fbpx Red mulberry | The Morton Arboretum

Red mulberry

Red mulberry seedling.

The uncommon red mulberry is a native woodland tree often reaching 40 to 60 feet tall. The dark green leaves turn a golden yellow and often remain late into autumn. The deep purple fruits of the female tree are sweet and relished by wildlife but can be quite messy. 

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research.

Botanical name:

Morus rubra

All common names:

red mulberry

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Restricted sites

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Parkway/street,
  • Shade tree,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Large tree (more than 40 feet)

Mature Height:

40-70 feet

Mature Width:

40-50 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Wet sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Prefers

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Intolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Intolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Tolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries,
  • Messy fruit/plant parts,
  • Weak wood and branch structure

Ornamental Interest:

  • Fall color,
  • Edible fruit,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Attractive bark

Seasons of Interest:

  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Round

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Game birds,
  • Game mammals,
  • Small mammals,
  • Songbirds

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

One of the two leaf types found on red mulberry.

Fairly tolerant of alkaline soils.

Disease, pests, and problems

A variety of pests are possible including leaf spots, witches brooms, cankers, powdery mildew, spider mites and scale insects.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 10

This tree has a wide native range but is not commonly found.

Bark color and texture 

On young trees, bark is fairly smooth, but with visible lenticels.  On older trees, the bark becomes deeply fissured and reveals the inner bark.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate leaves vary in shape.  Some may be egg-shaped, while others are distinctly lobed (3 to 5 lobed).  Leaf margins are serrate.  
Leaves are dark green in summer, turning yellow in fall (not always consistently good fall color).

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Male and female flowers on separate trees (dioecious).  Flowers are in small clusters, but inconspicuous.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

The fruit is a 1 1/2 inch long cluster of tiny berry-like structures; dark purple when ripe.

One of the two leaf types found on red mulberry.


Location of Morus rubra (Red mulberry) at the Arboretum