Morus rubra

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Morus rubra
Morus rubra 250389.png
1809 illustration[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Moraceae
Genus: Morus
M. rubra
Binomial name
Morus rubra
L. 1753
Morus rubra range.png
Native range

Morus rubra, commonly known as the red mulberry, is a species of mulberry native to eastern and central North America. It is found from Ontario, Minnesota, and Vermont south to southern Florida, and west as far as southeastern South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and central Texas. There have been reports of isolated populations (very likely naturalized) in New Mexico, Idaho, and British Columbia.[2]

Common in the United States, it is listed as an endangered species in Canada,[3][4] and is susceptible to hybridization with the invasive white mulberry (M. alba), introduced from Asia.[5]


Red mulberry is a small to medium-sized deciduous tree, growing to 10–15 metres (35–50 feet) tall, rarely 21 m (70 ft), with a trunk up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) in diameter. It can live up to 125 years.[6]

The leaves are alternate, 7–18 cm (2+34–7 in) long (rarely to 36 cm or 14+14 in) and 8–12 cm (3+144+34 in) broad (about twice as big as the white mulberry's leaves),[3] simple, broadly cordate, with a shallow notch at the base, typically unlobed on mature trees although often with 2–3 lobes, particularly on young trees, and with a finely serrated margin.[3] Unlike the leaves of white mulberry (M. alba) which have a lustrous upper surface, the red mulberry leaf upper surface is noticeably rough, similar in texture to fine sandpaper, and the underside is densely covered with soft hairs.[7][8] The leaf petiole exudes milky sap when severed.[9] The leaves turn yellow in autumn.

The flowers are relatively inconspicuous: small, yellowish green or reddish green and opening as leaves emerge. Male and female flowers are usually on separate trees although they may occur on the same tree.

The fruit is a compound cluster of several small achenes surrounded by a fleshy calyx, similar in appearance to a blackberry, 2–3 cm (341+14 in) long. It is initially pale green, ripening to red or dark purple.[3]


Red mulberry is hardy to subzero temperatures, relatively hardy to drought, pollution, and poor soil, though the white mulberry is hardier.[10]

The berries are widely sought after by birds in spring and early summer in North America; as many as 31 species of birds have been recorded visiting a fruiting tree in Arkansas.[11]


The berries are edible and sweet.[12] The wood may be dried and used for smoking meats with a flavor that is mild and sweet.

Some Native American tribes used an infusion of the bark as a laxative or purgative. Infusions of the root were used to treat weakness and urinary ailments. The sap was applied to the skin to treat ringworm.[3] Choctaw people wove clothing from the inner bark of young M. rubra and similar shoots.[13]

The first English colonists to explore eastern Virginia in 1607 mentioned the abundance of both mulberry trees and their fruit, which was eaten (sometimes boiled) by the native Powhatan tribes. Today, mulberries are eaten raw, used in the fillings of pastries, and fermented into wine.


  1. ^ Duhamel du Monceau, H.L., Traité des arbres et arbustes, Nouvelle édition [Nouveau Duhamel], vol. 4: t. 23 (1809) [P.J. Redouté] drawing: P.J. Redouté lithograph Tassaert family: Moraceae subfamily: Moroideae tribe: Moreae 202746 ruber, rubra, rubrum 202746 ruber, rubra, rubrum Illustration contributed by: Real Jardín Botánico, Madrid, Spain
  2. ^ "Morus rubra". County-level distribution map from the North American Plant Atlas (NAPA). Biota of North America Program (BONAP). 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d e Wunderlin, Richard P. (1997). "Morus rubra". In Flora of North America Editorial Committee (ed.). Flora of North America North of Mexico (FNA). Vol. 3. New York and Oxford – via, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
  4. ^ Ambrose, J. D., & Kirk, D. (2004). National Recovery Strategy for Red Mulberry (Morus rubra L.). Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Guelph, Ontario, Canada
  5. ^ Burgess, K. S.; Morgan, M.; Deverno, L.; Husband, B. C. (2005). "Asymmetrical introgression between two Morus species (M. alba, M. rubra) that differ in abundance" (PDF). Molecular Ecology. University of Toronto, Barrett Lab. 14 (17): 3471–3483. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2005.02670.x. PMID 16156816. S2CID 31129733. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-21.
  6. ^ "RED MULBERRY Morus rubra L." (PDF). Retrieved 2022-03-12.
  7. ^ M. P. Nepal; D. J. Wichern (2013). "Taxonomic Status Of Red Mulberry (Morus Rubra, Moraceae) At Its Northwestern Boundary" (PDF). Proceedings of the South Dakota Academy of Science. 92: 19. Retrieved 2019-07-01.
  8. ^ Farrar, J.L. (1995). Trees in Canada. Fitzhenry and Whiteside/Canadian Forest Service, Markham, Ontario.
  9. ^ "Red Mulberry". 6 July 2018. Archived from the original on 6 July 2018. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  10. ^ "MULBERRY Fruit Facts". 15 June 2006. Archived from the original on 15 June 2006. Retrieved 12 March 2022.
  11. ^ Jackson, J. L.; Kannan, R. (2018). "Avian frugivory in a fruiting mulberry tree (Morus rubra) in Arkansas". J. Arkansas Acad. Sci. 72: 38–46.
  12. ^ "Morus rubra Red Mulberry, Common Mulberry, White Mulberry PFAF Plant Database". Plants for a Future. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  13. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1994) [1980]. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Western Region (Chanticleer Press ed.). Knopf. p. 426. ISBN 0394507614.

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