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June 19, 2007



You would think that after living somewhere for six years one would know what's in one's yard, but remember, I have a big yard. Thus it came as a bit of a surprise to me recently to discover that I have a mulberry tree on the edge of my property; here's one of the mulberries. Now all I need is a bunch of silkworms and I'm ready to begin a second business.

The thing I like best about the mulberry tree? Asymmetrical, non-repeating leaf forms. God help me, I'm such a geek.

Posted by john at June 19, 2007 10:24 AM

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Janiece | June 19, 2007 11:01 AM

I live in Colorado, where, alas, mulberry trees do not flourish. Unfortunately, my husband is from the midwest (Huber Heights, actually), and has been asking me to make mulberry jam for ages. Unfortunately, mulberries are not available here, even frozen.

So I will engage in mulberry envy from afar...

Pete | June 19, 2007 11:02 AM

John --

Are there also monkeys chasing weasels? Hehe.

Phillip J. Birmingham | June 19, 2007 11:15 AM

How does one have *one* mulberry tree, anyhow? They are second only to the Tree of Heaven in the competition for the tree equivalent of kudzu.

I'm only grumbling because I spent the weekend chainsawing some mulberry trees that have grown in perilously close to my sister's house.

Mfitz | June 19, 2007 11:16 AM

I don't think silkworks will eat American Mulberry leaves.

I can't quite dredge the facts out of my memory but I think there was an attempt to raise silk worms in the early Virgina colony days that went belly up for that reason.

F-L | June 19, 2007 11:21 AM

mmm, mulberries - yum!

Tracey C. | June 19, 2007 11:23 AM

You likely didn't have it when you moved in. They're weeds - grow fast, spread fast, take a lot to kill. However, mulberries are quite tasty, so if they're not near roofs, sidewalks, or sewer pipes, more power to 'em, I say.

tceisele | June 19, 2007 11:26 AM

Speaking of silkworms, I was surprised to learn a while back that they evidently no longer exist as a wild species. I'm told they are the only fully domesticated insect (honeybees are sort of domesticated, but they still go feral given half a chance). As for the mulberries, check to see how the fruit tastes (some varieties are much tastier than others. One of the best is the "Illinois Everbearing"). If you have one of the tasty kinds, you can make a very nice pie with a mixture of mulberries and sour cherries (the mulberries alone are more sweet than tart, and most people like their fruit pies a bit on the tart side).

Lee | June 19, 2007 11:31 AM

Better yet than raising silkworms is using the mulberries for extracting resveratrol which is a nutritional supplement. I wonder if your cat will get some benefit eating them. Might have smooth and silky fur.

Chang, for rizzle. | June 19, 2007 11:34 AM

Mothra will be sighted in your yard soon. Followed by Gojiro!

Terry Karney | June 19, 2007 11:35 AM

You have a female, black mulberry.

Yes, silkworms will eat the leaves (though they prefer the white mulberry).

The black are tastier.

I'm bonsai-ing a white mulberry. The leaves are truly wonderful to look at. Enjoy the fruit.

When I've wanted to collect it, I lay a sheet (which I don't care about) on the ground, and peg a bird netting about six inches above it. I collect it once a day, or so.

Dan Bailey | June 19, 2007 11:36 AM

So that's what's been dumping berries all over the parking lot of my apartment. I was pissed at having left a purple footprint on my carpet one night...went back and investigated, but had no idea what I was looking at. The asymmetrical leaves, though? Yep. Awesome.

Dan Bailey | June 19, 2007 11:36 AM

So that's what's been dumping berries all over the parking lot of my apartment. I was pissed at having left a purple footprint on my carpet one night...went back and investigated, but had no idea what I was looking at. The asymmetrical leaves, though? Yep. Awesome.

Domini | June 19, 2007 11:44 AM

My friend used to have one next to her house when we were small. We'd spend summers eating the mulberries right off the tree, and going around with bare feet stained purple by the berries in the grass. Fun! Nowdays I just steal mulberries from people who have them overhanging the sidewalk if I walk by. Nobody seems to realize they're edible.

