The TreeWeb Course Pages Field Trips Species Lists Tree News Taxonomy Pages History Pages Structure Pages Function Pages Geography Pages Reference Pages

Species Guide
All text and photographs © 1996,1997
Thomas W. Kimmerer

Family: Moraceae
Genera: MacluraMorus
The following species are discussed in this guide:
osage-orange Maclura pomifera white mulberry, Morus alba
red mulberry, Morus rubra

Species osage-orangeMaclura pomifera
Species Name apple-bearing (the fruit is actually a multiple of drupes, not a pome).
Sites and Soils Osage-orange originally occurred in disturbed sites in a tiny region of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Today, it is predominantly a hedgerow species throughout the Midwest, having been planted by Native Americans and European settlers.
Ecology Osage-orange is an intolerant disturbed site species of hedgerows and fencerows in agricultural areas.
Life History Osage-orange flowers in June and is dioecious. The huge globose green fruits ripen in mid fall and drop to the ground. There are presently no native herbivores which eat the fruit and disseminate the seed, and the original vectors are unknown, even within the native range of the species. Seeds germinate in spring or enter the seed bank. Osage-orange also regenerates from stump sprouts. Growth is moderately fast. Osage-orange trees live for 100-150 years, and are typically 40'x3' (Champion 68'x7.7').
Interactions VA mycorrhizal; bee pollinated? The great mystery about osage-orange is the identity of the animal or animals which ate the fruit and transported the seeds. That there must have been one is self-evident: the fruits are too large for the seeds to have been moved by any other means. Cattle will eat them, and buffalo may have been important. Osage orange has remarkable chemical properties, including the presence of 2,3,4,5-tetrahydroxystilbene, whose toxicity to fungi may account for the exceptional decay resistance to decay.
Status Common; increased since European settlement due to planting throughout the midwest.
Range Original range a bone-shaped region from East Texas through Oklahoma and Arkansas. Range now extends throughout the midwest.
Kentucky status Not native; now common. Introduced as hedges and living fences, now escaped in hedgerows.
Kentucky range Bluegrass to Shawnee Hills.
Uses Not presently important, Osage-orange was formerly used as living fences, or for fence posts. The exceptional decay resistance of osage-orange wood led to many uses where the wood was in contact with the ground. Yellow dye was extracted from the wood. The common name "bowdark" or "bois d'arc" came from the use of the wood for making bows. This may have led Native Americans extended the native range of the species.
Ornamental use Not commonly used. The thorns and the huge fruits discourage its use. It is also not very attractive of form. The only thing which recommends osage-orange is its extraordinary hardiness: osage-orange will grow anywhere.
Notes

Go back to the species listGo To TopGo Home

Species white mulberryMorus alba
Species Name white
Sites and Soils An introduced, weedy species of urban environments and heavily disturbed sites.
Ecology White mulberry was introduced to North America in an attempt to establish a native silk industry; white mulberry is the only suitable food for silkworms. Though these efforts failed, white mulberry escaped and became widespread as a nuisance tree, especially in urban environments.
Life History White mulberry flowers in March or April. It is polygamo-dioecious, and bee pollinated. The fruits (multiple of drupes) ripen in June or July. It is a prolific fruiting species, and birds flock to them. Seeds are quickly and widely dispersed by birds. They germinate the same year, or may enter the seed bank. Growth is rapid, and the trees rarely live more than 80 years. White mulberry also regenerates from stump sprouts. Trees typically are 60'x2' at maturity (Champion 75'x6.6').
Interactions VA mycorrhizal; bee pollinated. Fruits are favored by songbirds.
Status Common; increasing since introduction in the 19th century.
Range Not native. Found in patches throughout the United States and southern Canada, especially near communities where attempts were made to rear silkworms.
Kentucky status Common; increasing since introduction in the 19th century.
Kentucky range Patchy throughout the state. Abundant near Shakertown, Mercer County, where there was a silkworm industry. Also abundant in Louisville and common in all urban areas.
Uses None. In China, it is used to rear silkworms, but all such attempts failed in the US.
Ornamental use This species is a noxious weed and should under no circumstances be planted. It has no redeeming features, and many bad ones. It should be extirpated from the landscape.
Notes

Go back to the species listGo To TopGo Home

Species red mulberryMorus rubra
Species Name red
Sites and Soils Red mulberry occurs in bottomlands and mesic sites, including coves and lower slopes, on a wide range of soil types.
Ecology Red mulberry is a very tolerant species, most often seen in the understory of rich mesic woods, or in rich bottomlands. It is usually a scattered tree mixed with other cove or bottomland hardwoods, though occasional patches of many trees are found. Red mulberry is also common in fencerows and thickets.
Life History Red mulberry flowers in March or April and is polygamo-dioecious and bee pollinated. Fruits ripen in mid-summer and are eaten by, and seeds dispersed by, birds. Germination occurs immediately, or seeds may enter the seed bank. Growth is slow, but only because of light limitations; in gaps, red mulberry is fast-growing. Trees live 150-200 years and typically attain heights of 40'x2' (Champion 72'x6'; it is likely that much taller individuals were common prior to European settlement).
Interactions VA mycorrhizal; bee pollinated. Fruits are an important summer food source for songbirds, but are not abundant enough to be a mainstay. Fruits are also consumed by squirrels.
Status Common; anectdotal evidence exists that the species is becoming less abundant in the Appalachians.
Range Eastern Deciduous Forest except extreme north.
Kentucky status Common; stable, though few large trees remain.
Kentucky range entire state.
Uses Of minor importance as a timber tree or ornamental.
Ornamental use Preferable to white mulberry, but not a particularly desirable ornamental.
Notes

Go back to the species listGo To TopGo Home

The TreeWeb Course Pages Field Trips Species Lists Tree News Taxonomy Pages History Pages Structure Pages Function Pages Geography Pages Reference Pages