is a medium-sized tree, reaching approximately 50, and occasionally, 70
feet in height. The trunk can reach a diameter of up to two feet. The broad,
rounded crown consists of many shorter branches, making red mulberry a
desirable shade tree. Red mulberry grows in almost every county in Illinois.
It occurs chiefly in mesic or moist forests, particularly along streams
on well-drained soils.
is the only native mulberry in the eastern deciduous forest. White mulberry,
which is also common in Illinois, was introduced from Asia by the British
in the 1700s in a failed attempt to establish a silkworm industry. The
white mulberry leaves are the natural food of silkworms. The tree naturalized
and white mulberry is now widespread throughout the eastern part of the
is sometimes distinguishable from white mulberry by the presence of hairs
on the lower surface of the leaves. There is also the possibility
of hybridization between the two species, which could make them look similar.
of red mulberry is relatively short, and the bark is light gray when the
tree is young, becoming yellowish brown or slightly orange/gray as the
tree ages. It is finely ridged, with long, scaly plates.
are rough and hairy.
The buds are small-about a quarter of an inch long, brown, and pointed.
The leaves are alternate and simple, and are mostly oval-shaped. They are up to 6 inches long, and nearly as broad. They have toothed edges and vary in appearance from heart-shaped (unlobed) to deeply lobed (usually two or three lobes). The leaves are sandpapery or rough above, and hairy (softer texture) on the underside. The upper surface is dark green and dull, and the lower is usually paler. The leaves turn yellow in the fall.
and female flowers can occur together (as separate flowers) on one tree
or on different trees, and appear just as the leaves emerge. The male flowers
are closely clustered and green, and the female flowers consist of clusters
of spikes. Flowers are greenish-yellow.
consist of clusters of drupelets (tiny fruits, containing one seed, sometimes
in clusters, as in a raspberry), which are red when immature and dark purple
wood is lightweight and durable. It is used for fence posts and barrels.
Songbirds, game birds, small mammals, and people enjoy the dark, juicy
red mulberry fruits. Native Americans used red mulberry medicinally to
treat dysentery, and as a laxative or purgative.