Tanes | June 19, 2007 11:53 AM

Ah, mulberries... I spent many childhood years eating them straight from the tree in our orchard. Unfortunately, birds like them just as much as people do. More unfortunately, birds that eat mulberries have no qualms about leaving their purple droppings all over your car. Combine this with hot sun and white paint, you end up with a permanently purple, splatter-paint car.

Yanni | June 19, 2007 11:53 AM

Good gods! Thank you so much! I have about twelve of those weedy things growing by my house that I'm constantly battling into some sort of shape. I've always wondered what they were and why I kept them!

Steve Buchheit | June 19, 2007 11:57 AM

It's like finding buried treasure on your property.

So, did the berries last all the way back to the house?

Caitlin | June 19, 2007 11:59 AM

The best thing about a mulberry tree is the mulberries. Yum!

We had silkworms when I was a kid and I would gorge myself on the berries when picking leaves for the worms. Once my aunt asked me to bring home an ice cream container full of berries and she made a mulberry pie, with a pastry mulberry leaf on the lid!

I have no idea about American mulberry trees but Australian silkworms eat Australian mulberry leaves. Mulberry trees are not native to Australia but as far as I know they are not a weed - you find trees all over the cities but usually only one or two. Strange, because nearly everything exotic is a weed in Australia.

Mark Fletcher | June 19, 2007 12:06 PM

Steve Buchheit: Don't you mean 'berried treasure'?

Lucy Kemnitzer | June 19, 2007 12:29 PM

Mulberries are not a weed in California, either, Caitlin, as far as I can tell --I've only seen a couple and heard of a few more -- and I'll venture a guess that it has to do with the Mediterranean climate (unless you're living in one of the areas that doesn't have it, which would make this useless speculation). Oddly enough, there are some temperate-zone plants that do not love us.

Peter Ahlstrom | June 19, 2007 12:40 PM

Mulberry trees like a lot of water. They often grow next to streams or ditches.

My parents' back-door neighbors (in Fairborn) had two big mulberry trees whose branches reached into our yard, and we spent many summers with purple feet. Then the neighbors cut the trees down, and my parents decided to let one of the seedlings on their side of the fence grow.

It turned out to be male. No fruit, and a pain to prune. Sigh.

Elaine | June 19, 2007 12:57 PM

Does "edge of my property" equates to "no place anybody would ever park a vehicle they cared about"?

If your answer is "no", then (depending on the frequency a particular vehicle is in the general vicinity of that tree and the amount of sun that also hits that area and your feelings about those who park in the tree's vicinity), I'm sure that you'll do the right thing(tm).

John Scalzi | June 19, 2007 12:59 PM

I don't think anyone will be parking their car where this tree is, and if they do, they deserve what they get.

Jim Wright | June 19, 2007 01:23 PM

You would think that ... one would know what's in one's yard, but remember, I have a big yard...

Makes you wonder what else is out there. Google Earth just shows a blank spot in Ohio labeled Here be dragons. Perhaps you should send out periodic expeditions, who knows what you'll find: Lost cities of the Inca, Emelia Earhart, Jimmy Hoffa's grave, an infestation of Republicans... There could be anything.

Annalee Flower Horne | June 19, 2007 01:37 PM

mulberries have always tasted kind of bland to me, but the leaves make me happy for some reason I can't really identify.

My neighbor has one. Unfortunately we were a pack of hellions when we were small, so we'd use the berries to dye other people's property. Like their sidewalks. At least the rain washes it away after a few weeks.

Cassie | June 19, 2007 01:55 PM

I've never been overly fond of mulberries myself, but any berry in pie is worth eating. Since you're so good at making pie, John, I think you should make a mulberry pie and tell us about it.

I picked strawberries this morning and have to go make jam now.

Janice in GA | June 19, 2007 03:03 PM

Dang, now I want a mulberry tree.

And I believe there are both domesticated silk worms (Bombyx mori -- the ones that produce the fine, white silk) and wild ones. The wild ones produce silk that is darker (honey or light cinnamon colored) because they eat all kinds of leaves. Some of those leaves contain tannins, and that colors their silk.

Lotsa info at wormspit.com.

deCadmus | June 19, 2007 03:17 PM

We used to have a mulberry tree just outside our back door. Our feathered friends were kind enough to leave generous piles of fruity, purple droppings in their wake, so we would know how delighted they were with our hospitality.

