The fruitless mulberry tree includes several species in the genus Morus. This tree is commonly found as a street tree and in other areas of the landscape that have long, hot summers. It is deciduous, and its canopy of bright green, lobed leaves makes it a good shade tree. The fruitless mulberry can attain a height of up to 60 feet. When the tree has lost all its leaves and goes into its dormant season in the winter, prune it severely every year or two using a technique called pollarding. When you pollard a tree such as the fruitless mulberry, you cut all of its branches back to the main trunk. In the spring and summer months, the tree will regrow new branches that can reach 15 to 20 feet in length.
Pruning a Fruitless Mulberry Tree
Assess the magnitude of the pruning job before you begin. For trees that have not been pruned for over two years, consider hiring a professional tree trimmer for the job because it will be a big one.
Cut the top off a young tree in early spring by cutting off all of its main branches. Do not top the tree again after it is older.
Prune each branch close to the “knuckle” or branch collar where it connects to the main trunk after your tree is older. Do not cut off the swollen knuckle or collar.
Paint each cut with a tar-based product that will protect the tree from disease and insect invasion if you desire, although this is not imperative. Differing opinions exist on the value of using pruning tar, so think before you do it because it can also cause microbes or insects to become sealed inside the tree.
Load all cut branches into a large vehicle and dispose of them at your green waste facility or landfill. If you have a chipper/shredder, use the ground-up plant material as mulch, or add it to a compost pile.
Things You Will Need
- Large loppers or chainsaw
- Protective eye ware
- Pruning tar (optional)
- Truck or other large vehicle for disposing of branches
- Always prune the fruitless mulberry before any new growth or buds begin to form.
- The technique of pollarding began in Europe centuries ago—basket weavers valued the long, supple branches for their craft.
- A secondary method of pruning this tree is called “balling.” When you use this technique, you create an individual shape to your tree in which the trunk terminates in a “blossom of suckers,” according to the UC Davis web site. Ball it by cutting off all branches that aren’t the trunk.
- To be on the safe side, hire an arborist to pollard your fruitless mulberry tree.
- Always use extreme caution when using tools such as the chainsaw, especially when you must climb a ladder to reach the area you will be cutting.
- Pollarding is used primarily to keep a tree from becoming too large for the area in which it has been planted. If you choose to pollard your tree, you must do it every year or two at the most because otherwise the tree will develop “weak crotch angles” that allow moisture to enter. This can result in the tree rotting.
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