Morus spp.

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Coppiced plants in Cuba.

Foliage and fruits.

Goat grazing coppiced plants.

Coppiced plants growing with trees of Erythrina sp. In Costa Rica.

Growing with a leguminous groundcover.

High palatability makes it suitable for cut and carry.

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Scientific name

Morus spp. L. (Morus alba L., M. nigra L. and M. rubra L.)

Most of the cultivated varieties are white mulberry (Morus alba L.), black mulberry (M. nigra L.), Indian mulberry (M. indica) and in North America the American or red mulberry (M. rubra L.).  Hybrid forms exist between Morus alba and M. rubra and others.  There are many other species: Korean mulberry (Morus australis), Himalayan mulberry (M. laevigata).

Family/tribe

Family: Moraceae.

Common names

mulberry, common mulberry, silkworm mulberry (English);  morera or mora (Spanish);  moreira (Portuguese);  mûrier (French).

Morphological description

The common mulberry is a handsome deciduous tree, 10-25 m tall, of rugged, picturesque appearance, forming a dense, spreading head of branches usually wider than the height of the tree, springing from a short, rough trunk.  The form of the tree can vary from pyramidal to drooping.  The simple, alternate, stipulate, petiolate, light green leaves are cordate at their base but very variable in form, even on the same tree;  some are un-lobed while others may be almost palmate.  Flowers are unisexual, borne in the axils of leaves or on spurs on separate spikes, or catkins, which are small, more or less cylindrical and trees may be monoecious or dioecious .  Fruits are collective, fleshy, white, lavender, deep red to black.

Distribution

Native to:
Asia:  China.

Other:
It has now spread from the temperate areas of northwest and central Asia, Europe and North America, through the tropics of Asia, Africa and Latin America, to the southern hemisphere (southern Africa and South America).  There are mulberry varieties for many environments, from sea level to altitudes of 4,000 m, and from the humid tropics to semi-arid lands.  In the Near East with 250 mm of annual rainfall and southwest of the USA, mulberry is also produced under irrigation.

Uses/applications

Mulberry leaves have been the traditional feed for the silk worm.  There is evidence that sericulture started about 5,000 years ago and hence the domestication of mulberry.  The main use of mulberry globally is as feed for the silk worm, but depending on the location, it is also appreciated for its fruit (consumed fresh, in juice or as preserves), as a delicious vegetable (young leaves and stems), for its medicinal properties in infusions (mulberry leaf tea), for landscaping and as animal feed.  There are several places where mulberry is utilised traditionally as a feed in mixed forage diets for ruminants.
The berries, called sorosis have been used in traditional fabric dyeing.  Purple and red are common colours produced with mulberry.  It is traditionally used to dye wool.
Mulberry is well suited for use as a fodder where it can be grown opportunistically around house-compounds, on spare pieces of land and along field edges.  Integration of fish, livestock, and crop production in China has been refined for over 2,000 years.  The system recycles resources, reduces organic pollution (livestock and poultry manure are good organic fertilizers for fish farming), and combines fish farming with mulberry cultivation for raising silkworms.  The silkworm pupae are used as fish feed, and the worm faeces and wastewater from silk processing as pond fertilizers.  Pond silt is used as fertilizer for fodder crops, which can in turn be used to feed livestock, poultry, and fish.

Feeding value

Nutritive value

One of the main features of mulberry as forage is its high palatability .  Small ruminants avidly consume the fresh leaves and the young stems first, even if they have never been exposed to it before.  Then, if the branches are offered unchopped, they might tear off and eat the bark.  Cattle consume the whole biomass if it is finely chopped.  Animals initially prefer mulberry to other forages when they are offered simultaneously, and even dig through a pile of various forages to look for mulberry.

Palatability/acceptability

There have been not report is toxicity and only apparent few cases of bloating with cattle in Japan.

