Tree Stories 9 – Mulberry

Ripening Mulberries

Ripening Mulberries

Mulberry Tree story is now available on its own page; please follow the Tree Stories links above.

Mulberry is not a tree I would have anticipated in a short list of twenty trees, but I have fond memories of a huge mulberry in the middle of a car park we used to stop in often when I was small. The fruits ripen over quite a long period, so we would often find a few to eat, but to get to them we would have to find a gap in the branches and pick from the inside. The surface of the car park was light sandy gravel, and would always be stained dark red where fallen berries were crushed by car tyres. Sadly I haven’t been there for over thirty years, so have no idea if the tree is still there.

Reputedly planted en masse by James I England in the early 1600s to start a silk industry, they were not a great success. It is thought this was because Black mulberries were planted, rather than the White, Morus alba, which the silkworms preferred. However it may also have been that our climate was too cold for silkworms, or even for mulberries to grow well. The children’s song “Here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning” may allude to this!

The main use of mulberry today is for paper, and also for cordage. The leaves are eaten by silkworms, and also cut for livestock such as cattle and goats to eat in dry seasons.

The fruits can be eaten when fully ripe, and in my memory are a little like blackberries. They are frequently used for jams, tarts, or wine. Unripe fruits and other green parts are apparently mildly hallucinogenic. The leaves are used in traditional Chinese medicine for the treatment of diabetes, since mulberries have been discovered to contain compounds that suppress high blood sugar. Other uses include treatment of various blood disorders such as high blood pressure, dizziness or anaemia, and for healthy hair growth. The raw juice will keep for months, while the fruit needs careful handling so is rarely found in shops.

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