I’ve been a fruit nut for a long time, and throughout that time have had a particular attraction to uncommon fruits (about which I wrote a book). Evidence of the latter began with the planting of a mulberry tree in my front yard when I lived in Wisconsin. The plant and fruit seemed intriguing; little did I know, back then, that mulberry trees were growing all over the place. Right now, I could probably bump into a dozen wild trees within a quarter mile of here, or within a quarter mile of my old domicile in Wisconsin. Mulberry is the second most common “weed” tree in New York City.
Commonness is one reason that mulberry doesn’t “get no respect.” Also, fruits from run-of-the-mill trees are too cloying for most tastes. Still, the fruits are abundant, local, organic, and sustainably “grown,”
and some trees have better than run-of-the-mill flavor. The latter are available as named varieties.
Which is why I could be seen today bending flexible poles aver two small trees. Mulberry fruits are a favorite of birds; I needed to protect the fruits. The two trees — the varieties Oscar and Kokusu — allegedly bear delicious fruits. Taste of the fruit from these small trees will confirm whether or not they are worth keeping and growing into larger trees. If worth keeping, the trees, once large, will bear enough for the birds and humans.
My bird protection was easily erected. The ends of the flexible poles, in short sections held together by an inner elastic cord (from www.gardeners.com), like tent poles, went into foot-long pieces of PVC pipe that I pounded into the ground. Clothespins hold bird-netting in place on the poles and metal staples pinned the netting to the ground.
|‘Illinois Everbearing’ fruit
Three species of mulberry are commonly eaten: white mulberry, Morus alba; red mulberry, M. rubra; and black mulberry, M. nigra. (Fruit color has nothing to do with species names; many white mulberry trees bear black fruits.) In the eastern part of the U.S., we find our native red mulberry as well as white mulberry, introduced from Asia in the early 19th century, as well as hybrids of the two. Black mulberry thrives best in Mediterranean-type climates.
Right next to my two little trees I have an older mulberry, the variety Illinois Everbearing, a natural hybrid of the white and red mulberry species that does indeed bear over many weeks. My Oscar tree is probably a variety of white mulberry. Kokuso is sometimes listed as its own species, M. latifolia. At any rate, all three varieties are supposed to be hardy and delicious.
I can vouch for Illinois Everbearing because I’ve grown it for a number of years. Although hardy, branches often die back because they don’t realize, towards the end of summer, that it’s time to slow down growth and toughen up for winter. I make it slow down as summer wanes by letting grass and weeds grow high at its feet, sucking up excess moisture and nutrients.
The best-tasting of the mulberries, I’d even stick my neck out so far as to say perhaps the best-tasting of all fruits(!), is the black mulberry species. The berries aren’t particularly big but they pack enough flavor that they could be the size of an orange. Their flavor has a nice balance of sweetness and tartness along with some . . . je ne sais quoi. Mulberryness?
Problem is that black mulberry is not hardy here. I’ve grown it in a pot, but a potted plant has only a limited amount of stems on which to hang fruits so yields are very low. I planted one right in the ground in the greenhouse a few years ago, planning to espalier it as directed in my book, The Pruning Book: “To train a
|M. nigra in greenhouse, prior to its demise
mulberry to a tidy form, develop a main set of limbs, then prune branches growing off these limbs to six leaves in July to make short, fruiting spurs.” Not so! I garnered that pruning information from a British book, and it’s evidently is another gardening Britishism that doesn’t work on this side of the pond, probably due to differences in daylength and/or summer temperatures. My tree has done nothing but grow and grow, with little fruit on the abundant, lanky stems.
This week I ripped the black mulberry out of the greenhouse and planted, in its stead, a fig to accompany the three other in-ground figs there.
A few weeks ago, before the black mulberry awoke from its winter slumber, I cut off a branch and grafted it onto a similarly sized branch of the Illinois
|Morus nigra fruits
Everbearing tree. Black mulberry isn’t supposed to be cold-hardy outdoors here, but who knows? It’s a very long shot. As I said, I can’t believe everything I read, even if I wrote it. This time I hope that all of us are wrong.
“If worth keeping, the trees, once large, will bear enough for the birds and humans.”
That’s sort of the concept that I am shooting for on my property with all my fruit bearing plants. The expense, hassle, and appearance of all the netting that would be required to preserve all of my harvest for my family just doesn’t seem worth it. Doesn’t it make more sense to just plant twice or even more of what I think I want so that the birds can get theirs and my family can get ours? I’ve got plenty of space, so that’s the concept I am attempting as I get started. (I’m on year 2 so at this point the birds are getting far more than I am from my still small plants.)
I just wonder if over time my abundant harvest will attract more and more birds to the point that the consumption will always meet the harvest. But netting is just a killer for me — what a maddening, unattractive, expensive hassle. What are your thoughts and experiences on netting and sharing the harvest?
I think whether or not giving the birds some free eats satisfies them or leads to more birds depends on the kinds of fruits available. The only fruits that I net are my strawberries and blueberries. Birds are especially fond of blueberries — but so am I.
Big difference between sharing with a few local birds… and flock birds — like the Cedar Wax Wing — that will wipe out your whole crop in a couple hours.
