Tuesday, June 05, 2012

White Mulberry

It's hard to notice this blob of a tree on Hamilton Ave. just up from Linden Lane.
When the sidewalk beneath it gets littered this time of year, it looks like any other detritus a tree might shed now and then.
I've been riding a bike this way for years, but only now noticed that the tree is a white mulberry (Morus alba, native to China), which means edible berries in profusion.
If it were the native red mulberry, the berries would be black when ripe. But the white mulberry ripens without much change of color, going from light green to a slight pinkish hue.
While we're busy buying strawberries from California or grapes from Chile, the local mulberry crop rots on the ground.
Why don't mulberries get any respect? Even though they taste good, their presentation quickly triggers feelings of surfeit. The tree dares our appetite to compete against its bounty, and we know we'll lose every time.

Too, the maps in our minds associate food with the local store, not trees in the landscape. With fruits available year-round in stores, there seems no urgency to exploit the sudden and passing gift of a neighborhood tree.

The same dilemma faces anyone who considers using public transportation. Why go through the planning and uncertainty of catching a bus when the car is ever at the ready?

For now, a mulberry is a bit of serendipity on the way into town, a roadside stand, quietly spilling bounty in our path.

Note: A friend noted that birds take advantage of at least a portion of the mulberry's bounty. Researching the red mulberry (not the white mulberry in this post) I found that the Wisconsin-based Wild Ones website counts 44 bird species that eat the red mulberry's fruit. The red mulberry's role as a food source for insects, which are a vital part of birds' diet, is less impressive. The bringingnaturehome.net site has downloadable data on how many lepidoptera species were found on various plant species. For example, oaks feed 534 different butterfly/moth species, blueberry supports 288, while red mulberries support 10.

1 comment:

  1. all my dogs have been INSANE for mulberries- both white and red. the deer, if given the chance, eat the branches,leaves and berries- scarf it all down. the trees I am aware of seem to be having a banner year- so too the wild cherries which, though small, are very tasty.