The tree got the axe after dropping a sizable limb on my wife's car during a Valentine's Day ice storm.

Sam Taylor | June 19, 2007 03:25 PM

Mmm... mulberries... mmm... leaves... (drool)

cisko | June 19, 2007 03:29 PM

We have about two spoonfuls remaining of the mulberry jam my dad made last summer. I think he said the blossoms were killed this year by the hard freeze in April, but I'll have to check back. That jam is pretty darn good and I could use another jar.

Madeline F | June 19, 2007 04:52 PM

Mulberries! Sooo tasty. And they grow in all places along the tree, so there are some that the birds don't get. Lots, really. Enough to come in looking like an axe murderer.

Janiece, I first enountered mulberry trees at my parent's house in Colorado, Arapahoe Country, backing up to the Highline Canal. However, those trees were offspring of the trees across the street, more than 150 feet from the canal, which is usually dry anyway. They all grew fine with very little water, but made berries only about 2 cm long and 1 cm wide.

However, when a couple of my friends in San Jose bought a house they found a mulberry tree in the backyard that created berries enormous and so juicy they'd burst as soon as you touched them... Seriously heavenly. As big as blackberries. Also I don't think gets much water, but who knows, I guess that one's also within a quarter mile of a creek.

Al Bogdan | June 19, 2007 05:04 PM

Mulberry trees can be entertaining. Fallen berries ferment. Drunk birds fly funny.

Janiece | June 19, 2007 05:14 PM

Madeline F,

If they grow here, I'm not sure why I have such a hard time finding them - and believe me, I've looked.

I hear people rave about how tasty mulberry jam is, and I make a ton of jam, but I just can't find the mulberries! Grr..

Thanks for letting me know, though!

Steve | June 19, 2007 05:42 PM

Obviously John now has to produce some: jam, pie or silk, and live up to the promise of his Scalzi Produce shirt.

Carl V. | June 19, 2007 05:51 PM

I love mulberries. Growing up we used to pick loads of them every summer and eat them on ice cream or in milk with sugar. I determine every year that I'm going to take the time to go pick some and I never get around do doing it. Mulberries are one childhood treat that I remember very, very well.

Tully | June 19, 2007 05:56 PM

I live in Colorado, where, alas, mulberry trees do not flourish.

I live where, alas, they DO flourish. I cut out a dozen from around the foundation and fence line every year. And I terminate the roots as well, with prejudice.

It only takes a year for a 20' mulberry tree to sneak up on you.

Wil | June 19, 2007 06:06 PM

No Mulberries here in Maine, but I grew up with some as a kid. Wonderful, wonderful aperitif (cordial, actually) was made each summer from the fruit. I got to smash the fruit and strain the seeds out! It packed a punch, too.

Janiece | June 19, 2007 06:30 PM

It only takes a year for a 20' mulberry tree to sneak up on you.

I feel your pain. I have a flowering plant around my home that the former owners planted. I don't know its name, but I refer to it as "pernicious snit," because every spring I pull it up by the roots...and by fall it has taken over my flower beds. I don't know how to get rid of it without digging up the entire bed or salting the earth, and neither option is very appealing.

Steve Buchheit | June 19, 2007 08:04 PM

Janiece, have you tried Ortho's Brush Be Gone? I use it to clear poison ivy and it actually works (unlike Roundup which only fertilizes the damn things). In some areas it has come back (but that could be do to the birds dropping seeds). In most places jewelweed grew where we sprayed for poison ivy the previous year. BBG will also kill wild roses (where you spray them) and trees.

Soni | June 19, 2007 10:49 PM

Since we have so many mulberry fans here, perhaps someone can help me - is there an easier way to remove the stems than clipping them off one by one with a fingernail clipper?

That's the way I was taught (that, or pinching them off with your nails, which always left me with smashed berries) and if there's a better way to "bulk de-stem" them I'd sure love to know it, because I love those damned berries, but hate sitting there for an hour afterward clip, clip, clipping my way through the stems!

