Morus alba

Morus alba

The White Mulberry (Morus alba) is a short-lived, fast-growing, small to medium sized mulberry tree, which grows to 10–20 m tall.

The species is native to northern China, and is widely cultivated (and even naturalized) elsewhere. It is also known as Tuta in Sanskrit and Tuti in Marathi.

On young, vigorous shoots, the leaves may be up to 30 cm long, and deeply and intricately lobed, with the lobes rounded. On older trees, the leaves are generally 5–15 cm long, unlobed, cordate at the base and rounded to acuminate at the tip, and serrated on the margins. The leaves are usually deciduous in winter, but trees grown in tropical regions can be evergreen. The flowers are single-sex catkins, with catkins of both sexes being present on each tree; male catkins are 2–3.5 cm long, and female catkins 1–2 cm long. The fruit is 1–2.5 cm long; in the species in the wild it is deep purple, but in many cultivated plants it varies from white to pink; it is sweet but insipid, unlike the more intense flavour of the Red Mulberry and Black Mulberry. The seeds are widely dispersed by birds, which eat the fruit and excrete the seeds.

The White Mulberry is scientifically notable for the rapid plant movement of the pollen release from its catkins. The flowers fire pollen into the air by rapidly (25 µs) releasing stored elastic energy in the stamens. The resulting movement is in excess of half the speed of sound, making it the fastest known movement in the plant kingdom.

Ethnomedical Uses

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fruit is used to treat prematurely grey hair, to "tonify" the blood, and treat constipation and diabetes.

The bark is used to treat cough, wheezing, edema, and to promote urination.

It is also used to treat fever, headache, red dry and sore eyes, as well as cough.

In culture

An etiological Babylonian story that was later incorporated into Greek and Roman mythology attributes the reddish purple color of the white mulberry (Morus alba) fruits to the tragic deaths of the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe.

The "White Mulberry Tree" is title of a crucial chapter in Willa Cather's 1913 novel, O, Pioneers, in which the two forbidden lovers are killed. A reference to the story of Pyramus and Thisbe.


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