Morus alba - L.
White Mulberry
Other Common Names: white mulberry
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Morus alba L. (TSN 19066)
French Common Names: mūrier blanc
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.145482
Element Code: PDMOR0D010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Mulberry Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Urticales Moraceae Morus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Morus alba
Taxonomic Comments: Species identification in mulberry (Morus) continues to be a point of great debate among scientists despite the number of criteria such as floral characters, wood, and leaf anatomical and biochemical characters used to identify the species within this genus. The results of genetic cluster analysis revealed relatively high degrees of DNA polymorphism among several species of Morus where Morus laevigata was found to be a separate species of mulberry while Morus latifolia, Morus bombycis, Morus alba, and Morus indica were grouped together and treated as subspecies (Vigayan et al., 2004).
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (05Nov2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
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United States Alabama (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada British Columbia (SNA), Ontario (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States ALexotic, ARexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada BCexotic, ONexotic

Range Map
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Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: High/Medium
Rounded I-Rank: High
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Impacts of this species largely occur at the native species level except where stands are dense and prevent native forest regeneration. This species spreads/carries disease that kills native red mulberry, itself considered an endangered species in Canada. White mulberry also hybridizes readily with native red mulberry and, with time, could eliminate native genetic strains and come to replace native red mulberry in the United States. It is already distributed throughout most of the United States except the southwest and Alaska but is considered particularly invasive in the northeast and Wisconsin. It is easily spread by birds and mammals and has moderate capability of invading undisturbed areas. Control is not difficult although success over time has not been evaluated.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: High/Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Medium/Low
I-Rank Review Date: 26Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro, Fellows, M.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: This species is native to temperate Asia (Weber, 2003), particularly central and northern China (Czarapata, 2005; Zheng et al., 2006).

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: The species was introduced to the United States by the British before the Revolutionary War in an unsuccessful attempt to establish a silkworm industry (Czarapata, 2005).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: For thousands of years, white mulberry, native to China, was cultivated as a source for silk worm, although this has largely been unsuccessful in the United States despite repeated attempts. The species has still become widespread in native species habitat across the U.S. (Weeks, 2003).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: Medium/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Unknown

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:Low significance
Comments: The tree grows up to 15 m tall (Weber, 2003) and forms dense stands, although they are usually not monospecific.

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:Medium/Low significance
Comments: When stands are dense, they can prevent native forest regeneration (Weber, 2003).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:Moderate significance
Comments: This species spreads/carries disease that kills native red mulberry (Morus rubra) (MD Cooperative Extension, undated), itself considered an endangered species in Canada with a National Recovery Strategy in preparation (Ambrose, 1999). White mulberry also hybridizes readily with native red mulberry and, with time, could eleminate native genetic strains and come to replace native red mulberry in the United States (Husband et al., 2001; Ambrose, 1999; Burgess et al., 2005; Randall and Marinelli, 1996; Weeks, 2003). Many horticultural varieties of white mulberry have been planted in the United States including Russian mulberry, Morus alba var. tartarica (Weeks, 2003), which also hybridize with and outcompete native red mulberry.

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Moderate significance
Comments: This species spreads/carries disease that kills native red mulberry (Morus rubra) (MD Cooperative Extension, undated), itself considered an endangered species in Canada with a National Recovery Strategy in preparation (Ambrose, 1999). White mulberry also hybridizes readily with native red mulberry and, with time, could eleminate native genetic strains and come to replace native red mulberry in the United States (Husband et al., 2001; Ambrose, 1999; Burgess et al., 2005; Randall and Marinelli, 1996; Weeks, 2003). Many horticultural varieties of white mulberry have been planted in the United States including Russian mulberry, Morus alba var. tartarica (Weeks, 2003), which also hybridize with and outcompete native red mulberry.

