With the European Tree of the Year voting now underway, we have decided to turn our attention to Slovakia’s entry into this year’s competition… the white mulberry.
The Morus alba or white mulberry entered in the competition is known by the locals as “the lighthouse of history”, watching over the growing city of Senica. It has been dated to around 200 years old.
Morus alba is typically a short lived and fast growing tree. A notable feature is that it is the world’s fastest tree when it comes to releasing pollen from catapult-like stamens at a speed of 350mph, over half the speed of sound.
The average height is usually between 10 to 20m and it is widely cultivated, originating from northern China where it has been used for thousands of years in the silk industry. It is also found in India, Afghanistan, Iran as well as southern Europe. However the Morus alba within some states in the USA is recognised as an invasive species. Coming into contact with the red mulberry, Morus rubra, the tree has hybridized to the point where the genetic viability of the red mulberry is under threat.
The trees leaves are 5 to 15cm long and are generally deciduous but depending on the region it can be evergreen particularly in tropical regions. The fruit is 1 to 2.5cm long and can be found in many different colours from purple, to white and pink. Usually sweet, the more flavoursome of the fruits come from the red and black species of the mulberry.
The fruit is also edible and can be made into wine. In traditional Chinese medicine the fruit is used to treat premature greying hair, as well as diabetes. The bark has a number of uses from treating fever, coughs, headaches and sore eyes.
Photo by Alena Hroncova