We have wild mulberries on our farm and although I rarely eat them the grandchildren and birds hit the tree regularly. We leave them because the great thing about them is that the chickens love them and as long as there are mulberries the birds stay away from my strawberries. We do have to remain vigilant about cutting/weeding them out of the flower beds and gardens though.
Yeh, mulberry seedlings pop up everywhere here, from wild plants and from my own plants.
How is that done??
Is that in winter (dormant)??
Place the baggy over the whole plant??
What about the new propagation methods of bagging it on a tree to get roots?
‘Where would I get Everbearing?
Give me a list of where to buy the BEST kinds.
Bagging on the tree to get fruits is known as air layering. It generally requires more than one growing season — but not always — and is often used on tropical or houseplants. It doesn’t work if the air layer has to go through a cold winter outdoors.
“Everbearing” mulberry. Dearch for “Illinois Everbearing,” which is widely available.
Hi have a young Grafted Illinois everbearing that really sprouted this its second year. My neigbourhood is pestered though with wild mulberry. I would like to know if you Morus Nigra graft survives!
I’m not hopeful but will keep you all posted.
We’ve got Morus rubrus and Illinois Everbearing growing. Illinois wins hands down. I’d love to propagate it but I’m not sure how. Suggestions would be appreciated.
Wild mulberry seedlings come up all over the place here. It’s easy to graft dormant scions of Illinois Everbearing onto these seedlings in early spring, just as buds on the seedlings are swelling, using a simple whip graft. You can dig up seedlings for grafting or just graft them in place, if you want a tree there.
No wild seedlings here but I think I’ll graft some Illinois onto a number of our M. rubrus trees as an insurance policy against the Illinois dying.
Can cuttings be taken from the Illinois?
Hi Mike, I have taken dormant cuttings and potted them with a baggy over them and placed on a seed mat with 100 percent success several times. Give it a shot!
Where are you that you have no wild mulberries?
Mulberries can be rooted from cuttings, with moderate difficulty.
125 km northeast of Toronto, Ontario. M. rubrus grows here but there’s very little of it in the wild. It’s on the endangered list – http://www.rom.on.ca/ontario/risk.php?doc_type=fact&id=39
Have you tried ‘Javid Iranian Black Gem’ Black mulberry ? It is said to be more cold hardy than others.
Thanks to your comments on fruit taste in your book, i’m planning to buy several mulberry trees next year, including a black mulberry from eastern Europe named Aalst. No sos hort on fruit size : http://web.archive.org/web/20090228072304/http://www.coplfr.org/articles33a38/article33pag40.html ! I’m in zone 7b, it should not be a big deal.
Interesting, and tempting. I may have to give it a try in a very sheltered place, against the south wall of my brick house.
My Noir de Spain black mulberry, in a pot, is ripening now.
Lee, I was looking at that plant in the burnt ridge catalog minutes ago. Hence my google search that brought me here ( I do own your book though). How did it do? I live in zone 6 dedham mass. My house is white sided and i don’t want to plant against it. Maybe against the south of my old shed? Fruit worth it?
The fruit is delicious and large — definitely worth it. It’s hardiness is questionable, though. Mine is in a large pot. I’m going to propagate a new plant from my plant, and risk planting that new plant outdoors. I’ll keep the old plant in the pot as a backup.
are you asking about noir de Spain or Illinois everbering?
Nicholas or enyone,
Where can one buy Alast mulberry? or the other you mentioned?
I got my plants from http://www.raintreenursery.com but other nurseries also carry them. What is Alast?
would love to get some cuttings to propagate do you have the address I can order some . I am in zone 6 in pittsburgh pa. I have seen and eatten them as they grew all over here , I would rather have a less evasive type in black
They are very hard to propagate from cuttings.
I got one of those hydroponic cloners and it can root mulberry cutting very easily. Green cuttings are within 2 weeks.
How about some more information on “one of those hydroponic cloners.” I know generally what they are but would be interested in your particular setup. And your timing for taking the green cuttings.
Mulberry is easy to root with bottom heat and standard plastic baggy setup. I have done illinois, weeping and dwarf varieties all vaguely identified i know but i think mulberry is easy.
As far as propagating mulberry trees including Illinois Everbearing and Morus Alba, I have had excellent success with cuttings from first year wood such that are obtained in the course of regular pruning, usually aided by a dip in rooting compound. Be patient! I have seen the cuttings leaf and even flower and fruit before a sufficient root system was formed, pulling the cuttings before they were ready and losing them that way.
Thanks. I’ll try rooting them and being patient.
Hi. This was a nice post. Thanks.
We’re looking for a hardy, attractive black mulberry tree that will produce lots of berries and survive the cold winters of South Dakota. Any specific suggestions?
Illinois Everbearing is a tasty, hardy mulberry that would be my top recommendation. Geraldi Dwarf is also tasty, a small tree that is hardy to Zone 5 (minus 20 degrees F.). For more, see the mulberry chapter in my book “Uncommon Fruits for every Garden.”
I grew up enjoying mulberries on my grandparents’ Illinois farm. I now live on 9 acres in SW Wisconsin (Darlington area) and would like my own tree. A web-site informs me that Illinois Everbearing should be planted in zones 5-8 and I am in zone 4. However, your commentary refers to Wisconsin, so I am hopeful I can still do this. Any advice? Also, when should I plant?
