Prospecting for Mulberries

One of my favorite things to do is to graze on berries when I go for walks. In my urban neighborhood, most of what’s available are feral Morus alba and possible hybrid mulberries. Most of these are watery and insipid, some of them are grassy tasting or have other “off” flavors. But, I have found a handful that I think might be worth propagating. Only two so far, but that’s a higher percentage than I would think. Now, I don’t have any named variety mulberries yet to compare, but I do know that my two “good” mulberries taste as least as good as better-than-average blackberries, so that’s worth something.

All this has me thinking about where to look for new, hardy mulberry varieties. I think the answer might be in our northern cities. Mulberries seem to thrive in urban areas, especially the less well kept neighborhoods and in the lot lines along apartment parking. A walk around a “bad” neighborhood in the summer might yield a dozen fruiting trees that are easily accessible. If the ratios I’ve experienced hold, you would have a decent chance of finding a mulberry with tasty fruit. Searching in our northern cities would increase the chances of finding good new varieties that might make it in zone 4 or 5.

My two that I really like I named Lock St and Courtland after the streets I found them on. Lock St (which I also like to call “World’s Okay-est mulberry”) has fruit the size of a small-medium blackberry, and has a good sweet-tart balance, reminiscent of a pretty good blackberry. It fruits from late June to Late August/Early September here in New Hampshire, peaking in July. Courtland has slightly larger, much tastier fruits (like a very good blackberry), and fruits from mid June to mid July. It’s much less productive than Lock St, but so very tasty.

Has anyone else prospected for mulberries in an urban wonderland?

Here’s a picture of Lock St’s spurry branches, getting ready for another year of tasty fruit.

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Only on dog walks! We used to live in a “bad” neighborhood and they were abundant. I don’t recall encountering any really good ones on our usual route, though.

The new neighborhood is pretty tidy, i haven’t noticed any stray mulberries yet but I might have to look harder. It’s a “nicer” neighborhood so I think they get cut back quicker here.

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I don’t live in a neighborhood, but have tasted them in others. Most of them are whites and like you stated they range from pretty good to nasty grassy. I hate the grass taste. Overall though most taste pretty good. Reds on the other hand are not so tasty to me. Most of the time they are dry and grassy. Mulberries are tough and good no hassle trees to grow.

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I look for good native Morus rubra berries when I’m knocking about the woods, fields, etc. I live in the boonies and we don’t seem to have any intrusion by M. alba. I’ve found some really tasty ones—better than any bramble berry I’ve tried—but it’s hard to beat the critters to them. There’s a good one in a fence row near here I’m going to try propagating and (if that succeeds) training/pruning to a manageable system.

I’ve long thought that pure rubra was worthy of breeding/improvement—and there were some selections made in the late 19th/early 20th centuries—but there doesn’t seem to be much interest at present. Such projects would make good ecological sense, too, as the red mulberry is threatened in much of its range, thanks to competition from and hybridization with invasive alba.

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i have Northrop and Riverview mulberry. Northrop came from cricket hill in CT and Riverview came from rolling river in CA. both are growing well and should fruit this year. both z4 hardy. would like to trial your selections and i can send you some of mine to trial if you’re interested.

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I have you on my list to send you cuttings. Hopefully they work for you!

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I used to want Hicks and Stubbs from Eliza (HogTree) in Georgia.

I think they were the work of John Hershey.

They were developed to feed hogs and chickens for up to 3 months…

I have growing now several of the most precocious mulberries i have ever seen… one variety is only 3 foot tall and i bet it has over 100 fruits on it…its not even a year old.

It will be fantastic for backyard growers in pots, possibly bonsai.

I have no idea how its going to do in soil…so i am keeping it to myself until i figure out what it wants to do.

It has a sister as well… but it is a month behind so i will know more about it as spring comes.

So yes i have prospected for Mulberries but mostly online and thru trades that were super sketchy. Ive lost more to customs than i care to admit.

My passion started with a tree at my grandmas house. This tree was around 30ft high and grew beside a paved parking spot. The parking spot was where oil was changed and dumped, all kinds of trash, and the parking spot was built by old broken blocks and bricks and refuse. Possibly the worst soil that could ever be imagined… yet the tree thrived and produced heavily. It is easily 70 years old or older and pushes fruit year after year with no complaints. I rooted a stick of her 3 years ago… and have been on the hunt for mulberries ever since.

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I have been grazing on mulberries since I was a kid. They always grew along the river trails where I fished. Carp eat the berries as they fall into the water. Anyway, I found the biggest variation to be the weather, not a particular tree. If it had rained a lot, the berries were gross. If it was too dry, the berries were small and withered. I wonder if some trees taste better because they are partially covered in concrete, or grow in gravel, or some other site specific variables. If these tees were grafted at another site, would they taste different? I know nothing of different mulberry cultivars. I spend more time trying to kill mulberries in my yard. I just know specific trees i grazed upon for decades taste different every year. I should try to graft on some of my invasive trees.