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: This species is distributed throughout the United States except Arizona, Utah, and Alaska (Kartesz, 1999).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: For thousands of years, white mulberry, native to China, was cultivated as a source for silk worm, although this has largely been unsuccessful in the United States despite repeated attempts. The species has still become widespread in native species habitat across the U.S. (Weeks, 2003). It is considered particularly invasive in the northeast and Wisconsin (USDA, 2006).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: This species is distributed throughout the United States except Arizona, Utah and Alaska (Kartesz, 1999). It is conservatively estimated that well over half of the U.S. ecoregions have been invaded by the either invasive strains of this species or native x invasive crosses of white and red mulberry (Cordeiro, pers. obs. June 2006 based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: The species is known to invade forests, forest edges, grassland and rocky places (Weber, 2003). It can also be found in waste areas, roadsides, no-till fields, woodland edges, fencerows; and tolerates poor soils, drought, air pollution, and salt, but cannot grow in shade, unlike the native red mulberry which requires shade (Czarapata, 2005; Weeks, 2003).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: High/Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Of late, Morus alba has become particularly invasive in northeastern states and is also considered invasive in Wisconsin (USDA, 1999). Since its deliberate introduction in the 1700s, it has been spreading considerably throughout the United States (and the world) for the last 300 years (Czarapata, 2005).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Medium/Low significance
Comments: White mulberry has a long agronomic history in the U.S. with forage cultivation occurring as early as the 1700s in New England for silk production and continuing much actively today for horticulature (Czarapata, 2005). A significant portion of its potential range is likely occupied although there is still room for expansion as it displaces native red mulberry.

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Many varieties are in cultivation, especially for silk production, food, or as ornamentals (Weber, 2003). Birds and mammals relish mulberry fruits and spread the seeds through their feces (Weeks, 2003).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:High significance
Comments: The species spreads rapidly and is very widely distributed (Weber, 2003).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is listed as an "invasive plant of lesser concern" in Czarapata (2005). The species is cabable of invading some natural areas including fields, forest edges, and reoadsides.

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: The species has also invaded Southern and Central Europe, Africa, Canada, South America (Weber, 2003) although likely in similar habitats.

16. Reproductive Characteristics:Moderate significance
Comments: The root system is widely aggressive and spreads rapidly, clogging areas quickly. Reproduction is by seed (Czarapata, 2005) and the species is capable of self-pollination and sex reversal (Schaffner, 1936).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Medium/Low

17. General Management Difficulty:Low significance
Comments: To control this species, pull or dig out smaller plants; cut and treat stumps with herbicide for larger plants (Weber, 2003). Czarapata (2005) cautions that this species should be properly identified before beginning control measures as it is easily confused with the native red mulberry. Girdling is sometimes used (especially for large trees) and a basal bark treatment with triclopyr formulated for use with oil is also effective. Imazapyr has been effective, as well. Cut stems buried in the soil are able to regenerate so must be properly disposed of (Czarapata, 2005).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Unknown

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Moderate significance
Comments: Experiments have demonstrated that culling of White Mulberry can increase the reproductive success of Red Mulberry and reduce hybridization. However, due to White Mulberry's fitness advantage over Red Mulberry, it is anticipated that a large amount intervention will be necessary to prevent the extirpation of Red Mulberry. Results from this work showed that the removal of White and hybrid Mulberry in culled plots successfully increased the number of seeds sired by Red Mulberry and decreased the proportion of matings with White and hybrid Mulberry (Ambrose, 1999). Zheng et al. (2006) cite at least 61 species of fungi (with references) reported to infect the genus Morus with 54 of them infecting white mulberry and also cite 263 species of arthropods reported to occur on white mulberry. Application of these fungi and arthropods in control measures in the United States has not been explored.

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance/Insignificant
Comments: Accessibility should be fairly straightforward except in areas where trees are on private land.

