A mulberry is a plant in the genus Morus, which includes a broad assortment of trees and shrubs which are cultivated all over the Northern Hemisphere. In addition to being ornamental, the mulberry has a number of valuable commercial uses which have made it a plant with enduring popularity. Many garden supply stores and nurseries carry mulberry plants, or are able to special order them for people who want to grow them.
Mulberries are quite diverse making it hard to provide a generic description, but as a general rule, they grow very quickly as young plants, with the rate of growth slowing as the trees age. The mulberry produces a distinctive milky sap, flowers in long, trailing catkins, and aggregate edible fruit which looks sort of like blackberries. The leaves of the mulberry are typically simple and often lobed, and the trees are deciduous, losing their leaves in the winter.
There are three main mulberry cultivars grown around the world, although it is possible to find numerous other species as well. Black mulberries produce berries which are a dark purple to black color, while red mulberries produce red berries, and white mulberries bear white fruit. In all cases, the fruit is intensely bitter before it is ripe.
As ornamentals, mulberry trees can be quite lovely. They rarely top 40 feet (12 meters), and they can be pruned and trimmed to create a specific desired shape. Many people enjoy growing mulberries because they can use the edible fruit, and the foliage can be quite attractive. The only drawback to ornamental mulberries is the fruit, which can get messy if it is not used.
Commercially, the mulberry is extremely valuable as a source of food for the silk worm, a creature which famously produces very strong strands of protein which can be used to produce fibers. In paper production, especially in Asia, mulberry trees can also be quite useful. Mulberry fruit is also used commercially in jams, preserves, and fruit wines, among other things. Some cultivars have more interesting fruit that others; the best mulberry fruit is sweet and slightly tangy due to a mild acid content.
The hardiness of mulberries varies, depending on the variety. Some can endure extremely cold temperatures and hard winters, while others prefer not to be subjected to temperatures below freezing. If you want to cultivate mulberries, you should ask the staff at a local nursery about the varieties which will do best in your area, to ensure that you get a hardy, strong tree.