I’ll defer to Lee Reich, writing in his book “Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden” 🙂 in which Illinois Everbearing is stated to be hardy to minus 30°F, which is zone 4. One thing I have found with this variety is that it sometimes suffers some dieback on shoots that keep growing vigorously too late in the season. The way around this problem is to let grass or weeds grow up around the tree after midsummer to suck up excess water and nutrients and thus slow and toughen the mulberry’s growth. Kokuso is another hardy and tasty mulberry although not bearing over the long season like Illinois Everbearing.
I love the everbearing Mulberry here in South Florida. I have 2 and they fruit the year around. I have them in 15 gallon containers currently. Each produce approximately 10 berries per day. Both are young 11/2 year old and 5 feet. I am currently attempting propagating cuttings in a 5 gallon container. Since May 31, cuttings are starting leaf, all leaves were removed and shoots have begun in branch locations. I’ve attempted 11 cuttongs and if 4 or 5 root I will be satisfied. LOVE those little fruits. They remind me of growing up in Indiana. Growth in 5 days is encouraging.
If I lived in Florida, I’d grow Morus nigra, among the most delicious of ALL fruits. Whitman Farms (www.whitmanfarms.com), among other places, has them. It’s not hardy here, so I grow it in a pot.
I just discovered this forum I’d like to add a comment on my mullbery trees where I live near Gothenburg, Sweden. I have one Illinois Everbearing and one ‘Italian’ (also rubraxalba) mulberry tree planted outdoors, and the IE berries are ripening now. I tasted a couple today, and they do have something similar to Morus nigra berries (both sweet and a bit sour). They are the best M alba hybrid I have tasted so far. The hardiness is also no problem here. I also have a Morus nigra in a greenhouse. It gave ,maybe 20-30 berries this year, and they taste fantastic. Thanks for many useful tips in “Uncommon fruits for every garden”!
Lee, multiple reputable sellers say the Morus nigra is hardy to zone 5, but is see others put it at zone 7. I am zone 5, so it really matters. Any way to know for certain? Worse, I want it in a container . . . http://www.floridahillnursery.com/fruit-n-berries-plants-c-4/dwarf-mulberry-dwarf-everbearing-morus-nigra-live-plant-p-411
I am skeptical about that being Morus nigra. I also doubt that Morus nigra is hardy in Zone 5. (I grow mine, which is truly M. nigra, in a pot.) I friend recently showed me his “hardy” M. nigra. To me, the leaves, which are very distinctive for this species, looked like those of M. alba. M. nigra leaves are thick and leathery, dark green, rough, and heart shaped. M. alba leaves are more mitten shaped, lighter green, thinner, and smoother. And M. nigra fruits taste much better.
Any update on the Kokuso berries?
Kokuso mulberries have very good flavor. The birds loved them and got them all.
Do you think an Illinois Everbearing mulberry tree could be kept at 10 feet high with summer pruning? If not, how about fifteen feet? I have space limitations and I think fifteen feet tall and wide are my limits. I’m an experienced pruner on other kinds of fruit trees.
A couple of months ago, I attended a mulberry tasting event at Wolfskill Experimental Farm operated by the University of California, Davis. There were several varieties of mulberries including Illinois Everbearing and Oscar. Oscar was sweeter, but Illinois Everbearing had a more “complex” flavor while also being nicely sweet. Most of the attendees including myself preferred Illinois Everbearing.
Thanks for your consideration and have a wonderful Fall.
Regards, Keith Silva
Yes, it could be kept that small pruning.
Did the mulberry tasting event include any Morus nigra fruits?
I don’t think there were any Morus nigra fruit. I focused on Packistan, Oscar, and Illinois Everbearing which were all there. There were also several varieties with only numbers for names. There were no Noir of Spain nor James II.
Thanks for the pruning information. Have a great Fall.
How did the three Pakistan, Oscar and Illinois compare with each other? I have the Pakistan, Persian, white and weeping mulberry with plans on buying the Oscar. I don’t think Illinois does well in the San Diego area where I live. Of the ones I have I think the Persian has the most complex flavor followed by the Pakistan, then weeping and the white being the most cloying, but still enjoy all of them.
There were no morus nigra fruits to taste at that tasting because they ripen much later in the season. Personally I prefered the taste of Oscar at that same tasting. However I have since grafted Illinois everbearing onto a cutting I rooted and the first fruit are very nice. This year I will be able to compare Oscar and Illinois everbearing grafted onto the same tree.
I would be interested in your experience of their flavors.They don’t taste that different from each other to me — they’re all very good. Except that the birds get most of them. Illinois Everbearing have the advantage of bearing over such a long season that perhaps the birds get a little tired of eating up all of them after awhile; or they found other goodies also.
Hi Doug, did you get a chance to taste and compare the Oscar to the Illinois everbearing? Which is your favorite. I did get an Oscar and like it very much. I have a Persian mulberry and in my preference the Persian is better. Unfortunately, in coastal Southern California the Illinois isn’t suitable for that climate but am carious on how it compares to the Oscar. thanks!
I have room for a 20 foot tree. Is there a mulberry variety close to that size? We stumbled onto a mulberry tree at our former house and fell in love with mulberry pie.
I’m in SE Wisconsin.
Most of the mulberry trees with which I’m familiar get much larger that that, except for Geraldi Dwarf, which I expect, would mature at about 10 feet.
