Cousin to the better tasting black mulberry, and better known for its leaves which are fed to silk worms in China, this tree is nevertheless is very worthy of a spot on your farm or in your food forest. Or plant it in your garden if you’ve already got a black one! The White Mulberry is also much more drought tolerant than the black mulberry, with brighter green leaves. It has a rounded or spreading form and is an attractive landscaping tree. The fruits start out white then turn lavender, red or blackish, and are sweet but blander than the black mulberries, although they are reputed to be much more tasty when dried, making a good substitute for raisins.
White Mulberries may be single or multi-stemmed, and can be monoecious (male and female flowers on the same tree) or are dioecious, in which case both male and female are needed for fruiting. Our trees are grown from seed and therefore we have no way of knowing if they will be dioecious or monoecious, or male or female. We therefore offer a discount for three trees (see below). White Mulberries are are fast growing to 5-8 metres tall, sometimes more, but can be pruned to a convenient size, or pollarded. They require full sun or part shade and are tolerant of most soil types as well as frost, drought and wind.
The white mulberry tree has been used medicinally in Asia for many centuries. In China it is known as Sang Zhi and has the following uses:
Leaves (Sang Ye) – bitter and sweet in flavour and cold in nature and good at dispelling wind, reducing heat, clearing liver, and improving vision. Used to treat diabetes, help weight loss, lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, and as a treatment for colds, sore throats and respiratory problems.
Fruit (Sang Shen) – sweet and sour in flavour and cold in nature. Good at nourishing yin and supplementing blood. Used to treat insomnia, constipation, palpitations, dizziness, tinnitus etc. High in fibre and , as with the leaves, used to lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, and as a treatment for colds, sore throats and respiratory problems.
Root bark (Sang Bai Pi) – sweet in flavour and cold in nature, exhibiting antimicrobial, antioxidant and neuroprotective effects. Good for relieving coughs and asthma.
Twigs (Sang She) – bitter in flavour and neutral in nature; acts on the liver meridian. Contain a multitude of medicinal compounds. Harvested at the end of spring, sliced and dried in the sun, then used raw or fried.
The tree also has many other uses. A fibre can be obtained from the bark of one-year old stems, and was used traditionally for weaving clothes and making paper. The twigs are used as binding material and for making baskets. Older wood is used for making furniture, sports equipment and in boat building. A brown dye can be obtained from the trunk. The tree is an excellent source of firewood, producing from 4370 to 4770 kilocalories of energy per kilogram or around 25.8 million BTUs per cord.
As well as feedstock for silkworms the leaves and branches make great food for livestock (cattle, goats, pigs, and rabbits) and are used across the world especially in areas with poor soils and low rainfall where fresh forage is not always available. The leaves contain between 18-25% protein (dry matter content) and have high digestibility (70-90%). Yields of leaves and stems used for forage, range from 3.2-21 tons/acre/year (8-52 tons/hectare/year) with most in the 8-12 tons/acre/year (20-30 tons/hectare/year). Ruminants can be fed up to 60% of diet with mulberry fodder. Mulberry also increases milk yields in cows.
White mulberry is the consummate permaculture tree, providing all these varied functions. In addition, the centuries-old Chinese system of planting the trees in a pond and dyke system gives us a fabulous lesson in closed-loop cycles – another permaculture principle. The trees are planted at the edges of ponds and used for silkworm rearing (which provides fibre as well as food for the farmers), the silkworm feces provide food to feed the fish in the ponds, and the rich mud at the bottom of the ponds is used to fertilise the mulberry trees, eliminating the need for external inputs.
PB5 height approx 120cm, certified organic plant. Discount on orders of multiples of three trees, to aid likelihood of getting a mix of male and female – three plants for $80. Available again June 2020.