Broussonetia papyrifera

Paper mulberry

Nonnative to FloridaFISC Category 2 Invasive
Species Overview

Native to: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and E. China

Paper mulberry was introduced for use as a fast-growing, ornamental shade tree. In its native lands, paper mulberry is used in paper making. In Hawaii and other parts of the South Pacific, its bark is used to make cloth. In the United States it is found from Illinois to Massachusetts, south to Florida and west to Texas. Paper mulberry is an invader of open habitats such as forest and field edges.

Once established, paper mulberry grows very quickly, displacing native plants through competition and shading. If left unmanaged, paper mulberry can dominate a site. Its shallow root system makes it susceptible to blowing over during high winds, posing a hazard to people and causing slope erosion and further degradation of an area.

Description
  • Family: Moraceae
  • Habit: large shrub or small tree (capable of heights over 30 ft.) with a mounded appearance. Bark is pale brown and smooth or shallowly grooved.
  • Leaves: alternate, opposite and whorled, highly variable, lobed or unlobed, heart-shaped bases with serated margins, lightly hairy, pale undersides
  • Flowers: separate male and female flowers appear in the spring; male flower clusters are elongate, pendulous, 2½-3 in. long, and composed of many individual flowers; female flowers are globular and about 1 in. diameter; fruits are reddish purple to orange, ¾-1 in. across, mature in summer
  • Fruit: male in pendulous catkins to 3” long and female in rounded flower heads
  • Seeds: if pollinated, flowers on female trees produce reddish purple to orange aggregate fruits in balls
  • Distribution in Florida: statewide

The leaves of paper mulberry are its most identifiable feature. The smaller leaves tend to be simple, ovate in shape with pointed tips and serrate margins. Larger leaves tend to be cordate (heart) or mitten shaped, some deeply lobed, with three large or sometimes two smaller lobes near the base of the leaf. Soft, pubescent hairs are found on the underside of leaves. Paper mulberry is deciduous and can be identified by bud characteristics, stipule scars, and hairy, reddish brown twigs in winter. If leaves are damaged or removed from the stem, a milky sap exudes from the cut surface.

Young trees can be mistaken for the native red mulberry, Morus rubra.

Impacts

Paper mulberry is an aggressive plant that will quickly invade hammocks and disturbed sites throughout Florida. The climate in Florida is ideal for paper mulberry and many other invasives. Paper mulberry is spread to new locations by wildlife, as they readliy eat the fruits produced by this tree. Once established paper mulberry spreads vegetatively from its roots, forming dense thickets that inhibit the growth and development of native species. Wildlife are negatively impacted by paper mulberry because they are dependent on native vegetation for forage, nesting, and cover. In optimum conditions, paper mulberry will easily spread to form thickets or colonies in waste areas, fields, forest margins and roadsides. 

Paper mulberry is not recommended by UF/IFASThe UF/IFAS Assessment lists it as a species of caution, therefore it must be managed to prevent escape. Paper mulberry is listed as a Category ll invasive species by FLEPPC due to its ability to invade and displace native plant communities.

Management Plan


Management Options

Do not plant paper mulberry and educate homeowners and others about its invasive nature. Be vigilant in preventing invasive plants from establishing and plant a diversity of native plants on the landscape. Some alternative native plants to paper mulberry are red maple (Acer rubrum), hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) and sassafras (Sassafras albidum).

Cultural/Physical

Remove seedlings and seeds from the landscape. Small infestations of seedlings can be pulled by hand.

Mechanical

Shrubs can be cut to the ground, repeating as necessary to control any re-growth from sprouts. Trees should be cut.

Biological

There is limited research and data on biological control of paper mulberry.

Chemical

Herbicides should be applied prior to seed set.  Larger trees may require multiple treatments. 

  • Basal bark: 20–30% Garlon 4. Addition of 3% Stalker will increase consistency
  • Cut stump: apply 50% triclopyr amine
  • Foliar applications: glyphosate (1-3%) or triclopyr (2-4%) will be effective on smaller trees where thorough coverage can be obtained, be sure to use a surfactant (0.25%) with triclopyr

Additional Resources