Here we go round the mulberry bush

Morus alba (White Mulberry)

There are two common mulberry tree species, the red mulberry (Morus rubra) and the white mulberry (Morus alba).

Both species of this deciduous plant have roughly oval, toothed, alternate leaves.

Ripe mulberries come in different colours: red, white, pink and black.

These are attributed to the two different species and their hybrids.

Red mulberry

  • Reaches a height of about 20 m.
  • Rough reddish-brown bark.
  • Leaves feel like sandpaper underneath.
  • The fruit is made up of lots of berries stuck together, each with its own seed.
  • The fruit is long-oval in shape, and hangs from a short, slender fruit stalk.

White mulberry

  • Native to northern China.
  • Widely cultivated to feed the silmworms needed for the commercial production of silk.
  • Grows up to 12m tall.
  • Rough, lighter, ochre-gray bark and with spreading branches. The bark has distinctive vertical cracks or furrows with an occasional orange-brown streak between the cracks.
  • Leaves are smooth underneath.
  • The flower is also notable for the rapid release of its pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound.
  • Mature white mulberries are soft, moist and sticky. Unripe berries are dry and hard.

Mulberries have been adapted to a very wide variety of local conditions. Japan has about 700 different types. The trees can grow from cool temperate to warm tropical regions, from dry to moist areas, from sea-level to as high as 3,300 metres.

White Mulberry (Morus alba) is the principal food source for the silkworm, Bombyx mori. Mulberries are edible and the bark is used in many types of specialized papers.

Morus australis (Japanese/Korean Mulberry) Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Japanese Mulberry (Morus australis) is distributed over a wide terrain (in limestone areas, forest margins, mountain slopes, fallow land, scrub in valleys) and areas of East Asia including Anhui, Fujian, Gansu, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Liaoning, Shaanxi, Shandong, Shanxi, Sichuan, Taiwan, SE Xizang, Yunnan, Zhejiang, Japan, Korea. Bhutan and India. – Source: The Japanese Mulberry – Morus australis Poir. Moraceae

References:

“Here we go round the mulberry bush” (Straits Times)

The Japanese Mulberry – Morus australis Poir. Moraceae – Mulberry or Fig Family, a.k.a. the Korean Mulberry

The Mulberry Tree & Its Silkworm Connection (by Dr. T. Ombrello – UCC Biology Department)

Mulberry trees on the ancient uses of mulberry and connection with fish farming

Morus alba

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