If backyard wildlife celebrated holidays, this week would have been the annual Mulberry Festival. In mid-Missouri, the female trees of white mulberry are bearing heavy fruit crops. I can tell this by the purple bird poop all over my car and the ground as well as by the constant parade of squirrels and birds to the fruiting trees in my yard. A flock of cedar waxwings are frequent visitors as are American robins, catbirds, grackles and raucous groups of European starlings.
As the fruits ripen, they change from green to a creamy white and some also turn red or black. Each day another bunch of fruits ripens and the animals are there to feast on them. I’m not sure if the squirrels go home at night, but they are in the mulberries from dawn to dusk. In years past, I’ve found box turtles in my yard at this time, undoubtedly attracted by the smell of fermenting fruit on the ground. The fruits are mildly sweet but, to my mind, not as tasty as a blackberry. I expect our higher rainfall this year and last contributed to this year’s large fruit crop.
Two species of mulberry are found over much of Missouri--white mulberry (Morus alba) and red mulberry (Morus rubra). The common names can be confusing because both trees can produce red fruits, as well as black ones. Ironically, the mulberry familiar to most people, the white mulberry, is native to eastern Asia and was brought to North America for potential use as a food source for silkworm caterpillars. It is a weedy tree and spreads from seeds dropped by birds. The great majority of mulberry trees in urban, suburban and agricultural areas are the white mulberry, and most were not intentionally planted.
Red mulberries are found in more natural settings, usually scattered within forests containing a diverse assortment of trees. A third species, paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), is also native to Asia but is found in southeastern Missouri and scattered in a few other regions of the state.
white mulberry - Bugwood.org