Red mulberry, also known as American mulberry, is a deciduous tree native to North America. Red mulberry is similar to its relatives, white and black mulberry, however there are some differences in size, region, and growth habits. Contrary to its name, the red mulberry actually produces a black berry that closely resembles blackberries or black raspberries.
The leaves of the red mulberry are roughly oval in shape and may be simple or may have multiple lobes. The edges of the leaf are serrated. Red mulberry leaves differ from those of white or black mulberry in that the underside of the leaf is lighter and hairy and the leaf is larger, averaging 4-10 inches across. The branches of the tree tend to zigzag with leaves alternating along the sides.
The bark of the tree is generally grayish-tan in color and relatively smooth, becoming rougher as the tree matures. The flowers are male or female and grow in 1- to 2-inch clusters called catkins that appear in early spring. The fruit is a cluster of small globes that form a berry, which is juicy, sweet and slightly tart.
Red mulberry commonly grows in the central and Eastern United States and Canada ranging from USDA zone 2 to zone 11 and is cold hardy to sub-zero temperatures. It is commonly found under the canopy of hardwood forests and prefers bottom lands, flood plains and other wetter areas. The tree is relatively fast-growing and can add more than two feet of new growth per year. Red mulberry trees are short-lived rarely passing 75 years in age.
The tree can grow to 70 feet tall in optimal growing conditions and tends to have a short, broad trunk with low, limbs that spread outward with long and drooping branches. The canopy of the tree is rounded, with a medium density and a coarse texture.
Red mulberry trees prefer full sun, but will tolerate partial shade. The tree tolerance a wide variety of soils including sandy, loamy, or clay, as long as a soil is well-draining. Read mulberries can tolerate a certain amount of flooding and are also very tolerant of drought conditions. Once established, the tree requires the care. Propagation can be accomplished by either seed or cuttings. Planting mulberries near walkways, decks, patios or driveways may cause staining, due to fruit fall.
Red mulberry is grown in landscape settings as a yard and shade tree. The berries are sweet and can be used in jams, jellies, pies and wine. The fruit is also an important food crop for birds and other animals. The wood of the tree is light, soft and weak. Its close grain and durability make it a good choice for fence posts, barrels, furniture and interior finish work.