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On the Greenway: Ripe Mulberries

  

If you have walked, run or biked along the Wolf River Greenway, or even just through your neighborhood, you may have noticed that dark red and purple berries are staining the ground and sidewalks.  The fruit ripening all around us right now is coming from mulberry trees, both and non-native, and it is ready for eating!  Not as sweet as blackberries, mulberries are still wonderful baked into a cobbler, made into jam, or enjoyed in cocktails.  Here in the Mid-South, mulberries ripen in May and June, and they are plentiful. Just watch out for poison ivy if you decide to sample them, and, of course, it's best to rinse the berries before eating them.

The Wolf River Conservancy included the native Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) in its Feb. 21st tree planting event.  It is a medium-sized understory tree with large variably shaped leaves, which produces a sweet fruit resembling a blackberry valued by widlife and people alike. 

  

Native Americans made extensive use of mulberries in their cooking, and many mammals and birds seek out mulberries as well.  The Red Mulberry is also a larval host plant for the Mourning Cloak Butterfly.

The very similar White Mulberry, an Asian species brought over long ago in hopes of starting a homegrown silk industry, can be difficult to distinguish from the Red Mulberry.  The leaves of Red Mulberry tend to have fine hairs along the veins on the underside and to feel rough to the touch on top.  White Mulberry leaves, by contrast, are smooth on both sides.  Also, as the name suggests, White Mulberry fruits are usually white, whereas those of Red Mulberry start out green, then turn red, then almost black.  Please see below for an thorough guide to telling the two species apart.

Red vs. White Mulberry:   https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR_237.pdf

https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/red-mulberry

https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=moru2

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?kempercode=c125

 

 

Posted by Cathy Justis at 12:33 PM