A Name Mulberry, the derivation of which is obscurely traced to morus, the Latin name of a genus of trees which some botanists place in a division of the nettle family (urticaceoe), while others make an order morece for this, the fig, the breadfruit, and a few other related genera. The mulberries are trees with rounded leaves, a milky juice, and monoecious or dioecious flowers in small axillary spikes; the flowers are apetalous, the sterile consisting of a four-parted calyx and four stamens; the fertile with a similar calyx and a two-celled ovary with two styles; in ripening, one of the cells of the ovary disappears, and the fruit proper is one-seeded; it is surrounded by the calyx, which in ripening becomes fleshy and berry-like, and the whole fertile spike, crowded with the ripened calices, becomes edible. - The red mulberry (31. rubra) is found from New England southward; it is usually a small tree 15 to 30 ft. high, but in some localities it reaches 60 or 70 ft., forming a handsome head; its leaves are heart-ovate, serrate, rough above, downy beneath, and on young shoots often lobed; the flowers are frequently dioecious; the fruit is about an inch long, dark purple, and pleasant to the taste.
This native species has been singularly neglected; it is a handsome ornamental tree, and produces an acceptable fruit, which, to judge from what has been done with other species, may be greatly improved; but its chief value is in the excellent quality of its timber, which is of a yellowish color, strong, compact, and regarded as equal in durability to that of the locust; it is used in ship building as a substitute for locust in treenails, and for the light timbers of vessels and boats, for which use it is in the southern states preferred to any wood except the red cedar. - The black mulberry (M. nigra), probably originally from Persia, has been known from very early times, and it is believed that the mulberry mentioned in the Scriptures was this species; it has long been cultivated in England, as it is mentioned by Tusser in 1557; Shakespeare had a favorite tree of this species in his garden at Stratford, and from this Gar-rick raised two trees which were standing a few years ago. There are several instances recorded of the longevity of this tree; those at Syon House, the residence of the duke of Northumberland, can be traced back more than three centuries.
Not only is the tree long-lived, but exceedingly tenacious of life; it is stated in the Annales des sciences naturelles that a root sent up shoots after lying dormant in the ground for 24 years. This species is not hardy in a climate more severe than that of the city of New York. It seldom grows more than 30 ft. high, is much branched, and has heart-shaped, rough leaves; its fruit is much larger and finer than that of our native species, being an inch and a half long and an inch thick; when ripe the fruit falls spontaneously, and it is customary to plant the tree in grass so that the fruit may be kept clean; the seeds of cress or other fine-leaved annuals are sown around the tree when it stands in bare ground, to form a mat to receive the fruit. In England the mulberry is a popular dessert fruit, and it is used to form a sweetmeat and a sirup; its juice is mixed with that of apples to form mulberry cider. The wood of this species is of little value except for fuel. - The white mulberry (M. alba) is a native of China, and has become naturalized in the older portions of this country. It is readily distinguished by its obliquely heart-shaped, somewhat lobed leaves, which are smooth and shining, and by its generally yellowish white fruit, which is mawkishly sweet and without flavor.
While silkworms will feed upon the leaves of other species, none produce silk of so fine quality as those kept upon the leaves of the white mulberry. This species was introduced into Europe by the way of the Levant in 1434. The variety of this, with smaller stems and more abundant leaves, called M. alba multicaulis, is preferred in the silk-growing countries to any other. The remarkable excitement caused by the introduction of this variety into the United States 30 or 40 years ago is still within the recollection of many; hundreds of people were engaged in raising mulberry trees for sale, with the expectation of a handsome fortune; but as unfortunately there were no buyers, the speculation subsided as suddenly as it arose. A seedling of the multicaulis is Downing's ever-bearing mulberry, which originated with Mr. Charles Downing at Newburgh, N. Y.; the tree is very productive and remains in bearing a long time; the fruit is nearly as large as that of the black mulberry, which it resembles in flavor; it is maroon-colored or blue-black at maturity. Although the fruit of the multicaulis is white, it has produced several dark-colored seedlings besides this.
Hicks's ever-bearing mulberry, which originated in Kentucky, produces an immense quantity of sweet and insipid fruit for four months; in the southern states it is planted in poultry yards to afford the fowls both shade and food.
Black Mulberry (Morus nigra).
Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera).
The paper mulberry belongs to another genus of the same family, Broussonetia, named in honor of a French naturalist, Broussonet; three species have been described, but they are probably all forms of one, B. 'papyrifera, which grows wild in Japan, China, and many of the islands of the Pacific. It is a small quick-growing tree, 20 or 30 ft. high, with leaves very variable in shape; upon the older branches they are ovate or heart-shaped, but those upon vigorous shoots, or suckers that spring up from the roots, are so much lobed and cut that one would hardly think they could belong to the same tree with the others; they are all rough above and downy beneath. This species is truly dioecious, the staminate trees being much more numerous than the fertile; the sterile flowers are in cylindrical catkins much like those of the mulberry, while the fertile are crowded in a round head about the size of a marble; they consist of a three- or four-lobed calyx, out of which the ripened ovary protrudes as a club-shaped, pulpy fruit, which is scarlet, sweetish, and insipid. This has long been cultivated in New York and southward as a shade tree, but elsewhere than in paved streets it becomes a nuisance on account of the great abundance of suckers it produces.
It is fortunate that the fruit-bearing trees are rare, as in streets the abundant pulpy fruits fall and keep the walk in an unpleasant condition. The Japanese cultivate this tree to furnish material for their paper; the tree is kept cut back to produce an abundance of young shoots; these, in pieces of convenient size, are boiled to separate the bark, which is then peeled off and dried for use. The bark is converted into paper by scraping off all extraneous matter, and boiling in ley until its fibres separate; it is then beaten with wooden sticks, and the pulp thus obtained is mixed with mucilage and spread upon frames of rushes to dry. The so-called India paper, used by engravers to take proofs of their work, is also prepared from this bark. In the South sea islands the bark is used to make tapa, which serves the natives as a substitute for cloth; the bark is soaked for a long time and then beaten to the requisite thinness by the use of a square stick of hard wood, the sides of which are sharply creased; the cloth, which is made into garments, is used plain or stamped with rude figures in various colors. The tree is propagated from cuttings made of the root. - Mulberries are propagated by seeds, cuttings, and layers; they grow readily from seeds which are sown in early spring.
The black mulberry is grown from cuttings, the multicaulis variety by both cuttings and layers Downing's ever-bearing is propagated by grafting upon roots of the white mulberry.