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aend me a P.M when you send them and ill send you mine.

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I like sampling wild mulberries in the woods and feral city mulberries and agree with you on the range of flavors. My favorites also have a good sweet/tart balance.
The best tree I have tasted is 30 to 40 feet tall and growing on the edge of some woods near me. It is very productive most years and the berries drop when ripe (other trees I know of have to be hand plucked, they don’t release when ripe), so I climb out on limbs and shake them to get the berries to fall on a tarp I position below whatever limb I’m on. Never succeeded rooting dormant or actively growing cuttings of it but it roots easily when air layered so I have a backup plant in ground now at a friend’s place.

the branching on that Lock st mulberry looks really neat.

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While I have never prospected for mulberries my Girardi mulberries from Whitman farms fruited first year. I ended up yanking them. They were not grassy but to me they tasted like what I would describe as sugar water. When I say sugar water I mean you could pour sugar in water and drink it and you could not tell the difference. I was kind of so so on them and did not think it was worth the hassle. I would rather have a good pear, apple, peach or cherry than what I had.

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@JeremiahT I, too, have been surprised by the lack of interest. If I had a larger property I would definitely plant a few Morus rubra. I suppose I could experiment with a coppice.

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Hicks and Stubbs predate Hershey by decades, but he did promote them…
I have Hicks…anticipate first fruits this spring, but anticipate that it will be inferior to IE, Silk Hope, Lawson Dawson, or random albaXrubra hybrids that have popped up in my orchard over the years.

I’ve had some fabulous M.rubras. particularly in AL; have one productive KY rubra that I’ve grafted into my collection, but its not as good as most I ate down South.
Never yet encountered a pure M.alba that made me want to spend much time ‘grazing’…but have run across quite a few random hybrids that are both productive and tasty.

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The only mulberries growing here in Dublin tend to be morus nigra which are outstandingly delicious, but they are not that many around and most people don’t even now what they are.

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I think it’s a great idea. My one caution would be that if you can’t find a feral tree that is at least on a par with the better named alba/rubra varieties, then you’d be wasting your time. if it were me, I’d take as my benchmark Illinois Everbearing, which gives very good fruits here over a season that lasts from late June through mid August.

A friend in Cranston has a big old tree with a trunk in a neighbor’s yard but branches hanging over into her yard. The fruit tends to ripen all at once and it falls from the tree when ripe. Just by spreading a tarp, she can harvest 20 lbs per day for a few weeks in June. But the fruit is rather small and, I think, inferior to IE. Nevertheless it makes an excellent jam.

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I agree with you, most trees the biggest factor is weather. 2020 we had a severe drought, and 2021 we had seemingly endless rain. Both of these trees produced tasty fruit both years. Lock Street’s roots are mostly paved over, and both are in sandy soil, so only way to know for sure is trying them out in other places. I will say, though, that there are numerous trees in similar conditions that were not nearly as impressive. I do keep meaning to fish the “mulberry hatch” with my fly rod…

@elivings1, I hope my Girardi works out for me! I have high hopes, as I don’t have space for a full-size tree.

@Lucky_P I suspect my two are hybrids, but I don’t see anything definitive enough to tell without testing DNA.

@jrd51 I sure wish I had some IE to compare to. Lock Street is pretty close to what I’ve imagined from the descriptions.

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Ask around – there must be an IE somewhere close. I’d invite you down to taste mine but it was demolished in an autumn windstorm. :frowning:

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I think Girardi is hardy to zone 5 from what I read. I had it in my garage so can’t really speak to the hardiness of it. Like I mentioned mine heavily cropped early on. I bought it in the fall and it leafed out and cropped in the summer/spring.

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Agreed, I propagate the native Morus rubra only. I’m not helping the invasive Morus alba spread any further… :unamused:

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I would love that when you decide to send it around! I love my wild mulberries, but am trying some shorter and more known varieties because the neighbors are cutting trees down.

I do hunt for decent fruits - feral suburbia. Several properties here have been left to grow over, the mulberries have grown wild.
One neighbor let tree get quite large in the front yard- too bad the tree closest to the road is awful. White fruit, just semi-sweet, stinks horribly when ripe. The other yard trees are all similar, ok fruit, quite small. I have spread a tarp and collected them for jam, though. The new owners are alternately cutting things back and letting things go wild. I don’t think the decent tree is long for this world.
The other property with large numbers of wild mulberries has a range of small ok fruits, and others that are just blah.

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