Janiece | June 19, 2007 11:03 PM


Thanks for the tip, but I don't think my tulips would enjoy the Brush Be Gone. I think I'm just going to have to dig up the whole thing, then replant the bulbs. I'm just gritching because I don't want to do it - I'd much rather read the Whatever and make jokes about coconuts.

DancingFool | June 19, 2007 11:07 PM

Try drying some. In the Swat valley, (northern Pakistan) they make a killer trail mix out of dried mulberries, apricot kernels (not the poisonous ones), dried apricots and parched corn. Mmmmm - twenty four years ago and I still remember it.

mythago | June 19, 2007 11:51 PM

Somewhat north of you, we used to call them "smooshberries", because inevitably a tree would grow over a parking lot or walkway--too high to conveniently pick all the freaking berries, which then dropped to the ground, and...

joelfinkle | June 20, 2007 08:56 AM

I don't know about Ohio, but in Illinois, I've seen a number of very abundantly-berried trees this season where I haven't noticed mulberries in previous years. This may be an instance of "mast seeding" where an entire population "decides" to behave differently.

Beware, though, this tree will make a mess. Be glad it's at the edge of your property, and not, say overhanging your driveway. The berries themselves won't, say, harm your car, but the purple poop from birds, what you drag into your house on your feed, what your dog drags in on its feet.... it's a mess.

Now imagine a wedding party marching past one. Bleah.

Ann Vallier | June 20, 2007 10:55 AM

I used to make mulberry pies quite often when I was younger and had access to several prodigious trees growing in a nearby field. I never bothered to stem the berries before making the pie unless the stems were unusually long. If one uses the berries for jam, do you not strain it through cheesecloth to remove the seeds? This too would negate stemming the berries in my opinion; they would be left behind with the other undesired bits in the cheesecloth.

Mark Evans | June 20, 2007 11:23 AM

joelfinkle wrote:

"I don't know about Ohio, but in Illinois, I've seen a number of very abundantly-berried trees this season where I haven't noticed mulberries in previous years. This may be an instance of "mast seeding" where an entire population "decides" to behave differently."

I live in central Ohio and have a large mulberry tree just outside my window. It has yet to produce fruit this year and it is usually a good producer. I have noticed that the trees tend to stagger their production schedules with one groaning under a full load of berries while another does not even begin to bear until weeks later. The walnut trees, however, are very much into masting. About every 5 years you need a hard hat in the fall.

Pat Logan | June 20, 2007 12:29 PM

We had a mulberry tree where we used to live in CA. Mulberries are very tasty.

Colin | June 20, 2007 05:55 PM

About four years ago, I rescued a tree from the front of my house, near the foundations. I had thought it was a maple, so I transplanted it to the backyard. It has since flourished, and this year, it produced its first fruit: black mulberries. Great. I've got a white mulberry tree already on the property, and it creates little fermented footbombs that make walking through the yard unpleasantly squishy (and smelly) for two to three weeks every summer. I was delighted to discover that I'd saved another pest tree. This latest tree offsets the neighbor's Tree of Heaven, which is pushing up right against my fence and sending roots and shoots into my yard.

Contemplating nukes.

Mfitz | June 21, 2007 10:17 AM

It's Rost of Sharon that get to me. I think the stuff will survive a nuke. It laughs at Round Up and I swear half the herbage in my yard in the early spring is Rose of Sharon seedlings.

Mfitz | June 21, 2007 10:17 AM

It's Rose of Sharon that get to me. I think the stuff will survive a nuke. It laughs at Round Up and I swear half the herbage in my yard in the early spring is Rose of Sharon seedlings.

Melrose | June 23, 2007 09:58 PM

Reading this particular post is fun. It's turning into a mini-discussion on gardening and handling mulberry trees.

We have them in the Philippines, but you'll have to go up to the mountains to find them, and they're mostly in silkworm farms.

J | June 25, 2007 02:09 PM

Silk or no silk, mulberry can still be used to make that ultra-high-quality Japanese tissue paper.

Nona | June 26, 2007 07:42 PM

Mulberry grows all over the DC area-- my elementary school had a whole thicket of 'em at the back of the playground, which were also overgrown with honeysuckle vines. I sort of shudder to think how much pesticide I must have ingested, over the years, eating berries and honeysuckle nectar from those plants.

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