Morus alba

White Mulberry, common mulberry, Russian mulberry, silkworm mulberry

Description: deciduous tree

Place of origin: eastern Asia

Urban habitat: common in disturbed or emergent woodlands, chain-link fence lines, highway bank and median strips, sidewalk and foundation cracks, and at stream and river banks; drought and cold tolerant, grows best in full sun but can thrive in shady areas as well.

Ecological function: disturbance-adapted colonizer; provides heat reduction in paved areas; tolerant of compacted soil and road salt; food and habitat for wildlife; erosion control on slopes.

History: Morus alba was introduced into North America in the 1600s with the intent of establishing a silkworm industry and in 1624, the legislature of Virginia required every male resident to plant at least four white mulberry tress to promote a North American silk industry. The tree has been cultivated for thousands of years in China for its leaves, which are fed to silkworm caterpillars. Its pollen appears to overwhelm that of the native red mulberry, causing hybrids to form and is currently widely distributed in most parts of the US and in many parts of Canada. It has been used for medicinal purposes by a number of cultures: Native Americans used the bark for treatment of digestive problems and the juice of its berries is used in treatment of jaundice and hepatitis in Pakistan. Its berries also have purported antimicrobial and antioxident properties and are used in treatment of a variety of diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and skin disorders. Its fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and is often added to baked goods or made into jams. The fruit is also used to make mulberry wine. The inner bark was roasted and ground to be used as a thickener in soups or added to grains when making bread. The inner bark makes an excellent paper and its wood used to make tennis rackets, furniture, and building materials.