Morus rubra)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMON NAMES:
red mulberry
mulberry
moral

 

SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: There are no scientific synonyms for
Morus rubra.

 

CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.

 

TAXONOMY: The currently accepted scientific name for red mulberry
is Morus rubra L. A geographic strain known as the Lampasas mulberry
occurs in Texas. Accepted varieties include the following: 1) Morus rubra
var. rubra and 2) Morus rubra var. tomentosa (Raf.) Bur. (woolly red
mulberry).

 

Red mulberry hybridizes with white mulberry (Morus alba), an exotic
species which has naturalized in the eastern United States.

 

NATIVE STATUS: Native, United States and Canada.

 

GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Red mulberry is a
native, deciduous, small tree with a spreading, rounded crown. Mature
height usually ranges from 15 to 70 feet (5-21 m). The bark is dark and
scaly, divided into irregular, elongate plates, and is 0.5 to 0.75 inches
(1.2-1.9 cm) thick. The inner bark is tough and fibrous. The roots are
shallow.

 

The national champion red mulberry reported from Michigan in 1981 is

72 feet (21.9 m) tall, 18.75 feet (5.7 m) in circumference, and has a 98-

foot (29.8-m) crown spread. Red mulberry usually lives 125 years or less.

 

REGENERATION PROCESS: Red mulberry is usually dioecious but
can be monoecious. The youngest seed-bearing age is usually around 10
years, but plants as young as 4 years have been reported to bear seed.
Optimum seed-bearing ages are between 30 and 85 years, and the max-
imum age for seed production is 125 years. Good seed crops are produced
every 2 to 3 years. Mature fruits fall near the tree, but most are consumed
before becoming fully mature. The seeds are dispersed by frugivores, most-
ly birds, after passing through their digestive tracts. Seeds are either sown
in fall without stratification or in spring after 30 to 90 days at 33 to 41
degrees Fahrenheit (1-5 deg C) in moist sand.

 

Red mulberry sprouts from the roots, and is reported to be artificially pro-
pagated by stem cuttings, budding, or layering. However, there has little
success in researchers confirming these claims.

 

SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Red mulberry grows well under a wide
variety of conditions. In the southern portion of its range, best growth
occurs on moist, well-drained soils of coves and floodplains. Red mulberry
grows on a variety of soils including clays, sands, and loams. It tolerates a
wide range of soil pH. It is often found in pastures and on field borders. In
eastern Nebraska red mulberry is codominant in frequently flooded river-
bottom forests, important in the well-drained soils of the transitional
forests upslope from the riverbottom, and minor in the drier upland
terrace forests.

 

Red mulberry grows best in the open, but is somewhat tolerant of shade.
In old-growth, mesic forests, red mulberry is found in mid-sized gaps (666
square yards [550 sq m]) more often than in small or large gaps.

 

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Red mulberry is found in both mid-succes-
sional and climax forests. In old fields in Illinois germination peaks occur-
red at high temperature/moderate moisture and moderate temperature/high

moisture conditions. Germination was highest in soils with intermediate

levels of organic matter. In Mississippi red mulberry seedlings establish
in reforested bottomland old fields. It is also found in reforested (83-year-
old and 110-year-old) old fields in North Carolina. It is not always an early
colonizer of old fields. A study of oldfield succession in Ohio found that

red mulberry was present in 90-year-old stands but not in younger stands.
The authors reported only one red mulberry seed germinating from soil
samples taken from a 200-year-old stand. Researchers speculate that red
mulberry is less successful in colonizing old fields than honeylocust
(Gleditsia triacanthos), red maple, ashes (Fraxinus spp.), hawthorns
(Crataegus spp.), and black cherry (Prunus serotina).

 

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Red mulberry catkins appear in April
and May. Fruits mature from June to August and fall from the tree when
fully ripe.

 

GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: The native range of red mulberry extends
from Massachussetts and southern Vermont west through the southern half
of New York to extreme southwestern Ontario, southern Michigan, central
Wisconsin and southeastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, southeastern Nebras-
ka, central Kansas, western Oklahoma, and central Texas; and east to south-
ern Florida.

 

Red mulberry is becoming increasingly scarce in the central portions of its
range, possibly due to a bacterial disease.

 

SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:

 

Tree specimens can be found on trails marked in red.

 

       Bleak House
      
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
       South Ridge/North Ridge
       Gap Run
       Snowden
       Woodpecker Lane

       Sherman's Mill
       Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain

       Fish Pond

 

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES: Red mulberry
usually occurs as scattered individuals in floodplain or cove forests,

where it is often an understory tree.

 

Common tree associates of red mulberry include American sycamore
(Platanus occidentalis) and in southern part of its range, silver maple
(Acer saccharinum). In the northern areas associates include boxelder
(Acer negundo) and white ash (Fraxinus americana). Associated under-
story species include roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii), flowering
dogwood (Cornus florida), swamp-privet (Forestiera acuminata), Nuttall
oak (Quercus nuttallii), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), and possumhaw (Ilex
decidua). Associated herbs include pokeweed (Phytolacca americana),
stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), eastern poison-ivy (Toxicodendron rad-
icans), and greenbriers (Smilax spp.).

 

IMPORTANCE AND USES: Many species of birds and small mammals
eat the fruits of red mulberry. Bird consumers include wood ducks, blue-
birds, indigo buntings, gray catbirds, eastern kingbirds, towhees, orchard
orioles, brown thrashers, summer tanagers, vireos, red-cockaded wood-
peckers, red-bellied woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers, and Lewis'
woodpeckers. Other consumers include opossums, raccoons, fox squirrels,
and gray squirrels. The twigs and foliage are browsed by white-tailed deer.
Beavers consume red mulberry bark.

 

Red mulberry is not noted as a soil stabilizer due to its shallow roots. How-
ever, mine sites that have been reclaimed (usually planted to grasses and
herbaceous perennials) are occasionally colonized by red mulberry. It may
become dominant on these sites. Red mulberry colonization on unreclaimed
mine sites has not been reported.

 

Red mulberry wood is light, soft, weak, close-grained, and durable. It is
of little commercial importance. Current and past uses include fenceposts,
farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior finish, and caskets.

 

Red mulberry is planted for its fruit and as an ornamental. The fruit is used
to make jams, jellies, pies, and beverages. The fruits have also been used as
feed for hogs and chickens. Native Americans used the fibrous bark to make
cloth.

 

Red mulberry is not noted as a soil stabilizer due to its shallow roots. How-
ever, mine sites that have been reclaimed (usually planted to grasses and
herbaceous perennials) are occasionally colonized by red mulberry. It may
become dominant on these sites. Red mulberry colonization on unreclaimed
mine sites has not been reported.

 

Red mulberry wood is light, soft, weak, close-grained, and durable. It is
of little commercial importance. Current and past uses include fenceposts,
farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior finish, and caskets.

 

Red mulberry is planted for its fruit and as an ornamental. The fruit is used
to make jams, jellies, pies, and beverages. The fruits have also been used as
feed for hogs and chickens. Native Americans used the fibrous bark to make
cloth.

 

 

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