Thursday, 20 November 2014

Plant profile - Black Mulberry

Here we go round the mulberry bush so early in the morning.~nursery rhyme

One of the subjects I want to keep an "archive" of here on my blog is that of plant profiles.  For my first plant profile on this blog I have decided to profile Morus nigra, the Black Mulberry.

The black mulberry is and attractive medium to large deciduous tree growing to a height of 8 to 12 metres and can spread up to 20 metres. With close planting and hard pruning it can be grown as a hedge. The leaves are heart shaped, and have serrated edges, and green flowers appear with, or just after the new leaves. The flowers develop into fruit and change colour from red through to dark purplish black. The berries (which are really not berries but collective fruit) are 2 to 4 cm long.  I have one growing in my orchard and plan to put at least one more in when we build a chicken yard.

To avoid problems with the fruit staining clothes, it is a good idea to site mulberry trees away from paths, recreational areas, and clotheslines. Mulberries prefer a site in full sun. When planting it is a good idea to add compost to the back fill soil, especially if your soil is as poor and sandy as mine. Once planted, water in well with a seaweed solution to help the tree settle in.

I like to apply manure or compost, just before the spring bud bursts, that is just before the new leaves are ready to open. Many gardeners do not feed their mulberry trees once they have matured. However, my tree is only young so I will keep fertilising it for a few years at least and then I will see how it goes without fertiliser. After all, the mulberry trees I remember foraging from as a kid were never fertilised and produced abundantly.

Once the mulberry tree is grown it has low water needs and should survive on rainfall unless there is a prolonged drought. They are also tolerant of very moist soils, and mine has survived several periods of heavily wet soils over the last three years.

I intend to limit the height of my mulberry tree by pruning after each fruiting, and this also helps repeat fruiting throughout the year. I will add that I live in the sub-tropics so I do not know if pruning encourages repeat fruiting in temperate areas.  My mulberry fruits in autumn and spring.

The only real problems I have with my mulberry is the birds eating the fruit before I have a chance to pick them. Netting helps, and I have also found that picking mulberries “early in the morning", before the birds have a chance to get to them works too.

Mulberries can be eaten straight from the tree, or used in jams, smoothies, wines and pies. The fruit also can be frozen, just remember to remove stem and wash prior to freezing. Also the leaves are reportedly a nutritious fodder plant for chooks and dairy cows, I can't attest to this as I don't have either, hopefully one day……

The berries can also be used to make a dye. If you are interested in using mulberries for making dye you can find a "how to" here.

Mulberries apparently also make a great face mask according to this source.  I have tried this but so far have only left the mask on for ten minutes. Prior to putting on the mask I did a test patch to make sure my skin would not react to the mulberries. This is a very messy mask folks, and I would suggest being very careful the mashed mulberries do not slide/drop off your face onto something that could be stained.

Do you have any favourite recipes using mulberries?


  1. I planted 6 new mulberries about a month ago, before that I had one plant. I simply fell in love with this tree. It really is an amazing tree and the fruit is to die for.

  2. Six! Now I have mulberry envy. They are a terrific tree though, aren't they? I have wanted one for years, so I am very happy to finally have my own. Having my own mulberry tree brings back memories of all the hours I spent climbing in mulberry trees as a child, scrambling all over the branches for the biggest, sweetest mulberries.