Dwarf Black mulberry tree is said to be a 6 ft. bush or small tree. zone 7-10 http://www.burntridgenursery.com Ph.360-985-2873
Interesting. It survived previous winters where temperatures dropped well below 0°F. This past winter was pretty cold but the cold went on and on. Perhaps that’s what did in my plant. I might give it another try.
Hi, I’am a grower of many odd fruits and berries. Live in Southern Eastern Pa. Mulberries grow wild every where. Not crazy over the flavor raw, but made into wine tastes like kool aid. What I would like to know more about is the flavors of the different types of mulberries. Do all these other types taste similar to the regular wild ones? Or do they taste somewhat similar or like a totally different fruit? Because not real fond of flavor of the wild ones. Is the flavor difference just some sweeter than others ? Also would like to know about the flavors of the white mulberries , which tastes the best raw right off the tree. Thanks for your time for any info.
There is some variation in mulberry flavor. Not a great deal, though — except for the black mulberry, Morus nigrum, which is a Mediterranean plant not hardy in the northeast. It has the best flavor of all mulberries, I think one of the best flavors of all fruits although I do find it somewhat variable from fruit to fruit and season to season. I grow it in a pot that brought into my cool temperature basement while dormant for the winter.
Is there anyone in the San Diego or southern California area that has the Oscar? I was wondering what time of the year do you get fruit from this mulberry. Or if anyone that does have an Oscar else where what time does it fruit for you. I have a few mulberries already: Pakistan, Persian, white and weeping and all of them seem to be offset in the fruit by month with some over lap. Nice to have extended period of mulberries. Thanks!
Update: I got an Oscar mulberry just after this post. The Oscar mulberry burgeons in the late March to early April in San Diego area. The fruit comes out in Late April through June. The flavor is different from the pakistan, persian and weeping mulberries that I have. It is juicy but not like that of the persian. As for taste it would be up there with the persian but I think I like the persian a bit more. But I found that the second year after planting them the taste improves from the first year of planting them. Probably due to the tree having more time to establish itself in the ground. I will report back next year with how the Oscar taste after establishing itself in the ground. One more note the Oscar is a prolific grower. Grows faster than the pakistan and persian. My white mulberry is another prolific grower and on par with the Oscar.
A question – I live in zone 5 and have an establshed wild mulberry on the property. If I were to graft on it a variety that is not hardy in this zone (Persian, pakistani) will the graft survive? Put differently, does a graft take on the hardiness of the tree it was grafted on?
The grafted scion will probably not have increased hardiness. I was thinking of trying the same thing.
Thank you for your response. It will certainly be interesting to observe what will happen
i’m looking for the most flavorful (black, maybe?) mulberry, could you recommend plz?
I’m in Oregon
Yes, black mulberry — Morus nigra — is the most flavorful. I’m not sure how much different varieties of this species differ in flavor. Pakistan, with 2-inch-long fruits is also very good. And both — lucky you — can be grown in much of Oregon.
Hi! Love your site and was thrilled to see (and borrow) some of your books at my local library. I’m in zone 5a in Waterloo, ON, Canada. At a local nursery, they are selling Black Beauty mulberry bush (Morus nigra spp), which they say is a variety of Persian mulberry that grows to an 8-10 ft. tall shrub. Sold as a “2′-3′ shrub grafted”.
This sounds lovely. They say it’s zone 4/5. This sounds even lovelier, but can it be
true??? Is this some new advancement? Please advise! (And how’s your Morus nigra doing?)
Hate to say it but I think they’re wrong either about the plant being Morus nigra or else that it’s hardy to Zone 4/5.
I bought “Black Beauty” from https://www.whiffletreefarmandnursery.ca/ two weeks ago (mid-May, 2018)
1. Buds not open yet which makes me to suspect this is Morus Nigra. Lee Reich writes in his book that Nigra will open buds two months later than all other mulberries.
2. Buds are not as huge as real Morus Nigra…
I sent Email with pictures of it to Mark Travis from https://www.growingmulberry.org/ and he suspects it could be Geraldi dwarf.
It is grafted; and nursery is here, Elora / Ontario.
I’m in zone 7 Just west of Atlanta. What is the sweetest black mulberry for making jams & feeding my chickens? And that isn’t so high that they are unreachable. I have a persimmons tree that the fruit gets waisted because it is so high
“I hope that all of us are wrong.”
I was lucky to witness and even to take care of black mulberry in Azerbaijan 45-30 years ago. Exceptionally slow growing. We planted about 1 metre high single stem in about 1971. It was right in the middle of big yard, 100% sand (sea sand made of shells of sea insects). We had strong defence (fence) around the tree because area (close to Caspian sea) was very windy (35 m/sec winds weekly). Winters could be minus 10 – minus 15, for a few days only; mostly close to zero. This tree was about three metre high and wide in 1990; I heard it is huge now.
BTW I heard this story of “prune branches growing off these limbs to six leaves in July to make short, fruiting spurs” from my Father in 197x-198x, even it is Britishism -> Azerbaijan was British colony, this one has its’ authentic roots.
Azerbaijan (Persian) variety of Morus Nigra is called Khar Toot, and “Khar” means Donkey, or “Jackass” (as Persian mulberrists translate it). Probably because how stem with huge buds looks: as donkey 🙂
Now, in Canada: I have weeping mulberry which I trim very special way… removing perhaps 75% of branches each year. It has a lot of fruit!
