In the United States, Mulberry trees became illegal in some states during the 1980s and 90s. The reasons behind this were varied and included the staining of sidewalks and streets from the berries, the excessive amount of pollen produced by the trees, and the “more severe than normal” allergies some hayfever sufferers experienced from the trees. Learn more in this article.
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Why Are Mulberries Illegal In Some States?
There are a variety of different mulberry trees and bushes, and some are more problematic than others.
The most notorious is the white mulberry which is a native tree of Asia and was introduced into the US not for its fruit but as food for silkworms. They also enjoyed popularity due to their fast-growing habit, which made them popular for landscaping in the 1980s and 90s.
Along with this popularity came the issues. The juice of mulberry fruits that drop from the trees causes staining, and many places found that their decorative mulberry trees were causing them large cleanup bills.
Birds are attracted to the ripe fruits and act as distributors of the seeds spreading them far and wide, thus making the white mulberry a somewhat invasive species.
Severe reactions to the mulberry pollen caused many to dread the flowering season of the plant.
By the 1990s, mulberry trees could be found widespread across many states, and it was at this time that bans started coming into force, preventing additional trees from being planted.
Cities including Albuquerque, El Paso, Las Vegas, and Tucson stopped all sales of the trees.
Today it is best to find out if mulberry trees are banned in your area by looking on the cooperative extensions services website to find your area or talking with tree and plant nurseries where you live.
As the average lifespan of a white mulberry tree is around 25 to 50 years, many of these problematic trees, if they were not removed already, are not coming to the end of their lifespans, so they are in decline.
The red mulberry is a US native and is not nearly as troublesome as the white variety.
Are Mulberries Poisonous To Humans?
The berries of the mulberry tree, once fully ripe, are beneficial to humans and are not poisonous. However, every other part of the white mulberry can be dangerous.
They have white, milky sap, which is a form of latex and is known to cause skin irritation while also being mildly toxic, which, if ingested, may lead to stomach upset and problems with the nervous system.
If enough is ingested, it may even cause hallucinations in some individuals.
Gloves and protective clothing should always be worn when working with mulberry trees.
For hundreds of years, ripe mulberries have been used in Chinese medicine. They are reputed to have benefits for a wide range of conditions, including cancer.
This is because they contain anthocyanins which may help stop cancer cells from forming, and resveratrol, which may be beneficial against skin, colon, prostate, and thyroid cancers. They are also high in alkaloids which stimulate your immune response.
Mulberries may also be useful for people with high cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. This is due to a compound called DNJ, which lowers blood sugar, and also because of their high insoluble and soluble fiber content.
The antioxidants mulberries contain are beneficial against hepatic diseases and may improve liver health.
In this video, you can learn more about mulberries and how they are not poisonous to humans:
What’s So Special About Mulberry Trees?
Other than the potential health benefits which have been discovered, mulberry tree leaves are the only food eaten by silkworms.
Silk comes from insects that make cocoons we turn into silk.
It was in the native land of the Mulberry tree, China, where silk was discovered as a thread that could be woven into a beautiful fabric.
In ancient times, silk from China caused vast trade routes to be developed across the world. This became known as “The Silk Road.”
Many civilizations, including the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks, had a desire for silk, and even today, silk is a valuable commodity.
Silk is renowned for its ability to be a cool fabric in hot weather and warm in cold weather.
Mulberry trees also attract a large assortment of different pollinating insects. This makes it a beneficial tree to have in your yard as a companion plant, as it helps to increase the pollination of other plants around it.
Why Don’t They Sell Mulberries?
Due to the very short shelf life of fresh mulberries, they are very seldom found in grocery stores. Even when refrigerated, they will only last for two to four days.
They are also very delicate, so harvesting them undamaged is difficult as they are so soft.
These combined problems mean that they are generally not financially viable for commercial growers.
Luckily mulberry trees come in a range of varieties, and you can find ones that will happily grow in zones 4 to 8 on the USDA climate list.
Providing your chosen mulberry variety isn’t banned in your area, then you’re likely to be able to produce berries of your own.
Be aware, however, that some kinds of Mulberry trees are single-sex, and male trees do not produce fruit. Get advice from a professional grower.
Should I Get Rid Of Mulberry Trees?
There are a few reasons why you might want to get rid of Mulberry trees. These include:
- Undermining buildings
- Destroying walkways
- Causing excessive mess
- Severe pollen allergy
- Affecting water and sewerage pipes
- Creating a hazard
Mulberry trees have shallow sprawling root systems that often penetrate the surface soil. This can cause problems with house and building foundations, walkways, and roads.
The root systems may create soil subsidence causing the walls of buildings to warp or buckle.
The roots actively seek water, making old underground pipework a target. They can squeeze into tiny cracks in the pipes, which can cause the pipes to break.
Underground water leaks are also a cause of building undermine, as the soil below the foundation is washed away.
One of the reasons mulberry trees were made illegal in some cities was due to their messy juice that stains the sidewalks. The same can also happen on your own property, causing a huge mess on your paths and driveway. The juice is hard to clear up, making the tree unpopular.
Another reason is their excessive, highly allergenic pollen which was a significant reason why the trees were banned. If you have an allergy to tree pollen, then this one can be particularly bad.
Although there isn’t a widespread ban on mulberry trees, it is fairly easy to see why the white mulberry, in particular, has such a bad reputation.
With their toxic sap, staining fruit, allergenic pollen, and rampant roots, these trees can be something of an annoyance!
Luckily, white mulberry trees are the biggest culprits of this bad behavior, and the native red mulberry is less harmful.
If you want to grow your own mulberry trees, be sure they are permitted in your area and that you get a variety that is right for your situation.
For example, if you want a fruiting tree, plant it where the staining berries aren’t going to fall onto walkways, roads, cars, buildings, and so on.
Also, check that the size of the mulberry you choose is suitable for the space you have and that the root system won’t interfere with any buildings or pipes in the vicinity.
To discover more about mulberry trees and a wide range of other fruit trees, check out our other articles.