Red mulberry

Morus rubra
Family: Moraceae

Natural Historyred mulberry
Different leaf shapes of red mulberry
Photo credit: Larry Korhnak, University of Florida

Red mulberry is a member of the mulberry family (Moraceae). It is fire-intolerant, but may colonize post-fire sites when sufficient moisture is available. It is native to eastern North America, but while it is a common species in the United States, it is listed as an endangered species in Canada. Additionally, red mulberry is threatened by extensive hybridization due to the introduction of the invasive white mulberry (Morus alba), which originates from Asia.

Habitat & Range

Red mulberry is found from northern Ontario and Vermount south to southern Florida and west to southeast South Dakota and central Texas. This species grows in deep, moist soils in forested floodplains and valleys. It is a shade-tolerant species.

Wildlife Use

The attractive fruit of the red mulberry is eaten by a variety of wildlife species, including many birds and small mammals such as opossum, raccoon, fox squirrels, and gray squirrels.

Human Use

The wood of the red mulberry is of limited value, but is sometimes used for fence posts. The more common human use of the red mulberry is the making of jellies, jams, pies, and drinks from its fruit.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Size/Form: Red mulberry is a small tree reaching 30 to 70 feet in height. Branches spread to form a dense, rounded crown.
Leaves: Leaves are deciduous, simple and alternate. Three types of leaves can be found on a single tree: unlobed, mitten-shaped, and two to three lobed. All three can grow 3 to 9 inches in length. Heart-shaped base with a serrate margin. Upper surface is yellowish green and rough like sand paper with hairs on the underside. Leaves turn yellow in autumn.
Twigs: Twigs are slender and zigzag. Color starts off green and changes to red-brown with age. Leaf scars shield-shaped.
Bark: Reddish-brown and smooth when young. Mature trees have dark-brown flaky plates.
Flowers: The small flowers are pale green and appear in late spring.
Fruit: Small, red to dark purple drupes in clusters 1 inch in length.
Similar Trees on the Florida 4-H Forest Ecology Contest List:

 

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