I got “Mulberry Acquisition Syndrom” after my Chinese wife asked to plant classic one at front of the house. I got lucky: 5 cuttings of Noir of Spain, 5 of King James (Chelsea), and 10 of Khar Toot from Azerbaijan, – all are in K.L.N. solution and it looks like rooting is very easy (Noir of Spain and King James opened their buds after a week, and white glands on the stem became very big and fat I believe roots will come from them)
I believe you can grow Morus Nigra in Toronto, Canada (USDA zone 5-6). But care should be taken until plant is fully established. It has black coloured thick buds, maybe this is main problem for Winter: if you have sunny day in January, with sun, and with minus 25 C, branches can be unfrozen, but they cannot suck juice from frozen roots, then refrozen, and this is the main killer. And so on. But after tree establishes (roots can reach unfrozen layers) it can survive hardy winters. I’ve read one advice (for peach trees): plant such tree on North side of your house. In Winter, it will be in a shade (and sun won’t unfreeze/burn it in Winter), and in Summer it will get enough sun (sun will be high enough; tree won’t be in a shade).
Thank you Lee Reich for writing wonderful books, I own two!!!
A friend grafted an Illinois everbearing on a wild root and it produced two years now. Fruit is fabulous and a little tart. I was rather shocked that it was seedless also. Does anyone know who created or found them originally?
Quoting from my book UNCOMMON FRUITS FOR EVERY GARDEN, which has a whole chapter on mulberries and I recommend reading for more information on the history and how to grow the fruit: “Some of the natural hybrids of red and white mulberries produce notable fruit. ‘Hicks’, a prolific bearer of cloyingly sweet fruits, was widely planted in the South to feed hogs and poultry. ‘Illinois Everbearing’ was found in 1958 and is noted for bearing flavorful, large, nearly seedless fruits throughout the summer. My tree tends to cling to its fruits even when they are ripe, which makes for clean ground underfoot but harder picking, especially from near the ends of branches.”
Hi, Jesse Here
Is It so that Oscar Mulberry in it’s red stage tastes like raspberry ? If so how much like a Raspberry ? Thanks for Everything.
No. It tastes like an unripe mulberry, on the tart side.
I have heard that the red stage of the Oscar can be eaten and taste like a raspberry but I will have to concur with Lee Rich that it taste more like an unripe mulberry. Very tasty when ripe though.
Hi Lee, let me first say, I agree, the black mulberry is the most flavourable best tasting fruit ever! Years ago I lived on Gabriola Island B.C. It is a small island just off Nanaimo, Vancouver Island B.C. I planted 5 mulberry trees, two red, two white and one black mulberry, the black mulberry did very well on Gabriola Island, I had lots of big black fruit, but I had to compete with the ants and the bees, I stop the ants from coming up the tree but couldn’t stop the bees. I am a bird photographer so I planted them to attract the birds, the red and white were not that tasty, but the birds liked them best! Four years ago I moved to Mill Bay, Vancouver Island, I thought I would plant more mulberry trees, I planted one White, two Italian, and two Everlasting. I was so pleased with the Everlasting, they were big and juicy and delicious, I liked them better then the Italian which were also good. After all that I should get to the point, this year I noticed my “Favourite” Everlasting tree had die off on two of the main bigger branches, I noticed they were quite black in colour, I cut them out of the tree, which doesn’t look so pretty now, I am hoping it doesn’t all die, what do you think?
I have your book “Uncommon Fruits Worthy Of Attention.” I have the first printing January 1991! Great Book!
I think you did what you should for the tree, and I hope it lives. I’m not sure what “Everlasting” mulberry is. One web source says its also called “dwarf” or “dwarf black,” but not whether it’s actually a Morus nigra.
Glad you like my book. I especially like that one for the cover, drawn by my friend Vicki Arlein, and for the book’s old-fashioned look and feel (and smell). The latest version, from 2004, just went out of print. I’m planning to re-issue it, possibly with some new fruits and some recipes, in a couple of years.
I don’t no why I said everlasting, I should have said, Illinois “Everbearing” Mulberry Tree, getting old I guess, that can’t be right I am old! (smile). Reading your comment on die back of new growth, maybe because of two much water and nutrients, I water the trees into the late summer maybe too much, I will cut back this year.
Your new book sounds interesting, I will keep an eye out for it.
I generally don’t water any trees after their first year in the ground. The do well if not too big to start out with and are mulched their first year.
I’m curious what everyone’s experience with mulberry roots has been? I’m very interested in planting an Illinois everbearing in my front yard, but I’m reading some warnings that the roots are extremely vigorous and can damage plumbing/concrete. How much space do they need when fully mature to avoid this?
My guess, and this is only an (educated) guess, is that they would get into pipes if given the opportnity, as from openings in pipes. They’d probably damage foundations only if large roots grow near it. The root spread of a tree is generally about twice the spread of the branches.
I feel like I just got a personal reply from a celebrity (I just got your pruning book in the mail)! Probably best to err on the side of caution in this case, I read a few more good sources saying that unlike most trees they tend to have a deep taproot.
