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Morus rubra

Red Mulberry                                           

 

Janice Stork Corridor Park, 250 W. James Street, Lancaster PA (after en- tering the park, turn left at the play- ground and proceed just beyond the bridge)

 

Len Eiserer

In many regions including Lancaster County, Red Mulberry is being over- whelmed by its invasive cousin, White Mulberry (Morus alba), which is even more fecund than rubra.  Further, be- cause the two species readily hybri- dize, some scientists worry that Red will thereby be threatened with ex- tinction (non-indigenous species can bring about extinction of native flora by hybridization and repeated back- crossing).   

 

There is probably no better place to see Red Mulberry in the county than Stork Corridor Park because a lush thicket of Red -- anchored by two large specimens -- stretches about 50 feet along the park trail.  

 

Like White, Red Mulberry often has three different leaf forms on a single tree:  unlobed, single-lobed like a mitten, and double-lobed (see third photo).   Ways that Red can be dis- tinguished from White include:  

 

(1) Red's leaves are substantially larger (up to 10-11 inches compared to 4 for White); (2) Red's leaves feel hairy un- derneath and sandpapery on top, unlike the smoother White; (3) Red's larger leaf buds have black bands; (4) Red has larger fruit (greater than 1 inch) than White (3/4 inch); (5) Red's fruit is sparser; (6) Red's fruit ripens to Red or Deep Purple, while White's fruit may be Red, Purple or White; and (7) Red has much greater shade toler- ance.

 

This amazing species is loved by birds for its fruit.  In one study, 31 avian spe- cies fed on a single Red Mulberry tree.

 

[Note:  Red Mulberry is often difficult to find in the nursery trade; moreover, what is sold as Red is sometimes actu- ally White.  But four mail-order nurser- ies who offer Red are:  (1) Possibility Place Nursery (IL), www.possibility

place.com; (2) Outback Nursery (MN), www.outbacknursery.com; (3) Forest Farm (OR), www.forestfarm.com; and (4) Mail-Order Natives (FL), www.mail ordernatives.com.]