Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)

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Common Name(s): Mulberry

Scientific Name: Morus spp. (Morus alba, M. nigra, M. rubra, etc.)

Distribution: Red Mulberry is native to Eastern North America, other species are found worldwide

Tree Size: 30-50 ft (10-15 m) tall, 1-1.5 ft (.3-.5 m) trunk diameter

Average Dried Weight: 43 lbs/ft3 (690 kg/m3)

Specific Gravity (Basic, 12% MC): .55, .69

Janka Hardness: 1,680 lbf (7,470 N)

Modulus of Rupture: 11,680 lbf/in2 (80.6 MPa)

Elastic Modulus: 1,352,000 lbf/in2 (9.32 GPa)

Crushing Strength: 6,990 lbf/in2 (48.2 MPa)

Shrinkage: Radial: 3.3%, Tangential: 6.6%, Volumetric: 10.3%, T/R Ratio: 2.0

Color/Appearance: Heartwood is a golden brown, darkening to a medium/reddish brown with age. Sapwood is a pale yellowish white. Overall appearance is very similar to Osage Orange.

Grain/Texture: Grain is straight, with a uniform medium texture. Good natural luster.

Endgrain: Ring-porous; large earlywood pores 2-5 rows wide, small latewood pores in clusters and tangential bands; tyloses and other gum deposits common; parenchyma vasicentric, aliform, and confluent; medium to wide rays, spacing normal.

Rot Resistance: Rated as very durable, with good insect resistance and weathering properties.

Workability: Responds well to both hand and machine tools. Turns, glues, and finishes well.

Odor: No characteristic odor.

Allergies/Toxicity: Besides the standard health risks associated with any type of wood dust, no further health reactions have been associated with Mulberry. See the articles Wood Allergies and Toxicity and Wood Dust Safety for more information.

Pricing/Availability: Due to its small size and scattered distribution, Mulberry is seldom if ever harvested commercially for lumber. Smaller pieces are sometimes available locally throughout the tree’s natural range. Expect prices to be high for a domestic hardwood.

Sustainability: This wood species is not listed in the CITES Appendices or on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Common Uses: Fence posts, furniture, and turned objects.

Comments: Mulberry species are perhaps better known for their edible fruit. The leaves of White Mulberry (Morus alba) are also the primary food source for the silkworm (Bombyx mori), which is used to produce silk.

The wood itself looks very similar to Osage Orange, though Mulberry tends to be significantly lighter. Black Locust also bears a close resemblance to Mulberry, and it’s weight is only slightly higher than Mulberry’s. However, the two may be easily separated with a blacklight, as Mulberry is non-fluorescent, while Black Locust is highly fluorescent under a blacklight (see video below).

Related Species:

None available.

Scans/Pictures: A special thanks to Mike Leigher for providing the wood sample, and Steve Earis for providing the turned photo of this wood species.

Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
Red Mulberry (sanded)
Red Mulberry (sealed)
Red Mulberry (sealed)
Red Mulberry (endgrain)
Red Mulberry (endgrain)
Red Mulberry (endgrain 10x)
Red Mulberry (endgrain 10x)
Red Mulberry (turned)
Mulberry (turned)
 
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Florin Jurcovici

In parts of Europe this wood (actually, the European species – black and white, that is) is used for barrels in which to store distilled spirits. It is preferred to oak, for that particular use.

Also, judging from personal experience and based on the description above, apparently the European varieties grow larger than the American one. I wonder if mechanical properties are also different. Visually, I’d say mulberry on both sides of the Atlantic looks the same, with the European varieties being maybe somewhat paler.

mehdi

Is there any data for this wood to be used for outdoor decking?

Eric B.

There must have been samples of wood used to calculate these values. Were those samples all from one species (and if so, do you know which Morus species?) or were there samples used from different species such that the values here represent some kind of rough average of the different species? Or did whoever calculated the values for the samples simply not clearly record which Morus species he tested? And if that’s the case, is there good reason to assume that Morus rubra and Morus alba would yield very similar test results? Thanks!

Bryan

This wood is gorgeous.

ExRxIT

I’ve harvested a 20″ diameter red mulberry tree and worked with the wood. I believe the properties stated in the article are accurate and the information quoted by JocelyneS above is not accurate. The stuff is strong, fairly hard and fairly dense. Green logs are super heavy, but it loses a lot of weight as it dries. The raw wood is a rather garish yellow, but the heartwood quickly oxidizes to a nice mellow brown. The sapwood stays light cream colored. See photo of my favorite snack bowl, turned from this tree.

ExRxIT

I just cut boards out of some quartered logs from my 20″ red mulberry tree. The wood is now down to 8.5% moisture. A 1.5 cu. in. sample of heartwood weighed 18.488 g. If my math is right, that translates to a density of nearly 47 lb/cu. ft., even at a lower moisture content than the 12% standard. The sapwood on these logs is so degraded from rot and borers that it is crumbling away in places, but the adjacent heartwood is completely untouched. Nice stuff! I’m hoping to find enough clear, quartersawn pieces to build a guitar, or at… Read more »

Todd

In Iran they make a guitar-type instrument from mulberry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tar_(string_instrument)

Lee Vargas

I have just acquired my first one just two days ago. And you have hit it perfectly. Heavy. Incredibly dense. And almost yellow at the main trunk . I believe it’s a beautiful tree!

john

I am thinking about buying South American Mulberry flooring. Does Mulberry seasonally shrink a lot?

JocelyneS.

Encyclopedia of Life info on Red Mulberry doesn’t jive with your description. Link is below. They have a Comment by John Hilty of Illinois Wildflowers, and he says, “The wood of Red Mulberry is relatively light, soft, and weak; it is not important commercially. However, it has been used in the past to make fence posts, farm implements, furniture, interior finish, and caskets.”
https://eol.org/pages/594939/details

S87WOOD

How does that not jive with what’s written here? It’s light, soft and weak but resistant to rot.

Johannes Ambjørnsen

Is it possible to fume mulberry wood with ammonia? Does the wood have enough natural tannins for the ammonia to react with? And if so what colour change might one expect?

Nyandra Cook

I live in Paragould Arkansas and we have mulberry trees every where. A neighbor of mine had 1 cut and I am curious how to dry it for my pyrographics. And Should I cut it into slabs b4 i dry it?

Nyandra Cook

Mine still has the bark, and I want to keep it that way I can’t do wax on bark cause it doesn’t want to come back off. Can’t I wrap it tight in a plastic on the side. Mine will have to air dry cause I don’t have a kiln.

Earl

I would stack them and place spacers between the rows. Now the rule of thumb is let air dry 1YEAR PER INCH OF THICKNESS of the boards. Hope this helps you.

AlanT

I have a mulberry tree cut from the base to 73 inches long for a walking stick and have the bark peeled. How long should I let it dry before carving designs into it.

AlanT

Cut June 11th so it was really easy to peel.

James Lowther

Your post is dated two years ago, so if you are still waiting you should be fine.

AlanT

The stick is 2″ at one end and 1.5″ on the other end.

Aaron Deal

This wood is mentioned in the bible as “wood that will not rot”.

Joseph clemons

good to know