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The uncommon red mulberry is a native woodland tree often reaching 40 to 60 feet tall. The dark green leaves turn a golden yellow and often remain late into autumn. The deep purple fruits of the female tree are sweet and relished by wildlife but can be quite messy. This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

  • Family (English) Mulberry
  • Family (botanic) Moraceae
  • Planting site City parkway, Residential and parks, Restricted sites, Wide median
  • Tree or plant type Tree
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Large tree (more than 40 feet)
  • Mature height 40-70 feet
  • Mature width 40-50 feet
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early fall, mid fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Inconspicuous
  • Shape or form Round
  • Growth rate Moderate
  • Transplants well Yes
  • Planting considerations May be difficult to find in nurseries, Messy fruit/plant parts, Weak wood and branch structure
  • Wildlife Game birds, Game mammals, Small mammals, Songbirds
  • Has cultivars Yes

Native geographic location and habitat: 

Red mulberry has a wide native range that covers most of the eastern United States, but it is not commonly found. C-Value: 10. 

Bark color and texture: 

On young trees, the bark is fairly smooth, but with visible lenticels. On older trees, the bark becomes deeply fissured and reveals the inner bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:  

The simple, alternate leaves vary in shape. Some may be egg-shaped, while others are distinctly lobed, with three to five lobes. Leaf margins are serrate. Leaves are dark green in summer, turning yellow in fall, although without consistently good fall color.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size: 

Male and female flowers form on separate trees (dioecious). Flowers are in small clusters, but inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions: 

The fruit is a 1 1/2 inch-long cluster of tiny berry-like structures that turn dark purple when ripe.


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