Toxicity

Production potential

Dry matter

There is a report of ad libitum dry matter intake of 4.18% of liveweight (average of three lactating goats), which is much higher than in other tree fodders, the dry matter intakes of mulberry leaves of 3.44% of body weight in sheep under experimental conditions.  Goats can produce between 15,000-20,000 litres of milk/ha in mulberry based feeding systems.  In a comparative study, higher daily dry matter intakes of mulberry leaves were seen in sheep than in goats (3.55 vs. 2.74 kg DM/100kg body weight).  In Costa Rica, liveweight gains of bulls belonging to the Romosinuano breed (a criollo type) fed elephant grass, increased to over 900g/day when mulberry was offered as a supplement at 1.7% of their body weight on a DM basis.  Growing Zebu x Brown Swiss steers being fed increasing levels of mulberry as supplement to a sorghum silage diet.  Although the growing rates with the highest mulberry level are not impressive (195g/day), most likely due to the poor quality of the silage , this trial shows the high nutritive value of the supplement.  Other small herbivores, like guinea pigs, iguanas and snails, could also be fed mulberry leaves.  In fact, wild green iguanas (Iguana iguana) came to feed on recently established mulberry fields in Costa Rica.
A combination of mulberry and Trichantera gigantea leaves, as the protein source, and blocks made of molasses, cassava root meal and rice bran, as the energy source, gave better reproduction and growth performance than a diet of commercial concentrates and grass supplemented Angora rabbits, receiving pelleted diets, with mulberry leaves ad libitum and obtained intakes of mulberry equivalent to 29-38% of the total intake.  This level significantly reduces feed cost.  Fed mulberry leaves as the sole ration for adult rabbits.  They found daily intakes of 68.5g for dry matter, 11.2g for crude protein and 175kcal for digestible energy (equivalent to 2.55Mcal of digestible energy per kg).  The digestibility values were 74% for crude protein, 59% for crude fibre and 64% for dry matter.  The authors concluded that mulberry leaves provided enough nutrients for maintenance.  Shade-dried M. indica leaf meal in the mash of laying hens has been found to improve egg yolk colour and to increase egg size and production with the inclusion up to 6%) in laying hens.

Animal production

The diploid M. alba (2n = 2x = 28) is the species most widely spread, but polyploid varieties, which originated in various research stations in Asia, show greater leaf yields and quality.  In general, polyploid varieties have thicker and larger leaves with darker green colour, and produce more leaves.  Triploid varieties have been found especially among Morus bombysis Koidz.  M. cathayana Hemsl. has tetraploid , pentaploid and hexaploid varieties.  Both M. serrata Roxb., indigenous to India, and M. tiliaefolia Makino, originally from Japan and Korea, are known to be hexaploid.  M. boninensis Koidz. is a tetraploid being endangered due to cross contamination with M. acidosa Griff. M. nigra L. is dexoploid (2n = 308), the largest number of chromosomes among phanerogams.
They are wind pollinated and some cultivars will set fruit without any pollination.  Cross-pollination is not necessary.  Male catkins are generally longer than female ones and are loosely arranged;  after shedding pollen they dry and drop off.  The juicy drupelets formed by the individual flowers on the catkin combine to form a sorosis, the characteristic mulberry fruit.

Genetics/breeding

Fruits are picked or shaken on sheets when ripe.  Mulberry seeds should be removed from the ripe fruit as soon as ready by squashing with plenty of water to separate seed from pulp.  The seed can be dried and stored or stratified in sand for several months although immediate sowing is often recommended.

Seed production

No information available.

Herbicide effects

Strengths

Limitations

Mulberry is also a widely used traditional folk remedy, used for "aphtha, armache, asthma, bronchitis, bugbite, cachexia, cold, constipation, cough, debility, diarrhea, dropsy, dyspepsia, edema, epilepsy, fever, headache, hyperglycemia, hypertension, inflammation, insomnia, melancholy, menorrhagia, snakebite, sore throat, stomatitis, tumours, vertigo, and wounds".
Mulberry twigs are used for making baskets, the sticks as beanpoles, and the wood for fuelwood, sporting goods (it's springy, like ash) and fine furniture.  In Japan, the traditional "chashaku" green tea scoop used in semi-formal tea ceremonies is made of mulberry wood.  If it's not mulberry then it's only an informal one.  (Formal chashaku are supposed to be ivory.)
Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi used "shoji" paper made by hand from boiled mulberry tree bark for his famous Akari lamps, now regarded as pure modernist sculpture (there's a permanent exhibition of them in the Museum of Modern Art in New York).  Noguchi was inspired by the traditional rice-paper lamps used by Japanese fishermen for night fishing.  Mulberry bark is also used for paper in Europe, and in Polynesia it is used to make a fabric called Tapa cloth - an ancient craft that is now helping to save rainforests in the region.
They have been planted only to a limited extent in America, mostly on the Pacific Coast.  The mulberry makes a good town tree , which will grow well in a tub.

