Mulberries – Morus SPP.: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the 1 Endangered vs. 1 Invasive Tree of Wild Plants

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In Ojibwe, mitigwaabimin+ag, Ontario’s local red mulberry is precariously close to extinction. The Asian white has taken over and hybridized with the red. Only around 200 true red mulberries are left.

Mulberries (morus SPP.) are absent from Haliburton Flora; just its relations hops and marijuana made the cut. I have seen them around, likely all planted for landscaping. While there is an extremely rare native red mulberry (morus rubra), it grows in Carolinian zones south of here. If you have spotted a mulberry it is almost certainly the Asian white mulberry (morus alba) or a hybrid.

Other species of trees facing imminent extinction in Ontario are American chestnut (castanea dentata), cucumber tree (magnolia acuminata), butternut (Juglans cinerea), and cherry birch (betula lenta).

Mulberries - Morus SPP.
Mulberries – Morus SPP. – hybrid?

Edible Uses of Mulberries

The ripe mulberries are edible, but the unripe berries and sap from the leaves and raw shoots are toxic, even hallucinogenic, and can irritate skin. Shoots can be picked when leaves are beginning to unfurl – wearing gloves and eye protection is recommended. After boiling for 20 minutes the shoots are safe to eat.

The berries don’t ripen simultaneously. You can place a sheet on the ground and just shake the ripe ones off. Many will retain tiny stem fragments, and you can leave them on if you wish. The berries dry and freeze well. They can be used in pies and other desserts, wines and other beverages. For jams you’ll need to add pectin or combine it with a pectin rich fruit.

Ripe white mulberries are a pale pink. There may be some purple mixed in from hybridization – the two I’ve seen are likely not red (m. rubra) however the berries were dark. Red mulberries are a more scrumptious dark purple.

Medicinal Uses of Mulberries

Mulberry is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Integumentary

Medicinal tags include Anthelmintic, Astringent, Diuretic and Hallucinogen. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the toxic sap used for treating ringworm or parasitic worms, but there are modern treatments that are gentler and won’t risk a trip. And, in case you skipped the edibility bit, the sap can cause skin irritation. Hence it’s recommended to wear protective gloves and glasses when handling it.

White mulberry has traditional astringent uses like for colds and sore throat. But especially in Chinese medicine it’s used for a much longer list of ailments including but not limited to anemia, tinnitus, and vertigo. In the West it seems more of an emphasis is placed on its nutritional value. It’s one of the many berries you can find in supplement form.

Alternative Uses of Blackberry Tree

The wood can be carved.

Growing Morus SPP.

There are just over 200 native red mulberry trees in Canada (most near Dundas Valley, Point Pelee, Pelee Island and Rondeau Provincial Park) and declining. Because we imported white mulberry from Asia and it hybridized, our reds don’t produce pure offspring. The native mulberry is more shade tolerant, with huge sandpaper leaves as big as your head. The pure leaves are almost round like a basswoods. If you have a mulberry, it’s likely white or a hybrid. People would love to get their hands on pure red mulberry, and I’ll be sure to update this page there’s a way in the future. Here’s more about the effort to save red: Not planting a white mulberry is way to help, as birds can spread the seeds far and wide. Here’s a pdf to review if you have a white mulberry.

Up here in Haliburton, we’re far from the zone in question. Of Ontario’s endangered trees, butternut is here in Haliburton county. “If you find Butternut on your land, you may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.” – The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (info here).


Allergy sufferers beware – mulberries produce a lot of pollen.

The sap is toxic and can cause skin irritation.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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Stalking The Wild Asparagus (Field Guide Edition).

Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

Planting the Future: Saving Our Medicinal Herbs

Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries (Regional Foraging Series)

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants

Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants (Out of Print)

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

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