Dave Mather Red Mulberry Revisited

     I know that I have said this before, but I have to say it again: one of the best things about being in the wood business is meeting the interesting and genuinely helpful and friendly people who share a love for wood. Recently, while pursuing Tupelo wood for our power carving customers, I met a southern gentleman who was both gracious and knowledgeable. After a tour of his saw-mill and drying operation, he gave me some samples of relatively obscure species to check out. One of these was Red Mulberry.
     Looking at the little map in my field identification guide, Red Mulberry (Morus rubra L.) grows in the Eastern U.S. right on down to the tip of Florida, as far west as Texas, and throughout most of the mid-western states. In rich moist soils, it can grow 50' - 70' tall and up to 2' - 3' in diameter.
    There are about 1,000 trees, shrubs, and herbs in the Mulberry family and, with the exception of the two herbs Hop (Humulus spp.) and Hemp (Cannabis spp.), all produce a milky sap, or latex. The leaves are broadly ovate 3" - 5" long by 2" - 3" wide. Often the leaves have two and three lobes: the two-lobe patterns looking just like winter mittens. They produce a juicy edible fruit about an inch or so long which is red at first and deep purple when mature.
     In lumber form, the sapwood is narrow and yellowish; the heartwood is orange-yellow to golden brown turning "russet" brown upon extended exposure to light. It has distinct rings, is ring porous with abrupt transition from the large early wood pores to the small latewood pores.
    The wood is heavy and hard with a specific gravity of .59 when green. Generally, a wood is considered hard and heavy if its specific gravity is .50 or more. It has light yellow rays easily visible to the naked eye and can be sawn for a nice fleck figure.
    In his books, Dr. Hoadley ranks Mulberry very high in rot resistance. Consequently, it has been used for caskets, fences, cooperage and farm implements. However, it is also nice for furniture and interior finish work.


© 2002 by David Mather. All rights reserved. No parts of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the written permission of the author.