The lawn faces exactly due north and gets a lot of shade, it might make more sense to give up on fruit production in that location? The Eastern Redbud is native here and seems to like shade, but has a reputation for living a very short time…will have to keep thinking.
Thanks again. 🙂
The north facing slope is good for delaying bloom on early blooming fruit trees, but fruit trees need sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
Hi Lee Reich,
Thank you for your explanation of mulberries. I find it very useful. Can you go into a little more detail about the different types of black mulberries? I heard there are ones such as Illinois everbearing, noir de spain, and the one with the biggest name Persian variety. Online resources tend to use morus nigra interchangeable with persian, but Im confused because isnt noir de spain also a morus nigra (as the name suggests black mulberries)? Or does morus nigra strictly apply to the persian variety?
That’s the problem with common names, such as “black mulberry.” The “black” does not refer to the color of the fruit because lots of black-colored mulberries are actually other species than Morus nigra. (And Illinois Everbearing is not a Morus nigra variety.) Persian and Noir de Spain are two varieties of Morus nigra.
Thank you that clears up some of my question regarding morus nigra. When they say Persian variety has the best taste, are they referring to all morus nigra varieties or just the Persian? It may seem like a silly question, but we are looking to get the best tasting variety. I’ve read that a lot of Persian Variety sold here are not really Persian Varieties and that you would have a better chance getting a real Morus Nigra such as Noir of Spain or King James than to buy the Persian variety. What are some of your favorite varieties in taste?
I would say that Morus nigra in general taste great although I have only tasted very few varieties. Yes, I’ve seen some trees marketed as M. nigra that had black-colored fruit but were not M. nigra.
Years back I planted red and white mulberry trees, the fruit was small and nothing to write home about but the birds loved them and that is what I wanted as I am a bird photographer. About four years ago I moved to a new location and I planted one White mulberry and two Italian and one Illinois Everbearing Mulberry, I was impressed with the flavour of the Everbearing so about two years ago I bought another Illinois Everbearing tree. This new one, I was told was a smaller variety, it produces well with great tasting berries. The tag on this tree says small to medium size tree. On April the 24th you had an email from a person concerned about the roots causing damage if she planted an Illinois Everbearing in her front yard, I have no concern about the roots, I am well away from my house. I was wondering if this small variety would have a smaller root system and be a good choice for her front yard?
I don’t consider Illinois Everbearing to be a particularly small tree.
Hi Frank, I know Lee responded to your question and answered to your satisfaction. If you are will be interested in on my research on mulberries I found this site (link posted below) to be a really good one with lots of information on the different varieties of mulberries. He does mention that a lot of nurseries do mistakenly label dark mulberries like the dwarf black mulberry as a morus nigra though, it is a morus alba. I have two Persian mulberries and they are one of the best tasting I have tried. I have five other mulberries; white fruit mulberry, Pakistan, Oscar, weeping tea, and dwarf black everybearing.
How do you compare the Oscar to your Persians now that it has had time to establish? I am in San Diego, as well. My wife really wants a mulberry.
She really likes weeping trees, so the weeping tea is intriguing. But, I understand albas to not be as complex/tasty. I’m interested in your thoughts on whether the fruit is worth it. I am going to plant one, maybe two, trees.
I think Pakistan is much better.
thank you for the response.
sorry for late respond. Have you bought and or planted your mulberry tree(s) yet? Which ones did you get? I find the flavor of the Persian to be the most complex of all the mulberries. It has a bit of tartness to balance out the sweetness. I would say my next favorite is the Oscar. (Though, my wife is more partial to the Oscar compared to the Persian.) The Oscar has a little bit of tartness to balance with a little more complex flavor compared to other mulberries besides the Persian. The Oscar is more prolific in berries compared to the Persian. The Persian is a bit difficult to pick or cut off the tree too compared to all other mulberries. The Oscar fruits around May and into June. While the Persian fruits more in Late June into July so they don’t overlap which is nice creating a longer mulberry season. I like the weeping. It is sweeter with little complexity in the flavor and bit smaller in fruit size.
Thank you so much for the detailed reply. That is very helpful. We have not purchased any mulberry trees yet. It sounds like the Persian/Oscar combo is a good one, regardless of which taste we prefer, as it will extend the season. We may still have room for the weeping. When does your weeping ripen?
About the same time as the Oscar.
I planted an Illinois Ever eating Mulberry tree 9 years ago. While the growth is quite vigorous, I have NEVER gotten any fruit from it at all. We live in central Ohio, so I didn’t think it would be too cold. All the wild mulberries do fine. I’m really upset to have spent a lot of money on this tree for nothing!
Perhaps the tree that you purchased was mislabeled. There are some nonfruiting mulberries.
After reading this blog, I’ve decided to look for a king james 1 variety. as the climate in Portland Or is similar to that of England and for the taste. Trouble is in my local area there is someone selling the noir of spain and king james II. Is there such a thing as king james 2 variety? did they just mislabel it? If you dont mind taking a look for me. TIA Here is their link: http://www.whitmanfarms.com/category/allplants/edible-plants/mulberries/black-mulberries/
Probably just a misprint. I’d get James 2 or 1. Whitman Farms is a very reputable nursery.
