help comparing Mulberry hardiness, taste, height

gengis(z5a)November 29, 2008

Hi all,

I really would like to have your input on describing the taste of 3 different red/black mulberries, the average height of the trees, and their hardiness.

There's a lot of info out there in the web, but there seems to be a lot of conflicting info on the topic. Who to believe?


I am hesitating between 'Black Beauty', 'Dwarf weeping morus nigra' and 'Illinois Everbearing'.

It's hard to compare flavors and rank trees when people only use the words 'Good flavor'... Which one of the above three produces the best complex/sweet/tart/juicy berries?


HEIGHT: 12 to 15 feet high? 'can be pruned down to 8 feet'?

USDA: 5A (plantfiles) 7(burnt ridge), 4(bay flora) so which one is it?


HEIGHT: 10-12 feet

USDA: 3a


HEIGHT: 15 to 40 feet??? How easy would it be to control its height?


Any input would be greatly appreciated!


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goodground(z6 NJ)

I went with Illinois because of its' reputation for a long fruiting season. I pruned to open center to keep height down. Even with drastic pruning, I saw a few berries in the first two seasons so maybe I will get to taste some this year.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 9:53AM
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glenn_russell(6b RI)

I believe you can find some decent mulberry variety threads here on this forum if you search... have you tried that?

I too have already ordered an Illinois Everbearing for next year due to its reputed good flavor and early bearing. It seems that whenever I see a thread about mulberry flavor, IE is consistent in its good flavor, where the other varieties are more varied in their resulting flavors (Some person says variety X is awesome, where as someone else says itÂs poor). Basically, I felt like I was playing it safe by going with IE. Once itÂs established, I may try another variety in the future.

Left on its own though, apparently IE does want to get large. (Does anyone out there know if itÂs possible to dwarf an IE with grafting/rootstock?) I planned on just pruning it back every other year or so to keep the height down, but training it to an open-vase sounds interesting. I know some trees like apples don't mind being trained to an open vase, but I'm told it's very hard to do it with pears. Has anyone else here trained a mulberry to go open-vase?

Thanks, -Glenn

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 10:46AM
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I think that mulberries, because of their rapid growth habit, are pretty amenable to pruning, and they could be kept at pretty much any size, more or less, if you are willing to put in the work to do so.

I'm really not familiar with 'Black Beauty' so I can't comment on that one. Illinois Everbearing is a very tasty fruit, and would make a great pie or jam (haven't done this yet, though, alas, I didn't manage to get ANY of my mulberries harvested this year, too busy with other things, just ate some off the trees in passing.)

I would ask a lot of questions about the fruiting habit of the weeping mulberries prior to purchase, though, because, in my experience, they often tend to be rather shy about bearing. I think this is because many of them were selected to be ornamentals, and people often don't want the "mess" of a lot of fruit (oh, they just don't understand us fruit growers, do they? Or, is it the other way around?). I do know that some of the ornamental weeping mulberry trees I've observed locally don't ever seem to have fruit on them to speak of, or certainly not in the kind of quanties regular mulberries have.

SE Michigan

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 3:55PM
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For those of us in areas where we can't grow and fruit M.nigra, Illinois Everbearing is the 'gold standard' - heavy production of medium-large berries with good flavor and excellent sweet-tart balance, over a 6-8 week period in early to mid-summer.
I'm unaware of a 'dwarfing' rootstock that's successful in slowing its vigorous growth habit, though. Some have likened pruning & (attempting to) training of IE to trying to control a firehose.
Would 'Geraldi' dwarf, either as an interstem or as the rootstock control it? I dunno. It'd be worth a try, I suppose, if someone would care to try it; or, if someone has Geraldi, and would care to send some dormant cuttings, I'll try it and report back to the group in a few years.
I've encountered a few weeping mulberries with good fruit quality, but the one I purchased from Edible Landscaping, years ago, was pretty disappointing - small, sour berries, with little sweetness or flavor.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 6:10PM
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My weeping mulberry is a poor producer. The taste is decent, but there are better tasting mulberry within walking distance of both my house and my job.

