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Morus rubra

Plant for its fast growth, its abundant gifts of food and fodder, its queer adaptability, and its love for riparian areas!

Hardy from Zones 5-9. 35-50 feet, 20-40 wide. Plant several for good pollination!

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We’re excited every June when we shake Mulberry trees along Blacks Run. One of us climbs into the twisted reddish-brown branches and the other holds open a blanket to catch the shower of sweet fruits, high in Vitamin C, iron, and antioxidants. Fruit is delicious fresh, cooked into jam, fermented into wine, or turned into shrub (a cordial made with vinegar). Friends run chickens underneath the trees to eat fallen fruit and leaves, both of which are also a great feed to fatten pigs.

Suckers and seedlings pop up along the streambank, and we end up leaving a lot of them. Some we might let mature for more fruit and we’ve pruned them for decent firewood, but we'll coppice most to encourage abundant leafy growth for mulch and animal fodder, a common practice in countries like India and Japan, where researchers report leaf meal increasing vitamin K and beta-carotene in chicken eggs. Mulberry leaves are 15-28% protein, high in minerals, and easily digestible (over 80%), which could all come in handy when pastures dry up in droughts. Fresh leaves also make a decent salad for humans, and Cherokee tribes have used leaves for a medicinal tea to treat dysentery and difficult urination. China has an ancient history of using Mulberry leaves to feed silk worms.

Mulberry loves riparian areas like Blacks Run, and we often see it growing under Sycamore, Silver Maple, and Ash. It also shows up in pastures and field edges where birds drop the seeds. Mulberries hold incredible diversity because they can either be monoecious (which means one tree has both male and female flowers) or dioecious (which means one tree has male, or staminate, flowers and another tree has female, or pistillate, flowers), and some dioecious Mulberry trees change sex from one to the other. An incredible example of the queerness of nature!

We propagate our Mulberry from seeds collected from hearty streamside trees.