The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark
July 24, 2012
White mulberry’s simpler leaves reflect maturity
The yard-long white mulberry twig below has finished growing for the year. The leaves have fully expanded and have hardened off, becoming tough and dark green. Next spring's buds are already forming at the base of each leaf stalk.
The twig and its first leaves emerged from a bud
in the spring. Subsequent leaves reveal the tree's tendency to produce leaves in a wide variety of shapes.
Leaves formed in early spring developed five to seven lobes each. As the season progressed, new leaves assumed a mitten shape. By summer, leaves had mostly abandoned the tendency to form lobes.
Simpler leaves reflect maturity. The majority of leaves on older mulberry trees have one lobe or
none at all. Younger trees, such as the one that
produced these leaves, grow plenty of simple leaves but support a higher percentage of multi-lobed leaves than do mature trees.
Mulberry leaves are rich in calcium and protein; good fodder for livestock and even for people, who sometimes cook the leaves in the spring while they are still tender. The tree's berries are also edible.
Sources: Castanea, Plants for a Future