I don't deny the qualities of IE, but in my opinion a long season has drawbacks. It means having starlings for 8 weeks and fighting them is impossible. I prefer a heavily bearing, early producing, shorter season (say, 3 weeks) tree, so that there is plenty for everyone. This said, if I had to have only one good fruit tree, it would be a mulberry. You can't beat the combination of early, no spray, heavy producing, easy picking, and nutritious.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 6:13PM
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Thank you all for your comments!

I think I will go with a Black Beauty; most sources online mention that it is hardy in zone 5. In terms of taste, I'm not sure, but IE and BB seem better and more consistent.


    Bookmark   November 30, 2008 at 10:30PM
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I'm unfamiliar with 'Black Beauty', but if the folks at Burnt Ridge are offering it, I'd take a chance on it. They are reputable and dependable.
Early in my orcharding career, before I knew better, I ordered - among other things - a 'Black Giant' mulberry, from the infamous TyTy Nursery; it has turned out to be nothing more than a row-run M.alba seedling with small, bitter berries, palatable only to the birds.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:32AM
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greenwitch(Sz19 SoCal)

I have Black Beauty, growing as a bush. It got to about 9' and I wacked it back to about 6' - I haven't tasted the fruit (3 years in the ground) because the birds and squirrels beat me to it!

I have seen mulberry trees trained and pruned as umbrella shapes to great effect, they appear to be severely pruned back to the same point every year (there's a term for that but I can't think of it at the moment). I imagine branches trained horizontally will not grow as fast and out of control (tall) as vertical oriented branches.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 12:47PM
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I seriously doubt any M. nigra will survive in zone 5a. Zone 7 is usually considered the cutoff for most M. nigra. Any nursery that lists it for zone 5 or lower should be avoided.

Note that Burnt Ridge lists 'Black Beauty' for zones 7-10.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 3:36PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

I'm in at least a zone warmer climate than you, and I have hesitated to get a Morus Nigra due to my concern about its hardiness. I do have Illinios Everbearing and grew up with seedling Morus Nigra in my yard. IE's fruits are more consistantly tasty and at least twice the size of the biggest seedling fruit.

My winter temperatures have been warmer than -2F for each of the past 4 years (as long as I've kept careful records) with that low only being attained once. There is a Nigra Morus variety (I think available from England's nursery) that is reportedly hardy to zone 6, but I'm not sure if that nursery is still around or not. (anyone know on this one???) I would likely try that one (or the Korean variety) before the Burnt Ridge one (though BR is among my favorite nurseries)


    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:04PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

Seedling Morus Alba....not morus Nigra (in my yard growing up)


    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 6:14PM
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Clifford has not reopened his nursery following his redeployment from Iraq. I don't think he intends to go back into retail business any time soon, if at all, but I've not talked to him in a year or so.
While he listed 'Kokuso' as M.nigra, I don't think that it is - more likely M.alba, or one of the species indigenous to Japan.
I had Kokuso growing here for a couple of years, but the Easter Big Freeze Disaster of 2007 killed all my grafts of it - as well as sizeable grafted trees of Collier(hybrid), Stearns(hybrid), Oscar's(M.alba), Lawson Dawson(M.rubra) and US 280(M.rubra), which were all killed back to the ground, with their seedling M.alba rootstocks resprouting.
Illinois & Wellington both had their leaves & blooms frozen off by the EBFD-2007, but both re-leafed - IE even re-bloomed and produced a few berries in 2007 - and neither sustained any significant permanent damage.

Evidently, there are more than one 'Kokuso' selection.

Here is a link that might be useful: breeding & cultivation of mulberry in Japan

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:54PM
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chills71(Zone 6b Mi)

I'm surprised you had such extensive damage from the EBFD. I lost one plant that shocked me, but though my winters are not as cold as they should be (I've logged 4 years of nearly zone 7a temps since I've been measuring), because I do not warm as early as you evidently do, my damage was minimal (a Sweet Autumn Clematis that easily should have handled the freeze was my only fatality).

Your loss of the high grafted Pakistan mulberry stopped me ordering one (well a regular grafted one) for myself. Btw, Burnt Ridge lists Kokuso as Morus latifolia (which seems contrary to the information in the link you provided).

