Mulberry (Morus rubra, Morus alba)

Mulberry

Family: Mulberry (Moraceae)

Common Names: Red Mulberry, White Mulberry, Moral

Red Mulberry (Morus rubra) and White Mulberry (Morus alba) are treated here together, since their features are so similar. Red Mulberry, a species native to the entire Eastern United States, is taller and more open and gangly than its counterpart, achieving a height of 60 feet and a spread of 50 feet when found in the open. White Mulberry, a species native to China, has been planted in both Europe and North America, and is more refined and dense in its branching, becoming 40 feet tall and 40 feet wide under optimum conditions. The two species easily interbreed and many mulberry trees are now natural hybrids of the two.

Both produce abundant amounts of fruits on their female trees. As members of the Mulberry Family, they are also related to other species of Mulberry, and to Osage Orange. Mulberry leaves are the only food of the common silkworm — so the tree is quite valuable in silk-producing areas of the world.

The narrow sapwood is white to pale yellow. The heartwood is pale yellow to pale orange turning to a golden brown on exposure to sunlight. The grain is straight with very little if any figure. The wood is ring porous and the texture of the wood is course.

Mulberry The hard, dense wood is used locally for fenceposts. Other uses of the wood include farm implements, cooperage, furniture, interior trim, and casketmaking. For furniture its use is not common in the United States, but there are some makers specializing in mulberry pieces. The wood is available from local and regional mills, although there is no national supplier. In the orient, Mulberry has been a primary furniture wood for centuries. For turning, mulberry is in fairly common use and is available from turning block suppliers.

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Mulberry bench
Mulberry bench by Mill Creek Furniture Works.
Because it is hard, it is difficult to work and dulls edge tools rapidly. Takes screws well (with a pilot hole) and finishes well. Planing and boring the wood exposes new, yellow or orange heartwood, that soon turns golden brown on exposere to light and air. The figure can be quite dramatic which is making it increasingly sought out as the wood for up-scale custom cabinets, interior trimwork, and built in furniture.