Tree Species Highlight: Contorted Mulberry

As always, here in Oklahoma, spring disappears all too quickly and summer’s heat swiftly maneuvers its way in. During this time, we can look out across the landscape and realize that our trees are feeling the heat as well. This should help us to recognize the importance and value of heat and drought tolerant trees. While there are many such species to choose from, there is one that is a little different from most: the contorted mulberry.

Although the contorted mulberry seems to sneak around by a few different scientific names, it is most commonly known by Morus alba ‘Unryu’. This tree grows between 20-40 feet tall with a crown of 15-20 feet wide; however, it is generally pruned for a smaller form. This cultivar gets its name “Unryu”, meaning twisted or contorted in Japanese, from its gnarled and zigzagging branches. It serves as the centerpiece in many Zen gardens because of its eccentric branch growth habit. The contorted mulberry has glossy green leaves that fade into a brilliant yellow in the fall. Once these leaves have fallen to the ground, you are left with a magnificent display of contorted branches, making this tree great for all seasons. While the tree does have the capability of producing fruit that attracts wildlife, these blackberry shaped fruits are sparse and rarely present.
The contorted mulberry, best planted in full sun, can well withstand the heat and drought our summers can bring, making it the perfect tree to be that center piece of your new garden or the missing accent to an already beautiful yard.