Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Morus rubra
SPECIES: Morus rubra
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Sullivan, Janet. 1993. Morus rubra. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name for red mulberry is Morus rubra
L. [9,20]. A geographic strain known as the Lampasas mulberry occurs in
Accepted varieties include the following:
Morus rubra var. rubra
Morus rubra var. tomentosa (Raf) Bur. (woolly red mulberry) .
Red mulberry hybridizes with white mulberry (M. alba), an exotic species
which has naturalized in the eastern United States .
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
Red mulberry is listed as threatened in Ontario .
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Morus rubra
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
The native range of red mulberry extends from Massachussetts and
southern Vermont west through the southern half of New York to extreme
southwestern Ontario, southern Michigan, central Wisconsin and
southeastern Minnesota; south to Iowa, southeastern Nebraska, central
Kansas, western Oklahoma, and central Texas; and east to southern
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES18 Maple - beech - birch
AL AR CT DE FL GA IL IN IA KS
KY LA MD MA MI MN MS MO NE NJ
NY NC OH OK PA RI SC TN TX VT
VA WV WI
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K083 Cedar glades
K084 Cross Timbers
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
SAF COVER TYPES :
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
46 Eastern redcedar
62 Silver maple - American elm
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
87 Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
105 Tropical hardwoods
108 Red maple
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Red mulberry usually occurs as scattered individuals in floodplain or
cove forests, where it is often an understory tree .
The most common tree associates of red mulberry not previously mentioned
include American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and in southern part
of its range, silver maple (Acer saccharinum). In the northern areas
associates include boxelder (A. negundo) and white ash (Fraxinus
Associated understory species include roughleaf dogwood (Cornus
drummondii), flowering dogwood (C. florida), swamp-privet (Forestiera
acuminata), Nuttall oak (Quercus nuttallii), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.),
and possumhaw (Ilex decidua). Associated herbs include pokeweed
(Phytolacca americana), stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), eastern
poison-ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and greenbriers (Smilax spp.) .
SPECIES: Morus rubra
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE :
Red mulberry wood is light, soft, weak, close-grained, and durable .
It is of little commercial importance. Current and past uses include
fenceposts, farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior finish, and
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
Many species of birds and small mammals eat the fruits of red mulberry
. Bird consumers include wood ducks , bluebirds, indigo
buntings, gray catbirds, eastern kingbirds, towhees, orchard orioles,
brown thrashers, summer tanagers, vireos, red-cockaded woodpeckers ,
red-bellied woodpeckers, great crested flycatchers , and Lewis'
woodpeckers . Other consumers include opossums, raccoons, fox
squirrels, and gray squirrels . The twigs and foliage are browsed
by white-tailed deer. Beavers consume red mulberry bark .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
Each red mulberry fruit contains a number of seeds. The energy value of
the seeds of red mulberry averages 1,242.60 Joules per fruit. The
average energy value of the fleshy part of red mulberry fruits is
reported as 2,043.88 Joules per fruit .
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
Red mulberry is not noted as a soil stabilizer due to its shallow roots
. However, mine sites that have been reclaimed (usually planted to
grasses and herbaceous perennials) are occasionally colonized by red
mulberry. It may become dominant on these sites. Red mulberry
colonization on unreclaimed mine sites has not been reported .
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
Red mulberry is planted for its fruit and as an ornamental . The
fruit is used to make jams, jellies, pies, and beverages. The fruits
have also been used as feed for hogs and chickens . Native
Americans used the fibrous bark to make cloth .
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Red mulberry is becoming increasingly scarce in the central portions
of its range, possibly due to a bacterial disease .
Red mulberry is occasionally present in the hardwood understory of
pine-hardwood stands in the Gulf Coastal Plain. If management goals
include reduction of hardwood competition, then red mulberry may be one
of the species that needs to be controlled .
Stem injection of red mulberry trees with 2,4-D plus picloram and with
glyphosate results in 100 percent topkill .
Leaf pathogens include Cercospora, Mycosphaerella mori, and Pseudomonas
mori, all of which cause leaf spots. Red mulberry is also susceptible to
witches broom (Microstoma juglandis) .
Insects feeding on red mulberry leaves include the European fruit
lecanium, Comstoch mealy bug, and cottony maple scale. Twigs and stems
are attacked by the American plum borer and the mulberry borer .
Root-knot nematodes sometimes attack the roots of seedlings and older
Red mulberry is rated moderately tolerant of flooding; it will withstand
inundation for a complete growing season, but is killed by inundation
over two growing seasons .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Morus rubra
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Red mulberry is a native, deciduous, small tree with a spreading,
rounded crown [6,10,19,37]. Mature height usually ranges from 15 to 70
feet (5-21 m) . The bark is dark and scaly , divided into
irregular, elongate plates, and is 0.5 to 0.75 inches (1.2-1.9 cm) thick
. The inner bark is tough and fibrous . The roots are shallow
The national champion red mulberry reported from Michigan in 1981 is 72
feet (21.9 m) tall, 18.75 feet (5.7 m) in circumference, and has a
98-foot (29.8-m) crown spread . Red mulberry usually lives 125
years or less .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Red mulberry is usually dioecious but can be monoecious. The youngest
seed-bearing age is usually around 10 years, but plants as young as 4
years have been reported to bear seed. Optimum seed-bearing ages are
between 30 and 85 years, and the maximum age for seed production is 125
years. Good seed crops are produced every 2 to 3 years. Mature fruits
fall near the tree, but most are consumed before becoming fully mature.
