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White Mulberry (Morus alba)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
White Mulberry
Morus alba
Moraceae

A fibre is obtained from the bark of one-year old stems, it is used in weaving[7, 74]. The stem bark is fibrous and is used in China and Europe for paper making[269].

The twigs are used as binding material and for making baskets[269].

A brown dye is obtained from the trunk[178].

The leaves contain 10% tannin[179].

This tree can be grown as a part of a shelterbelt. The cultivar ‘Tartarica’ has been especially mentioned[200], it is very suitable for northern latitudes and is much used as a sheltebelt in Russia[269].

The wood of the mulberry is a potentially excellent source of ethanol, with yields of up to 6% from sawdust treated with acid and then given four days incubation[269].

Wood – light to moderately heavy, hard, durable, fine and close-grained, though it shows a tendency to warp. Due to its elasticity and flexibility when steamed, it is valued for making sports equipment such as tennis rackets and cricket bats, being considered as good as ash (Fraxinus excelsior)[238, 269]. It is also used for boat building, furniture, agricultural implements etc[145, 149, 158, 269]. It furnishes a medium grade fuel wood[269].

  • Medicinal Use

    The white mulberry has a long history of medicinal use in Chinese medicine, almost all parts of the plant are used in one way or another[238]. Recent research has shown improvements in elephantiasis when treated with leaf extract injections and in tetanus following oral doses of the sap mixed with sugar[238].

    The leaves are antibacterial, astringent, diaphoretic, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic and ophthalmic[176, 218, 238]. They are taken internally in the treatment of colds, influenza, eye infections and nosebleeds[176, 238]. An injected extract of the leaves can be used in the treatment of elephantiasis and purulent fistulae[176]. The leaves are collected after the first frosts of autumn and can be used fresh but are generally dried[238].

    The stems are antirheumatic, antispasmodic, diuretic, hypotensive and pectoral[176, 218, 238]. They are used in the treatment of rheumatic pains and spasms, especially of the upper half of the body, high blood pressure[176]. A tincture of the bark is used to relieve toothache[7]. The branches are harvested in late spring or early summer and are dried for later use[238].

    The fruit has a tonic effect on kidney energy[218, 238]. It is used in the treatment of urinary incontinence, dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia due to anaemia, neurasthenia, hypertension, diabetes, premature greying of the hair and constipation in the elderly[176, 238].

    The root bark is antiasthmatic, antitussive, diuretic, expectorant, hypotensive and sedative[176, 238]. It is used internally in the treatment of asthma, coughs, bronchitis, oedema, hypertension and diabetes[176, 238]. The roots are harvested in the winter and dried for later use[238].

    The bark is anthelmintic and purgative, it is used to expel tape worms[240].

    Extracts of the plant have antibacterial and fungicidal activity[218].

  • Edible Use

    Fruit – raw[2, 7, 158]. A sweet taste, but the fruit is usually insipid[3, 11]. It contains about 1.5% protein, 0.5% fat, 8% carbohydrate, 0.7% malic acid[179]. Fruits of the cultivar ‘Pendulum’ tried at Kew in July 1994 had a pleasant flavour[K]. A richer flavour develops if the fruit is dried, it can then be used as a raisin substitute. The fruit is up to 25mm long[200]. Some caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. Per 100 g, the fruit is reported to contain 87.5 g water, 1.5 g protein, 0.49 g fat, 8.3 g carbohydrates, 1.4 g fiber, 0.9 g ash, 80 mg Ca, 40 mg P, 1.9 mg Fe, 174 IU vit. A, 9 ?g thiamine, 184 µg riboflavin, 0.8 mg nicotinic acid, and 13 mg ascorbic acid.

    Young leaves and shoots – cooked[105, 183]. A famine food, used when all else fails[177]. The leaf makes a good vegetable, it is rich in carotene and calcium[179]. Protein perparations from young mulberry leaves form an excellent supplement to protein-deficient diets[269]. The dry leaves contain 18 – 28.8% protein, 0.2 – 0.7% Magnesium, 0.8 – 13.6% soluble sugars, 0.6 – 1.4% phosphorus, 2 – 3.9% potassium, 1.4 – 2.4% calcium, 0.8 – 1.8% aluminium, 0.05 – 0.26% iron, 1.8 – 2.6% silica, and 0.3 – 0.56% sulphur[269]. The leaf also contains 10% tannin[179].

    Inner bark – roasted and ground into a meal then used as a thickener in soups etc or mixed with cereals when making bread. A famine food, used when all else fails[179].

    The tree is said to be a source of an edible manna[183].

    Young shoots can be used as a tea substitute[183].

  • Cautionary Notes

    One report suggests that the raw fruit contains hallucinogens[62]. This fruit is frequently eaten in various parts of the world, there are even some named varieties, and no such effects have been mentioned elsewhere, nor observed by the writer when he has eaten the fruit. Possibly the unripe fruit was being referred to in the report, though even this would be surprising[K].

Cultivation & Habitat

The seed germinates best if given 2 – 3 months cold stratification[80, 98]. Sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if possible, otherwise in February in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in the first spring, though it sometimes takes another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 – 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Plant out in spring. A good percentage take, though they sometimes fail to thrive[78, 113]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, 25 – 30cm with a heel of 2 year old wood, autumn or early spring in a cold frame or a shady bed outside[78, 113, 200]. Bury the cuttings to threequarters of their depth. Layering in autumn[200].
Succeeds in a variety of soils[269], though it prefers a warm well-drained loamy soil in a sunny position[1, 11]. Plants are fairly wind-resistant[200], though the branches are often killed back when growing in strong maritime exposure[K]. At least some cultivars are drought resistant, the form ‘Tatarica’ has been especially mentioned[183]. The white mulberry is occasionally cultivated for its edible fruit, there are a number of varieties[183] and sub-species varying greatly in the quality of their fruit. The form M. alba multicaulis. (Perretot.)Loud. [synonym M. multicaulis. Perretot.] has been specially mentioned for its fruit[105]. The cultivars ‘Nana’ and Fegyvernekiana’ are dwarf forms only making shrub size[182]. The cultivar ‘Pendulum’ was seen growing at Kew in July 1994 with a heavy crop of tasty fruits, the first of which were just ripening[K]. Mulberries have brittle roots and so need to be handled with care when planting them out[238]. Any pruning should only be carried out in the winter when the plant is fully dormant because mulberries bleed badly when cut[238]. Ideally prune only badly placed branches and dead wood[238]. This is a good tree for growing grapes into[20]. The grapes are difficult to pick but always seem to be healthier and free from fungal diseases[201]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200].
E. Asia – China?

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.