Strange that the link you gave describes breeding so well and doesn't describe successes in fruit production. then again the focus seems to be strongly on leaf production for fodder for silkworms.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:20PM
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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

I have Pakistan mulberry fruiting for me in my area. I grafted it about 4 ft high. It's currently about 15 ft high tree now. I was surprised it fruited well for me this summer. Our winter didn't drop below 0 degree F last winter so I can't really judge the hardiness part as yet.
I have a white mulberry called Greece that's really productive and very sweet.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 8:25PM
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The EBFD of 2007 was a horrible, devastating event here! We'd had a very unseasonably warm March - with daytime temps into the low 80s for a few days in late March; lots of stuff had broken dormancy - I had oaks with 8-10 inches of tender new growth, persimmons with 6 inches of tender new growth, etc. Then, 5 consecutive nights of temperatures into the low 20s/upper teens - DISASTER!!!
I lost quite a few established grafted mulberries and pecans - killed back to the ground, all my heartnuts and Carpathian walnuts were killed back to their black walnut rootstocks. Foliage was burned off all the mulberries & persimmons, and I'm still losing 10+ yr old persimmon trees due to splitting of the bark on the main trunk. Several 10 yr old pecans died back to the ground this summer, too, after the freeze and two years of drought conditions.
Out in the forest, big mature oaks & hickories had limbs bigger than my sizeable thighs killed back to the main trunks, and I'm seeing trees continue to die throughout the summer of 2008.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 11:59PM
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My grandmother had a weeping mulberry in her garden basically for looks. It set quite alot of fruit for a plant I took for an ornamental. I tried them a couple of times and didn't care for the fruit. It was rather watery tasting with a sour-bitter afterbite to it. Absolutely not comparable at all to my full sized mulberry.That was in zone 5b or 6a. She was right on the boder between the 2.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:14PM
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Thank you gardenmama for your input (BTW, love your name)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2008 at 10:32PM
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Hi All,

Does anyone out there have experience with Illinois Everbearing or other mulberries in Zone 4? I planted IE this year. The catalog (One Green World) claims it 'should be' hardy to -25 degrees F. We sometimes get temperatures colder than that, but its now very rare as climate change sets in. However I've also read that mulberries are hardy only to Zone 5 (with the exception of "Northrup"/M. alba sold by St Lawrence Nurseries.) Any comments appreciated!


    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 2:49PM
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I've heard people on this site mention that they have one called "Dwarf Everbearing." However, I cannot find any information online about it and none of the good nurseries sell it.

Does it go by another name as well? I don't have a lot of space so dwarf mulberries sound interesting.

    Bookmark   December 31, 2008 at 10:10PM
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Gengis - I'm very curious - what did you plant?
Spiral - Did you find any everbearing dwarf mulberries that would work in zone 5?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2009 at 5:30PM
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I haven't planted yet. I ordered a black beauty and an Illinois everbearing. It might take a couple of years before I get any fruit...

    Bookmark   March 29, 2009 at 5:15PM
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Revisiting this thread after it bumped up to the top again - I see you listed 'Dwarf Weeping' as a M.nigra hardy to zone 3.
I don't think so.
This is probably a M.alba variety - I don't think any M.nigra are hardy to zone 3. It may produce 'black' berries, but that doesn't make it M.nigra.
I had 'Dwarf Weeping' for a number of years - definitely a M.alba; berries on mine were not worth the trouble to pick.
But, there are a couple of big old weeping mulberries in some parkinglot planters here in town that produce a fairly decent berry - guess I ought to sneak some cuttings and make a new 'weeper' - maybe it'll be fairly sizeable by the time I have grandkids big enough to play underneath it.
I have a friend who budded several pieces of a weeping variety about 5-6 ft up on a vigorous, erect M.alba seedling, then put a piece of Illinois Everbearing on top to make a good fruiting mulberry with a 'hula skirt'.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2009 at 10:24PM
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any updates on growing Morus nigra in zone 6b/7a - northeast (humidity, fungal infection, cold-resistance, etc.)?


    Bookmark   January 7, 2012 at 12:02AM
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My Illinois Everbearing are doing great; absolutely no disease and lots of delicious fruits from late june to early september.

My morus nigra (black beauty) has survived two winters in zone 5b (in an unprotected large pot). However, there was significant dieback, and there has been no fruit yet.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 12:42PM
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