Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Whence thou comest?

I realize that I was neglecting my garden in the past few weeks of heat, in favor of my own personal survival, but how, oh how, did I miss this stray mulberry seedling to the point that it got so big? I mean, talk about embarrassing. This one popped up in a hillside bed of purple-leaved honeysuckle so it was hardly inconspicuous as soon as it got taller than the honeysuckle mounds.  If I had let this errant creature get any bigger, I'd have had to hire a tree service to haul it off!
Every verdant area of the planet, I suppose, has a group of first colonizers, "weeds," and then a group of scraggly, undesirable weed trees that make way for the more stalwart forest citizens such as oak and beech.  In Kansas, the weed trees that pop up most often in my borders seem to be mulberries, red cedars, osage orange, and cottonwoods, although russian olive trees also lately seem to be frequently trying to gain a foothold.  Of the main four, I'm a sucker for our native cottonwoods, so I commonly transplant them somewhere where I can allow a large, rustling tree.  Red cedars are easy to spot because of their foliage differences from most of the plants in my deciduous borders, and I can't allow them to proliferate because I know that any untended land in Kansas quickly becomes a crappy red cedar forest if neglected.  Osage oranges usually announce themselves by stabbing me with their thorns when I pass, so they are often both easy to find and simultaneously provide me with sufficient motivation to remove them.  The mulberries, however (I believe these are native American red mulberries or Morus rubra), blend in somehow, the right color or the right shape, and my eye often misses their incursions until the sunlight is just right to set them off from the surrounding foliage.  There are two other mulberries in my garden right now, one that I keep forgetting to remove at the base of a mature 'Carefree Beauty' rose, and another hiding out among the blackberries, whose leaf shapes aid it in camouflage.  

Red mulberry saplings don't grow to be large or very useful trees, but I often think about letting a few grow on the periphery of my garden; for the birds, you see.  There are several wild ones growing down around the pond and around my acreage and I know they've got to be valuable resources for the wildlife, whatever I think of their messiness and lack of value to humans. Okay, I know some of you eat them, but the wild mulberries here lack any sufficient flavor for me to favor them. But I have a bigger problem than that with the idea of leaving mulberries to grow for birds.  Male and female flowers usually occur on different trees, so to transplant a fruiting tree to my landscape I have to let it grow tall enough to allow me to identify it.  And by that time it is so big that moving the chert rock to create a nice planting hole would seriously test my innate laziness.  The birds, I think, are just going to have to find their sustenance elsewhere in my garden, or fly down to the pond at suppertime.


  1. Hello, Just wanted to say I enjoy your blog, and as I'm not a blogger I hope you don't mind. Last spring I was unable to weed some dandelions and one morning I counted 50 gold finch having a party! I've never seen anything like it, it was as if they'd found nirvana. I admit I'd love to let those weeds "go to the birds". JD

  2. My pests are silver maples, hackberrys, red mulberry, some oak, and black walnut. And while we're speaking of noxious, how about chameleon plant,and of course because of your post....dayflower.

  3. Hackberries are my biggest pests, compounded by the fact that I like the species, so I keep thinking that I'm going to transplant each seedling or give it away. Therefore I tend to leave it, letting it get bigger and bigger where it shouldn't be growing. Someday my garden beds are likely to resemble an overgrown, nightmare fairytale forest, completely hiding the house in a dark thicket!

  4. By the way, if you get a chance, stop by Botanica in Wichita some time. They have several huge old mulberries, which may change your mind about what a gorgeous tree this can become!


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