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

Looking for a plant to use as a windbreak for a small orchard in Pineville LA.
February 28, 2011 - We are looking for a good plant to use as a wind break for our small fruit orchard.
view the full question and answer

Need suggestion for a replacement tree in Dallas, TX.
January 23, 2013 - We are going to have a 25' tall tree removed and ground out because every year squirrels chew the branches and make huge piles on the deck and into the pool. This continues for a good month 1.5. Hen...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a windbreak on a slope in OH
April 20, 2011 - Have property at the top of a valley with a steep drop off. Would like to know native to NE Ohio ground covers, grasses perennials, and not too tall trees for windbreak that will prevent erosion. The ...
view the full question and answer

More on oak problems in Carrollton TX
April 04, 2011 - Thank you for answering me, I will contact a specialist to see if we can determine the cause. but since writing you we have pulled down a small twig to see the leaf more closely, it is more of a reddi...
view the full question and answer

Pruning cherry laurel in January in Austin
January 07, 2011 - Do trust I checked Q&A first. Can Cherry Laurel shrubs be pruned earlier than late winter in Austin? I foolishly planted 12 native Cherry Laurel standards on our suburban property line 5 years ago. I ...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center