The Different Varieties of Mulberry
The fruiting mulberry comes from the Morus genus in the Moraceae family. Mulberry hybrids come from the three main species of mulberry: white mulberry (Morus alba), red mulberry (Morus rubra), and the black mulberry (Morus nigra). The Russian mulberry is variant of the white mulberry (Morus alba tatarica). The mulberry is not named for its color fruit, for example some white varieties of mulberry produce all colors of fruits.
The three different mulberries all originate from different areas of the world. The red mulberry (the American mulberry) is native to eastern United States. The white mulberry, bred for silkworm production, is native to China. The black mulberry is native to Asia.
Mulberry trees are grown for a number of reasons. Besides sweet fruit for eating, the sturdy trees are often planted in plains states for windbreaks. The decorative shapes of the leaves make them easy choices for specimen trees. The white mulberry was originally grown for silkworm production since the silkworm’s diet is exclusively its mulberry leaves.
The fruit ranges from slightly sweet to very sweet, and reminiscent of blackberries. The Pakistan mulberry (see picture below in my hand) is very large, and very sweet. Most varieties of mulberry trees produce fruit that ripens over a long period of time, rather than simply all at once, and pollination is not necessary for fruiting. All darker mulberry fruit is deeply colored and will stain anything it touches, so if planting solely for specimen trees, it is best to plant away from sidewalks and walkways.
Mulberries require full sun, and space for their large canopies. The red and white are more drought resistant than the black mulberry, but with all varieties if the tree becomes too dry the fruit tends to fall off.
Propagation can be done by seeds, but if fruit is desired quicker, cuttings are required. Black mulberries are much more difficult to graft than the white or red mulberry varieties due to their extensive bleeding once cut.
Popular Varieties of Mulberry
- Pakistan Mulberry – From Islamabad, Pakistan. Very large fruit (up to 3 1/2 inches in length). Sweet fruit with firm flesh. Grows best in warm climates of the U.S.
- Collier – Hybrid cross of the white and red mulberry. Purple fruit with sweet flavor.
- Russian (Tatarica) – From China. Reddish-black fruit on a tall and drought resistant tree. Often grown for wildlife or windbreaks.
- Illinois Everbearing – Hybrid cross of the white and red mulberry. Originated in White County, Illinois, in 1958. Black, very sweet, and large fruit from a vigorous and productive tree.
- Riviera – Originated in Vista, California. Purple-black, very sweet, and long ripening.
“MULBERRY.” Fruit Facts. California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc., 1997. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.
Ombrello, Thomas, Dr. “THE MULBERRY TREE.” Mulberry Tree & Silkworm Connection. UCC Biology Department, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.