The white mulberry (Morus alba) is probably one of the the top 5 most common urban weed trees (particularly in the Greater Toronto Area and likely beyond) and if you live almost anywhere in a large town or city in eastern North America if not elsewhere on the continent, you’ve probably identified this species not necessarily by name but by it’s impact on the surrounding environment. Frequent patches of dark purple/almost black stains on pavement that can be seen when driving/biking along roads or walking down sidewalks and passing driveways in late June through to mid August are all sure signs that there are white mulberry trees growing bountifully in your area. Unfortunately, the most common interaction that people have with the white mulberry is as an almost invincible weed or as that tree that voluntarily colors your driveway every summer and not a bountiful and reliable producer of delicious and nutritious fruit, which is the perspective that I prefer to uphold and advocate for.
Despite the mention of the ‘mulberry bush’ in the familiar children’s nursery rhyme, most if not all true mulberries (in the genus Morus) are actually fairly large trees when mature, and it does not take them long to become mature specimens. Especially of the white mulberry, growth when young is rapid and fierce, sometimes adding at least a couple meters of length or height each year. The trees also have an uncanny disposition for seemingly favoring the most inhospitable of living conditions, readily germinating and flourishing in alleyways, edges of parking lots, along fences, in abandoned stairwells and generally anywhere where there is even a minute amount of soil and no one weeds them out on sight. If left to establish themselves, which can only take a few years from seed, mulberry trees are tirelessly aggressive and will sucker like there’s no tomorrow even after years of attack with pruning shears, saws and herbicides from dedicated and equally aggravated property owners and gardeners. It’s not a good idea to rub a mulberry the wrong way, you can almost hear them start to grow after you hack them back. Continue reading “Foraging Fun: Mulberries”