Other comments

Benavides, J.E. (1999) UtilizaciÓn de la morera en sistemas de producciÓn animal. En: Sánchez, M.D. & Rosales, M. Agroforestería para la producciÓn animal en Latinoamérica. Memorias de la conferencia electrÓnica. Estudio FAO ProducciÓn y Sanidad Animal 143. pp. 275-281. (FAO, Rome).
Boschini, C.F. (2002) Establishment and management of mulberry for intensive fodder production. In: Sánchez, M.D. (ed.) 2002. Mulberry for Animal Production . Animal Production and Health Paper 147. pp. 115-122. (FAO, Rome).
Hiroaki Machii, Akio Koyama and Hiroaki Yamanouchi (2002) Mulberry Breeding, Cultivation and Utilization in Japan. In: Sánchez, M.D. (ed.) 2002. Mulberry for Animal Production . Animal Production and Health Paper 147. pp. 63-71. (FAO, Rome).
Kamimura, C., Koga, S., Hashimoto, A., Matsuishi, N., Torihama, Y., Nishiguchi, T. and Shinohara, K. (1997) Studies on the factors influencing the mulberry (Morus alba) productivity in fields. Journal of Sericultural Science of Japan, 66, 176-191.
Sánchez, M.D. ed. (2002).  Mulberry for animal production . FAO Animal Production and Health Paper 147.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
Shayo, C.M. (1997) Uses, yield and nutritive value of mulberry (Morus alba) trees for ruminants in the semi-arid areas of central Tanzania. Tropical Grasslands, 31, 599-604.

Selected references

http://www.fao.org/WAICENT/FAOINFO/AGRICULT/AGA/AGAP/FRG/MULBERRY/home.htm
http://www.fao.org/documents/show_cdr.asp?url_file=/DOCREP/005/X9895E/X9895E00.HTM
http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Gbase/data/pf000542.htm

Internet links

Cultivars

Country/date released

Details

'Black Persian' USA M. nigra.  Large black fruit, over 25 mm long and almost as wide.  Juicy with a rich, subacid flavor.  The tree is fairly drought -resistant once established. 'Collier' USA M. alba x M. rubra.  Medium-sized, purplish-black fruit, 30 mm long and 10 mm in diameter.  Flavor sweet, with just a trace of tartness.  Quality very good, on par with 'Illinois Everbearing'.  Ripens over a long period.  Tree of medium size, spreading, relatively hardy, very productive. 'Downing' USA The original 'Downing' was a M. alba var. multicaulis plant grown from seed sown about 1846.  The fruit was black with excellent flavor and ripened from June to September. 'K.M.' India West Bengal selection which gives 50% more leaves than local types, and is popular in Mysore for grafting purposes. 'Pakistan' USA Originated in Islamabad, Pakistan.  Extremely large ruby-red fruit 65-90 mm long and 10 mm in diameter.  Flesh firmer than most other named cultivars.  Sweet with a fine balance of flavors.  Quality excellent.  Tree spreading with large heart-shaped leaves.  Recommended for the warmer areas. 'Russian' (M. tatarica) USA Introduced into Europe from China about 1,500 years ago.  Fruit reddish-black, of good quality when completely ripe.  Tree bushy, to 10 m tall, very hardy and drought resistant and used as a rootstock.  Planted widely for windbreaks and wildlife food. 'Shangri-La' USA Originated in Naples, Fla. Large, black fruit.  Good mulberry for warmer areas but hardy.  Tree has very large, heart-shaped leaves. 'Tehama' ('Giant White') USA Originated in Tehama County, California.  Very large, white-colored, plump fruit, 70 mm in length and 12 mm wide.  Very sweet, succulent, melting flesh.  Attractive, large-leaved tree .  Probably best adapted to mild winter areas.

Cultivars

Promising accessions

Country

Details

None reported.