Morus x hybrid - mulberry

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lets not forget the biomass

these trees grow FAST and put out lots and lots of biomass. Be it leaves or prunings this is great chop and drop if you dont have an immediate use for it.

Theres a story going around that the Chinese used the mulberry tree to push back the Gobi desert. Is the idea that they were planted en masse at the desert edges and the leaf drop alone did the work? This is one of the trees I would consider a pioneer species even without nitrogen fixing super powers.

I am working on a special agroforestry design using white mulberry, prosopis glandulosa, and pigeons. Ill post more on that when I have the paper finished.

David Cody - Permaculture training and consultation www.upisf.com

update on white mulberry agroforestry system?

Is there any update on this paper? I'm quite intrigued.

mulberries at Accokeek

Mulberry is a common tree at Accokeek (www.accokeek.org). Here is a beautiful old one:

And here is mulberry with pawpaw beneath:

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

mulberry variety trials

Let us know what mulberry varieties you have sampled or grown, for fruit and cooked leaf quality, or other traits.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

multipurpose food and fodder tree

Mulberry keeps growing on me.

First I thought it was a pretty nice berry that grows on a tree. The fruits of improved varieties can be quite good, though most seedlings are insipid and not too great. Dried white mulberries are said to have been a staple crop in the Himalayas - and they are very good eating, somewhere between dried figs and raisins in flavor.

Second, I learned that it was one of the best foods for wild birds - in fact, so good that they will leave ripe  cherries alone if there is a mulberry nearby.

Third, I read in Tree Crops: A Permanent Agriculture that mulberry was a great food for pigs and chickens, and the fruit just drops to the ground to be harvested by livestock. Long season varieties like "Illinois Everbearing" can crank out the fruit for months.

Then for many years I thought I knew all there was to know about mulberries. Little did I know!

Fourth, it turns out that mulberry leaves are high-protien fodder for livestock like goats, sheep, and cattle. Protien levels are around 20%+ depending on the variety. I saw a great system at Las Canadas in mexico where coppiced mulberry, interplanted with nitrogen fixing acacia trees, was used to provide cut-and-carry fodder to milking goats. Here's a photo of part of this system:

Fifth, and incredibly, the folks at Las Canadas had learned in Cuba that cooked mulberry leaves are great food for humans! I was highly skeptical until I tried them in a Mexican spanikopita that knocked my socks off. Ricardo Romero and his team there had trialed a number of varieties until they found the one that had the best flavor, a form they call "Tigrinum" since it looks like a tiger's paw. Here is a photo of "Tigrinum":

Here's another smaller-scale polyculture used at Las Canadas. A block of mulberry is planted out with a nitrogen fixer in the middle - in this case it is a Flemingia. In this photo the mulberries were recently coppiced but not the Flemingia. We could easily replicate this by replacing Flemingia with Caragana, Albizzia, Alnus, or any of tens of other nitrogen-fixing coppicing species. This is a very successful polyculture for Ricardo and the gang and they have replicated it in various areas. Note that this is planted in the middle of their biointensive garden and right near the kitchen door!

Sixth, the final late-breaking news that puts mulberry totally over the top is that it is the preferred (and virtually only) host plant for silkworms. Silkworms are great fun to raise and not only useful for silk making (which is very labor intensive and currently not economically viable in the U.S.) but make great poultry food, high in protien and fat. It seems easy to grow a lot of silkworms for home-scale poultry food and save money and off-site inputs. Silk operations have large parcels of coppiced mulberries for leaf production. Silkworms are also edible for humans and my wife says they are kind of sweet-flavored. Yikes!

Add to this that the mulberry will grow in most of the worlds climates and you have got a true crop of the future!

Next steps: screen existing named mulberry varieties and wild-occuring forms to see which have best flavor and texture for cooked leaves. Also it would be useful to import "Tigrinum" to the U.S. and Canada, because not only does it have good leaves for eating but also can be propagated very simply just by cutting a branch and sticking it in the ground for a 90% success rate.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

Any progress on identifying tasty-leaf cultivars?

It's hard to be patient on a topic like this!

"We have changed the world, and we wonder why things won't stay the same." --Les Lanyon

Also it would be useful to

Also it would be useful to import "Tigrinum" to the U.S. and Canada, because not only does it have good leaves for eating but also can be propagated very simply just by cutting a branch and sticking it in the ground for a 90% success rate.

Because of the introduction of white mulberry from China, the native red mulberry is endangered in Ontario and is threatened in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Vermont. While it's not as simple as natives good/exotics bad as David Theodoropoulos has pointed out, we should still be careful when introducing a species. Are there unintended results? How will it interact with native species? Does it have checks and balances where it grows? Will it have checks and balances in its new home?

can of worms

We should start a forum for what should be a rich and interesting discussion on this larger topic.

In this particular case, the red mulberry is not good for edible leaves as they have a sandpapery texture. 

I have planted a fair amount of red mulberry in conservation plantings around here, though I know they will end up crossing with the red-white hybirds that are everywhere in this area. 

In this particular case, white mulberry is already here so bringing in another variety is not particularly likely to have an effect (though it will come through quarantine to keep pests and diseases out). This form also sets very little fruit, a desirable trait to minimize naturalizing. And the prospect of a high-protein, very productive woody leaf crop could be a contributor to carbon-sequestering low maintenance agriculture, so we need to balance the environmental pros and cons. We need to stop externalizing the environmental costs of our food and fuel production. And we also need to be responsible and not introduce the next kudzu.

Eric Toensmeier - writer, trainer, plant geek - www.perennialsolutions.org

"invasiveness" and kudzu

Emotions run strong around the "invasive" issue, mine included. I recently picked up a USDA yearbook from 1948 about Grass (aptly titled "Grass") that had some pertinent info about Kudzu, which at the time was still being promoted as a high quality low maintenance forage by the USDA. According to this work, commercial plantings were established in 1910. By 1946, an estimated 300,000 acres were planted to kudzu in the southern US. Recommended spacing is 500 plants to the acre, making the number of kudzu vines planted in a roughly 35 yr. period a staggering 150,000,000! And these were apparently being planted in dense monocrop stands.. I think we should fairly question whether the cascading effects upon ecosystem and species dynamics are the result of something innate to the nature of this plant, in many ways  a typical vine (vigorous, climbing, sprawling, quick to reproduce, etc.) , or perhaps to the "set and setting" of its introduction. 
I can see the wisdom of controlling our role as agents in the dissemination of species, but I am disturbed by the vilification of any species. Ticks and mosquitos sometimes challenge my capacity to appreciate the place of all things, usually when they are biting me. 
 

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