So I remember having a mulberry tree when I was young and really enjoying the fruit. As an adult I want to relive that feeling but have no idea what kind of mulberries are even going to survive the Miami Florida humidity. In my mind, I want to plant the best tasting tree and then graft a second type almost equally as delicious, but I’m not sure which types of trees to buy. What trees do you recommend for south Florida? Also, is grafting other types a mulberry a good idea ?
Check out https://justfruitsandexotics.com/shop/?cat=Fruit%20Trees~Mulberry%20Trees.
Hey lee! How did your experiment with gafting M. nigra turn out? I’ve tried grafting true M. NI graduated onto smaller branches of ornamental fruitless white mulberries for a few years now. I’ve gotten many to leaf out from existing buds but they never seem to grow real branches, and they always die after the first winter (or sooner). This sounds like a compatibility issue to me, but it’s also possible that my grafting technique is off. I’be only tried grafting on branches of large trees, so it’s easy for them to focus their growing energy elsewhere. Perhaps if I topped a rootstock and forced all its energy to be put it the scion they may be successful. Do you know of anyone else who’s tried this experiment, or anyone who has a large collection of mulberry varieties? I’d be willing to ship scion wood to a grower who would experiment with different rootstock in the interest of trying to find a compatible rootstock that could potentilly be used as an internode. Perhaps Kokuso would work snice it’s a separate species from M. alba and M. rubra?
My experience was similar to yours. And I also was topworking just a branchh or two on an existing large tree. I should try it again, also on some small wild mulberry seedling. As far as any grafting compatabiity problems with mulberry, here’s what I wrote in my book UNCOMMON FRUITS FOR EVERY GARDEN, “Be aware of a possible incompatibility between the white and the black mulberry, though the Russian mulberry seems to be a good rootstock for all types of mulberries.”.
Hey lee! How did your experiment with gafting M. nigra turn out? I’ve tried grafting true M. NI graduated onto smaller branches of ornamental fruitless white mulberries for a few years now. I’ve gotten many to leaf out from existing buds but they never seem to grow real branches, and they always die after the first winter (or sooner). This sounds like a compatibility issue to me, but it’s also possible that my grafting technique is off. I’be only tried grafting on branches of large trees, so it’s easy for them to focus their growing energy elsewhere. Perhaps if I topped a rootstock and forced all its energy to be put it the scion they may be successful. Do you know of anyone else who’s tried this experiment, or anyone who has a large collection of mulberry varieties? I’d be willing to ship scion wood to a grower who would experiment with different rootstock in the interest of trying to find a compatible rootstock that could potentially be used as an internode. Perhaps Kokuso would work since it’s a separate species from M. alba and M. rubra?
My experience was similar to yours. And I also was topworking just a branchh or two on an existing large tree. I should try it again, also on some small wild mulberry seedling. As far as any grafting compatabiity problems with mulberry, here’s what I wrote in my book UNCOMMON FRUITS FOR EVERY GARDEN, “Be aware of a possible incompatibility between the white and the black mulberry, though the Russian mulberry seems to be a good rootstock for all types of mulberries.”.
Hi, Lee Jesse here
It’s been a while. Thanks for this blog and all the good info you provide.
I read most of the comments and questions above. Not much info about the white mulberries. Last year perchased a Paskistan White, the king of mulberries. Got very nice tree from, Trees Of Antiquity . Planted it, and through he summer branched out nicely. In the winter did the scratch test, seemed alive. But, by the end of the winter, the trunk and branches died. Come late spring i spotted some regrowth.It sort of acted like the hardy figs. Not sure how it’s going this winter. But still wondering, if you think that will happen again,or as it ages will it get better. And if it does die back each year will i still benable harvest fruit. Here of any info like
this ? Thank you for your time. Jesse
Yes, it’s probably died to the ground and will resprout from the roots. If it was grafted, the resultant tree will, of course, not be Pakistani white. Did you ever taste the fruit? I wonder because white mulberries — white or paler varieties of many fruits and vegetables — are often sweeter but lack counterbalancing acidity so they are often cloying.
Hi, Jesse here again
The White Pakistan Mulberry ads. claim that they are super sweet, and taste like honey. I’ve bin interested in the whites ( Morus Alba ) A friend of mine has a regular white mulberry tree, and he claims the fruits are awsome. Never got there to try the fruits but did try to clone them from winter cuttings, With no luck. I guess like all fruits I’am interested in, I have to purchase and grow just to see what they taste like. I emailed Tree Of Antiquity and they said. The root stock most likely its a white Mulberry or it is, its own root stock. Thanks Lee From Jesse
It’s all a matter of taste. For me, “taste like honey” is good for honey, not for fruits.
Aw, I see I’am a wine maker and I love mead. So I guess I’ll see, if the tree makes it. Thanks again Lee
I am curious when you say the white mulberry I you referring the genus morus alba, which has a range of colored fruit from black, dark red, lavender/pink and just white, or you referring to just the white colored fruit. I have a morus alba with the dark colored fruit and the white colored fruit and the taste is very different from each other. The black does have a berry/fruity like flavor while the white, however, doesn’t have that fruity flavor. Brown sugar is what I first taste when biting into it. There is a slight watermelon taste to it and then a cardamom/maple/vanilla season to it. It is very cloying sweet to eat. I do enjoy it but not as much as the dark colored mulberries. I haven’t tried the white pakistan though but suspect it may follow a similar taste too. The white colored mulberry makes a delicious jam. I have made a morat (mulberry mead) with the dark colored fruit but haven’t with the white. I suspect it may come close to tasting like an acerglyn (maple syrup mead) as the jam taste somewhat like maple syrup.
