En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 21, 2009

From: Wilmington, DE
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Trees
Title: Is mulberry tree inhibiting growth of plants under it in Wilmington DE?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a large mulberry tree in my yard and the plants around it are not flowering or growing, some are now dead. Could the mulberry tree be toxic to other plants?

ANSWER:

We began by trying to determine which mulberry you had. Morus rubra (red mulberry) is native to your part of Delaware; however, we kept finding references to mulberries as invasive, pushing other plants out of their native habitats. Turns out there is a "common" mulberry or white mulberry, Morus alba, which is native to China. Apparently these often hybridize with the red mulberry, and can, indeed, be invasive. 

What we needed to know next was whether or not the mulberry was allelopathic; that is, producing chemical materials which caused the inhibition of growth of competing plants beneath the tree. We found no reference to allelopathy in mulberries; in fact, we learned that the poster child for allelopathy, Juglans nigra (black walnut) can be especially damaging to mulberry trees. 

Bottom line, although we don't know if your tree is native or not, we don't think it is emitting allelopathic substances and killing the plants beneath it. It may, however, be inhibiting plant growth with its very shallow roots, or the shade it provides. All mulberry trees also drop a lot of litter, seeds, twigs, leaves-which may be cutting back on the plants trying to survive beneath the tree.

The mulberry is not considered a very desirable tree, and the non-native is certainly undesirable, as it can become invasive. You will probably have to make a decision about whether the plant material on the ground or the tree are more important to you and take the other one out. 

 

More Trees Questions

What plants to put under an oak tree in Clover SC
January 30, 2010 - I have a 70 year old oak tree in my backyard and have tried to grow grass out from it with no success. I'd like to just plant some shrubs and make it a natural area now, but need advice on what I ca...
view the full question and answer

Shaping of native hawthorns
October 21, 2007 - I have three young hawthorns that were propagated from a nearby Blackland prairie stand. If I limb them up, will that encourage them to branch more near the top, or will it just ruin the form altoget...
view the full question and answer

Black coloration on Star Magnolia is probably sooty mold.
November 21, 2008 - I have a star magnolia where 90% of the bark has turned black. It almost looks burned. The tree has decent buds set for next spring. What is causing the bark to turn black?
view the full question and answer

Problems with maple tree in Redding CA
July 17, 2012 - I have a 2 yr. old October Glory tree that is looking bad. It leafed out this spring, but not as much as the others. In total I have 9 red maples along a fence row about 15 feet apart. The trees on ei...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to my Norfolk Island Pine in Houston, TX
March 18, 2010 - Houston, Texas experienced a rare 3-day snow event this winter that allowed snow to stay on my 20 ft. Norfolk Pine, in the ground for over 10 yrs. Every branch is now brown with all dead foliage. I ha...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center