Characteristics of Red Mulberry Trees (Morus rubra) in the Wild

Morus rubra
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) is a species of mulberry native to eastern and central North America. Its distribution extends from southern Ontario, Minnesota, and Vermont to southern Florida, and west as far southeast as South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and central Texas.

In Canada, the red mulberry is listed as an endangered species, but the tree is still abundant in the Americas. Real red mulberry is very susceptible to natural hybridization with the invasive White Mulberry (Morus alba) introduced from Asia.

The first English colonists to explore eastern Virginia in 1607 mention an abundance of mulberry trees and their fruit, which were eaten (sometimes boiled) by the native Powhatan tribe.

The Choctaws weave clothes from the bark of the inner branches of the red mulberry tree.


Characteristics of Red Mulberry Leaf

Morus rubra Leaf
Source: hill

The leaves are alternate, heart-shaped, 7-18 cm long and 8-12 cm wide (twice as large as white mulberry leaves), with a shallow notch at the base, usually unlobed on mature trees although often with 2-3 lobes, mainly on young trees, and with finely jagged margins.

In contrast to white mulberry leaves which have a shiny top surface, the top surface of the red mulberry leaves looks rough, the texture is similar to fine sandpaper, and the bottom is covered with fine hairs. The petiole secretes a milky sap when cut. Leaves turn yellow in autumn.


Characteristics of Red Mulberry Flower

Morus rubra Flower
Source: Mullen

The flowers are small, yellowish-green, or reddish-green. Male and female flowers are usually on different trees although they can occur on the same tree.


Characteristics of Red Mulberry Fruit

Morus rubra Fruit

Red mulberry fruit appears in clusters, small, about 2-3 cm long. It is pale green at first, and when ripe it becomes red or dark purple.


Characteristics of Red Mulberry Tree

Morus rubra Tree
Source: Is My Father’s World

The red mulberry tree is a deciduous tree, which can grow to a height of 10-15 meters (rarely 20 meters), with a trunk diameter of up to 50 cm. It is a medium tree that can live up to 100 to 125 years.

Red mulberry is resistant to sub-zero temperatures, relatively resistant to drought, pollution, and poor soil, although white mulberry is harder.


As with most other mulberry trees, red mulberry is also easy to propagate by cuttings or grafts. The cutting method is the most commonly used for mass planting or cultivation.


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