Other Considerations: White mulberry is very difficult to differentiate from native red mulberry (Weeks, 2003). Species identification in mulberry (Morus) continues to be a point of great debate among scientists despite the number of criteria such as floral characters, wood, and leaf anatomical and biochemical characters used to identify the species within this genus. The results of genetic cluster analysis revealed relatively high degrees of DNA polymorphism among several species of Morus where Morus laevigata was found to be a separate species of mulberry while Morus latifolia, Morus bombycis, Morus alba, and Morus indica were grouped together and treated as subspecies (Vigayan et al., 2004). Many horticultural varieties of white mulberry have been planted in the United States including Russian mulberry, Morus alba var. tartarica (Weeks, 2003).
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Ambrose, J.D. 1999. Update COSEWIC status report on the red mulberry Morus rubra in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Ottawa, Canada. 11 pp.

  • Burgess, K. S., Martin Morgan and Brian C. Husband. 2008. Interspecific seed discounting and the fertility cost of hybridization in an endangered species. New Phytologist 177: 276-284.

  • Burgess, K. S., and Brian C. Husband. 2006. Habitat differentiation and the ecological costs of hybridization the effects of introduced mulberry on a native congener (M. rubra). Journal of Ecology 94: 10611069.

  • Burgess, K.S., M. Morgan, and B.C. Husband. 2008. Interspecific seed discounting and the fertility cost of hybridization in an endangered species. New Phytologist 177: 276-284.

  • Burgess, K.S., and B.C.Husband. 2004. Maternal and Paternal Contributions to the Fitness of Hybrids Between Red and White Mulberry (Morus, Moraceae). American Journal of Botany 91(11): 1802-1808.

  • Burgess,. K.S., M. Morgan, L. Deverno, and B.C. Husband. 2005. Asymmetrical introgression between two Morus species (M. alba, M. rubra) that differ in abundance. Molecular Ecology, 14(11): 3471-3483.

  • Czarapata, E.J. 2005. Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control. The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. 215 pp.

  • Douglas, G.W., D. Meidinger, and J. Pojar. eds. 1999. Illustrated Flora of British Columbia, Vol. 3, Dicotyledons (Diapensiaceae through Onagraceae). B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, and B.C. Minist. For., Victoria. 423pp.

  • Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 1997. Flora of North America north of Mexico. Vol. 3. Magnoliophyta: Magnoliidae and Hamamelidae. Oxford Univ. Press, New York. xxiii + 590 pp.

  • Husband, B.C., K. Burgess, and J. D. Ambrose. 2001. Recovery action for red mulberry (Morus rubra) in Canada: a report for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. University of Guelph, unpublished. 13 pp.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Little, E.L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agriculture Handbook No. 541. U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 375 pp.

  • Maryland Cooperative Extension. Undated. Invasive Plant Control in Maryland. Home & Garden. Mimeo #HG88. Available ONLINE http://www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic/pubs/online/hg88.pdf. Accessed May 2004.

  • Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli (eds.) 1996. Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden: New York. 111 pp.

  • Schaffner, J.H. 1936. Offspring of a self-pollinated reverse carpellate plant of Morus alba. Botanical Gazette 98(2): 425-428.

  • Swink, F., and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • USDA, NRCS. 2006. The PLANTS Database. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA, NRCS). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70874-4490 USA. Available online: http://plants.usda.gov. Accessed: March 2006.

  • Vijayan, K., P.P. Srivastava, and A.K. Awasthi. 2004. Analysis of phylogenetic relationship among five mulberry (Morus) species using molecular markers. Genome, 47(3): 439-448.

  • Weber, E. 2003. Invasive plant species of the world: a reference guide to environmental weeds. CABI Publishing, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 548 pp.

  • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 1992. Catalog of The Colorado Flora: A Biodiversity Baseline. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO.

  • Weeks, S.S. 2003. Red and white mulberry in Indiana. Purdue University Forestry and Natural Resources FNR-237: 6 pp. Available at: http://www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr.htm.

  • Zheng, H., Y. Wu, J. Ding, D. Binion, W. Fu, and R. Reardon. 2006. Invasive plants of Asian origin established in the United States and their natural enemies, Volume 1., 2nd Ed. U.S. Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. FHTET 2004-05.

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