The publication, “Common Trees of Pennsylvania,” which is available free at any State Representative or State Senator’s office, is a gem for those of us who enjoy knowing what type of tree we are seeing. I have found that unless you have lots of knowledge about trees, such as a forester, you can only identify maybe 20% of the trees we have growing in Pennsylvania.
This week we will discuss the Red Mulberry tree, (Morus rubra l.). The Red Mulberry tree is uncommon in the northern regions of Pennsylvania, such as this area. I remember as kids, we used to sit in a mulberry tree behind the left field fence at Bowman Field in Williamsport watching baseball games. Until last year, I had forgotten about this tree.
I like to walk laps at the Canton Area School District track/football field. One of my frequent walking buddies is a teacher in the district. As we walked around the first turn at the southern end of the complex, he pointed to a tree and asked if I knew what species it was? He further stated that one day, maybe a week ago, he observed an adult holding a kid up to the tree. It appeared to my walking buddy like the lad was picking some sort of fruit from the tree. This was in early July 2019.
After our walk, I went over to the tree to investigate. It was growing together with a maple tree, which sort of hid its identity. After taking a cutting of a twig with leaves, I went home to try to find the identity of the tree. It was easy to do with my specimen. The Red Mulberry tree is on page 41, complete with a sketch of the leaves and fruit along with a bare branch.
The leaves are alternate, simple, most often heart-shaped but sometimes lobed, 3-5” long, rough on the upper surface, margins toothed. The fruit is an aggregate fruit, about 1”-long, composed of many small drupes. First green, which can be toxic to humans, later red and finally dark-purple.
The fruits are eaten by birds, animals and obviously humans. The exact location of this tree on the Canton Area School District grounds is along the paved pathway by the outside basketball court, heading to the Canton Elementary school, the porta-potty and the corner of the fence. It is on private property. It’s a most interesting tree; do not miss it.
This is another example of the wonderful things in nature that God gives to us to enjoy, if we only take the time to do so.
Jim Collins is an outdoor writer for The Sunday Review. He lives in Alba, Pennsylvania with his wife, Linda Marie.You may contact him at: jimcollinsinsurance@ frontiernet.net or (570) 673-3622.