Hi, Jesse from Hamburg Pa. Zone 5 Thanks for responing Lee
Was that with a pakistan White?
I am unshore of the root stock, hopefully it grows back and remains.
I did purshase a Lavender White this year, coming from Brunts in the sprimg
I’ll lets you how it comes out. Thanks Jesse
The graft I made was with Spanish Black mulberry. I’m not familiar with Pakistan white but do grow Pakistani, which is dark purple, in a pot. They are both Morus nigrum, which is not supposed to be hardy in Zone 5 and not even to like the humidity in the east.
Why do you recommend James 2 over Noir of Spain? I’m in San Diego.
I have very little experience with Morus nigra varieties. I may be wrong, but my guess is that all varieties taste pretty much the same — and delicious!
Are there any available cultivars of native American M. rubra (red mulberry)? I have an “Illinois Everbearing”, which are sometimes sold are M. rubra, but are probably (as you note) a cross of M. rubra and M. alba. The “Illinois Everbearing” fruit is great, but it’s a tree not well-suited for making jam because the crop comes in slooooowly throughout the season and we never have the giant pile of berries at once needed for jam.
I formerly (before the power company cleared their rights-of-way… ) had a few M. alba trees that had been volunteer seedlings. Some had delicious fruit and some had horrible insipidly-sweet fruit with no acid at all. There was great variability, but some of the good ones were perfect jam trees—lots of good complex flavor berries all ready at once.
I’d like more “jammable” mulberries. I’m (in Western NY, Zone 6A… too cold for M. nigra) and am tempted to plant an M. alba ‘Oscar’ like you mention in the post, but M. alba trees (which are non-native) in general are very aggressively invasive. I’m not against planting non-native fruit trees if they are well-behaved and stay put, but M. alba is a pest that naturalizes everywhere (with help from the bird) and pushes out the native species.
So, are there any pure native M. rubra cultivars out there? Or are they pretty well ignored in the trade?
I don’t know of any M. rubra varieties that are available. There are plenty of alba around anyway, whether or not you plant them.
Well, yeah, I know there are *plenty* of alba around (like the prior volunteers I had). I just hate to make that problem any worse ;-(.
Do you know if strict species M. rubra bear all at once, or spread out like the ‘Illinois Everbearing’ hybrid ?
I don’t know about the bearing wintdow for rubra but my guess is that’s it’s not like Illinois Everbearing or else some varieties probably would have been selected and named.
Yeah, given ‘Illinois Everbearing’ is supposed to be a rubra×alba, I was wondering if the “spread-out bearing” characteristic came from the rubra, since I know the typical alba doesn’t have it. Thanks for the insight!
I’ve got a mulberry tree that must have been planted via birds…it had 1 fruit that was slender light purple and really good…can’t really describe its taste, it’s unlike the wild varieties that we have in our area. I’m trying to root some cuttings and also identify the tree. The leaves are large and resembles brown turkey fig. Any help would be appreciated.
I’d suggest trying both hardwood and softwood cuttings. Now is a good time to take hardwood cutting even though the plants have leaves. The old leaves don’t transpire all that much, will fall off soon anyway, and could help promoting root formation.
A few comments then a few questions…
I have been keeping Illinois Everbearing summer pruned to 6-7 ft tall for 4 years now. It is a beautiful hulking tree this way that I have pruned open center and really like the structure and appearance of the framework I have created along with its pretty grey bark. A few handfuls of fruit so far and very good and sweet. Fruits seem to hang on well as described.
I have a 2 year old Oscar that is a similar height but no fruit yet. Not as developed. It has some yellow variegation to the leaves I thought might be iron deficiency but have seen other photos with similar coloring so am not sure.
Just acquired a Gerardi and high hopes. It has grown from a 6 inch plant to a 5 foot tree in this summer only! Hoping it is not a bad sign regarding its ‘dwarf’ nature. It is in a 20 gallon pot.
Also have a Pakistani in a 10 gallon pot that is 3-4 years old and have never got any fruit. I move it in the garage each winter.
What is the best way to summer prune a mulberry? Produce on 1 year wood or older? Proximal fruit or distal or both? Are there differences between the species to know about?
Specifically what is the best way to prune my Pakistani to keep it small but also bear fruit? I have it currently pruned as a sort of lollipop shape in the pot. Not sure if I am removing too much wood or the wrong types. It has a nice form. Would it have a shot in ground in a sheltered spot in my zone 6 Missouri?
Great post from Lee and appreciate everyone’s comments, as well. I too have fond memories picking ‘black’ mulberries on walks around my neighborhood as a child and more recently with my children at various local spots and while on vacation.
I grow my Illinois Everbearing in much the same way. I remove almost all upright branches and shorten low hanging ones so that the tree is flat topped and mostly horizontal growing. This way I can get to many fruits without a ladder, and it might be limiting some bird access.
Gerardi grew well for me for a few years and then, for some unknown reason, just died.
My Oscar also has had those yellowing leaves.
As far as Pakistani, I train potted tree to a trunk with one-year old stems atop for fruiting. I’m not 100% sure if this works best.