Friday, July 31, 2009

Round and Round The Mulberry That Ate South Minneapolis

This is a mulberry tree, red mulberry (murus rubra) I think. (Click on the picture to discover the species of the vine in the top-left corner.) There are several other mulberries growing in this fence in South Minneapolis. This tree is probably closely related to the mature mulberry at the near end of the next block north. The mature tree is 25-30 feet tall, with a similar drip-line diameter. The blotchy gray picture is the sidewalk below the parent, taken several weeks after the fruit was long gone from the tree’s branches.

Whoever is responsible for the fence should dig these plants out before they get bigger and wreck it. Mulberries are edible, and the trees have various uses, medicinal, fibrous, dyeing, and hallucinogenic, but probably not for an arborista with a small site. (Small, dry, kind of sweet, and not very flavorful; kids and birds eat them.) They grow and spread quickly, and thrive on being cut back. They’re weeds.

I removed one from the bank in front of our house when it was a foot or so tall. I was in junior-scientist mode, so I took some pains and excavated the entire root. It was between two and three feet long. (Junior-scientist mode, but not enough so's I'd write down what I'd found.)

Mulberries are often included in permaculture prescriptions. This may be an artifact of permaculture’s down-under origin. Or in larger plantations, mulberries might be commercially useful. Hypothesis: Mulberries would enhance growing and nutritional conditions for the rest of a site, if placed at the top of its slope. If the roots of older trees are proportional to my baby’s, they’re very deep. They would lift minerals from way down in the clay. Rainwater flowing downslope, and birds, would distribute minerals from fallen berries and leaves.

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