'Of all the cultivated trees, the Mulberry is the last that buds, which it never does until the cold weather is past, and it is therefore called the wisest of trees - Pliny

There are many species in the Mulberry family, but the three which are most well known are the White Mulberry - Morus alba (and Morus multicaulis - a variety of white mulberry which is prized for its greater abundance of leaves) and the Black Mulberry - Morus nigra, and the Red Mulberry - Morus rubus.

The name Morus is derived from the Latin mora meaning delayed, due to the fact that the mulberry buds are always late to open, waiting until the weather is fine and settled.

The White Mulberry - aka Russian mulberry, Silkworm mulberry, Moral blanco

The white mulberry is a deciduous tree, native to China, although it is grown extensively throughout India, North America and southern Europe. It is used extensively in the silk industry because silk worms fed on a diet of mulberry produce pure white silk.

The tree grows between 30 and 50 feet tall but can reach 80 feet in favourable conditions. It is round-topped and the slender branches form a dense, tangled network. It gets its name from the colour of its buds. The pale green leaves grow up to 7 inches long and 6 inches wide, are oval, sometimes lobed, and serrated. The flowers are small, pale greenish-yellow and are born on catkins; the fruits are aggregate (like a blackberry), about 1-2 inches long and pale pink to deep purple in colour. The ripe fruit is edible but inferior in flavour to that of the Black Mulberry being sweet but lacking the tartness of the latter. The wood is strong and flexible and has long been used for making hockey sticks, cricket bats, and wooden tennis and badminton rackets.

Folk medicine

The Black Mulberry - common mulberry

The Black Mulberry tree looks very similar to the White Mulberry, but rarley grows above 30 feet and is less tolerant of cold conditions. It is native to western Asia and has long been prized throughout Europe for its fine fruit.

The Black Mulberry will survive in southern Britain. It grows slowly but is very long lived; there are records of cultivation dating back to the 16th century, but is thought to have been introduced by the Romans. There are many examples of very old trees in England, the largest of which is Milton's Mulberry Tree in the grounds of Christ's College, Cambridge, planted in 1608. Most of these 16th Century mulberry trees were planted in an attempt to introduce the silk industry to Britain, unfortunately for the person responsible for importing them, they were the wrong variety and totally unsuitable for the silkworm!

A syrup made from the juice of the Black Mulberry is widely used in medicine to add flavour and colour to other medicines, and also is an effective gargle and expectorant.

The fruit is harvested in August and September and used for jam and wine making.

The Red Mulberry

This is a smaller tree than the White Mulberry but bigger than the Black Mulberry. It is native to the USA. The fruit is good, but less so than the Black Mulberry.

Here we go round the mulberry bush is a well known interactive song for pre-school children, and it will drive you crazy for the rest of the day, because you wont be able to stop singing it!

Here we go round the mulberry bush,
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush,
Here we go round the mulberry bush,
On a cold and frosty morning.


http://www.dipbot.unict.it/orto/0657-1.html for a picture of Morus alba