Mulberry tree leaves are commercially harvested for the purpose of rearing silkworms and cattle. The young leaves are consumed as food, or used for formulated nutritional supplements. This article lists down the uses of mulberry leaves and ways in which you can identify them.
Mulberry is classified under the genus Morus, which comprises 10-16 deciduous tree species. Belonging to the flowering plant family Moraceae, majority of the varieties are native to warm climatic conditions of Asia. Of the several flowering tree types, white, red, and black mulberries are the most popularly grown cultivars. These trees can easily adapt to different climatic conditions, and grow at a very fast rate during the initial years. These trees are cultivated globally especially for their fruits. The immature mulberry fruits are white or cream in color, which when mature, change to different shades according to variety. The dark, purple-colored, juicy berries are eaten raw or cook. They are used for commercial production of jams, wines, and dyes. Besides fruits, the leaves are closely associated with sustainable farming system.
Uses of Mulberry Tree Leaves
Their foliage is used for several applications. As compared to black and red, the foliage of white mulberry (Morus alba) is economically more valuable for rearing silkworms. In fact, extensive cultivation of these trees was solely responsible for the booming silk industry several years ago. Today, more than 700 varieties of mulberry trees are cultivated in Japan.
Since it is a very hardy flowering plant, farmers spend less effort for their cultivation an growth. Another plus point is the high yield of leaves and fruits, with minimal care and maintenance. If a farmer cultivates mulberry trees for silkworm rearing, he can also breed fish, duck, pig, and goat. The point is to utilize these deciduous tree products for domestication of meat animals, and use the silkworm remains for fish keeping.
The tender leaves are eaten as a nutritious vegetable in some regions. When picking leaves and other green parts of these trees, you will notice a white-colored sap oozing out from the injured part that coagulates after exposure to air. Large amounts of this secretion are found to be intoxicating and give mild hallucination effects. Both fruiting and fruitless trees require pruning in summer or fall to promote new growth of leaves and control diseases.
How to Identify a Mulberry Tree Leaf?
Several plant parts are used for mulberry tree identification, particularly the leaves, flowers, and fruits. The shape, size, texture, and other characteristics of this tree leaves differ from one species to another. Thus, identifying trees by their leaves becomes an easier task for botanists. Here, we share some tips for identifying and differentiating between two kinds.
- As far as phyllotaxy or phyllotaxis (leaf arrangement in the stem or branch) of mulberry tree leaves is concerned, they are borne in an alternate pattern. The leaves are arranged side by side on the branch at regular intervals.
- Juvenile leaves are light green, which at maturity turn to dark green. Hence, while analyzing the leaves on a twig, you will notice light green foliage in the top of the branches.
- Leaves of mulberry tree are conspicuous and simple, i.e., one petiole (stalk of a leaf) bears only one leaf. The leaves do not have a smooth border, but they have a serrated margin.
- Very often, these simple leaves are lobed, thus giving it a different shape. Further studies show that lobed leaves are more common on juvenile shoots as compared to matured mulberry trees.
- It is usual for any of the species to produce leaves of varied shapes and sizes. The shape somewhat resembles that of fig foliage.
- The upper surface of the leaves has a rough texture, and the color is dull green.
Giving due importance to the nutritional value of these leaves, they are used for formulation of dietary supplements. Also, one of the interesting facts is the presence of high amounts of resveratrol, a polyphenol that possesses anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. This chemical is naturally secreted by mulberries and other plants at the time of pest attacks, and after subjection to stressful conditions.