The seeds are dispersed by frugivores, mostly birds, after passing
through their digestive tracts. Seeds are either sown in fall without
stratification or in spring after 30 to 90 days at 33 to 41 degrees
Fahrenheit (1-5 deg C) in moist sand .
Vegetative reproduction: Red mulberry sprouts from the roots, and is
reported to be artificially propagated by stem cuttings, budding, or
layering . Baca and others , however, were unable to get red
mulberry stem cuttings to form roots.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Red mulberry grows well under a wide variety of conditions. In the
southern portion of its range, best growth occurs on moist, well-drained
soils of coves and floodplains . Red mulberry grows on a variety of
soils including clays, sands, and loams . It tolerates a wide range
of soil pH . It is often found in pastures and on field borders
. Rothenberger  reported that in eastern Nebraska red mulberry
is codominant in frequently flooded riverbottom forests, important in
the well-drained soils of the transitional forests upslope from the
riverbottom, and minor in the drier upland terrace forests.
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Red mulberry is found in both mid-successional and climax forests. In
old fields in Illinois germination peaks occurred at high
temperature/moderate moisture and moderate temperature/high moisture
conditions. Germination was highest in soils with intermediate levels
of organic matter. Seedling emergence was negatively associated with
irradiance and poisitively associated with litter cover . In
Mississippi red mulberry seedlings establish in reforested bottomland
old fields . It is also found in reforested (83-year-old and
110-year-old) old fields in North Carolina. It is not always an early
colonizer of old fields . In north-central Texas red mulberry occurs
in undisturbed winged elm (Ulmus alata)-post oak (Quercus
stellata)-Shumard oak (Q. shumardii) stands, but not in successional
stands . A study of oldfield succession in Ohio found that red
mulberry was present in 90-year-old stands but not in younger stands.
The authors reported only one red mulberry seed germinating from soil
samples taken from a 200-year-old stand . Burton and Bazzaz 
suggested that based on average emergence across a range of seral
habitats, red mulberry is less successful in colonizing old fields than
honeylocust (Gleditsia triacanthos), red maple, ashes (Fraxinus spp.),
hawthorns (Crataegus spp.), and black cherry (Prunus serotina).
Red mulberry grows best in the open, but is somewhat tolerant of shade
. In old-growth, mesic forests, red mulberry is found in mid-sized
gaps (666 square yards [550 sq m]) more often than in small or large
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Red mulberry catkins appear in April and May. Fruits mature from
June to August and fall from the tree when fully ripe .
SPECIES: Morus rubra
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Red mulberry is apparently excluded from certain forest communities by
periodic fire . In Oklahoma red mulberry is reported as a minor
component of post oak-blackjack oak forests that have developed from
post oak savanna in the absence of fire. Red mulberry was not listed as
a member of the savanna community, which has experienced periodic fire
. In Florida, a pine (Pinus spp.)-red oak (Quercus rubra)-hickory
(Carya spp.) community is maintained in open condition by periodic fire.
This community succeeds to red oak, other fire-intolerant hardwoods, and
red mulberry when fire is excluded. In these forests red mulberry is
often found in very old, seldom-burned stands . In Kansas,
chinkapin oak (Quercus muehlenbergii)-bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) gallery
forests are maintained by periodic fire. Shade tolerant trees including
red mulberry have established where fire is suppressed. Hackberry
(Celtis occidentalis) and elms will eventually replace the oaks if
current conditions continue. Red mulberry will probably remain a minor
component of the fire-free forests .
Red mulberrybye colonizes postfire stands when moisture conditions are
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Tree with adventitious-bud root crown/soboliferous species root sucker
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
SPECIES: Morus rubra
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Red mulberry is probably easily killed by fire due to its thin bark and
shallow roots. Information on the relationship of the intensity of fire
to red mulberry mortality is lacking in the available literature.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
In Missouri a late spring wildfire occurred in 1966 in a fully stocked,
23-year-old stand of white oak, red oak, and hickory. The stand had
developed following a 1943 fire. The 1966 fire top-killed almost all
trees, but left a few survivors (both from the 23-year age class and
survivors of the earlier fire). Small red mulberry plants occurred in
low numbers prior to the 1966 fire (17 stems per acre [42 stems/ha]),
but increased to 120 stems per acre (302 stems/ha) 10 growing seasons
after the fire . In North Carolina red mulberry did not occur in
unburned loblolly pine-shortleaf pine stands. Nine growing seasons
after surface or crown fires, however, it was present in low densities
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Reduction of hardwood competition (including red mulberry) in pine
stands can be accomplished through prescribed fires .
SPECIES: Morus rubra
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