If you’ve ever been strolling in the woods and seen a small green worm floating midair, it was probably a silkworm. Chances are good that if you look up, you’ll see a mulberry tree (Morus) nearby—the only food source for the silkworm.
The mulberry is also known for its berries, which come in various colors depending on the species and can be red, white or almost black. The red and black varieties taste sweet and tart; while white mulberries have more of a mild flavor similar to vanilla.
Mulberry tree symbolism has a long and rich history, being associated with protection, strength, and willpower. In some cultures, the wood is believed to ward off evil spirits and negative energy, making it ideal for crafting protective talismans or wands.
Mulberry leaves can also be used in folk magic to protect infants from harm, often placed near a crib or bassinet. In Chinese tradition, the World Tree is depicted as a mulberry tree, representing the cosmic center and interconnectedness of all things.
Whether used in magical practices or simply admired for its beauty, the Mulberry tree holds a special place in many symbolic traditions and beliefs.
Connection, interdependence, protection, strength, and willpower
The English failed in their 1608 attempt to establish a silk industry because they fed the larvae of the silk moth (Bombix mori) leaves from the black mulberry tree instead of those from the white species.
About Mulberry Trees
The Morus genus consists of around seven species of deciduous trees and shrubs native to Asia, Africa and the Americas. The flowers on these plants are always unisexual, and each tree usually bears either male or female reproductive organs—but not both.
The white mulberry (M. alba), which is native to western Asia, has heart-shaped to ovate-lanceolate leaves that are often up to 6in (15cm) wide. You can eat the sweet fruits of this Mulberry tree, and they change color from whiteish to red-pink, or nearly black in some varieties.
The red mulberry (M. rubra) is rather rare in cultivation but it’s Native to the central and eastern United States; its rounded, downy leaves turn bright yellow in autumn and its fruit is red.
The small but long-lasting black mulberry tree (M. nigra) thrives in western Asia. With age, it grows a wide-reaching crown and gnarled trunk and the heart-shaped leaves are rough on both sides.
At least 5,000 years ago, the Chinese silkworm made its home in the white mulberry tree. The black mulberry was also popular for raising silkworms in Italy until the 15th century when it became replaced by the white mulberry.
Black mulberry fruits have been used to treat sore throats, coughs and constipation. Juice of the astringent, unripe berries was also used as a mouthwash. Today, the mulberry tree is little used in Western herbal medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine employs different parts of the white mulberry to achieve various purposes. The leaves are used to dispel “wind heat” and clear the liver, as well as brighten the eyes.
The fruit moistens and nourishes the yin, while twigs help disperse “wind” and promote a smooth flow of Qi through meridians. Lastly, bark cools down and eliminates “lung heat”.
Folklore, Myth and Symbol of Mulberry Trees
The centre of the universe in ancient Chinese cosmology is kien-mou (“erect wood”), also known as the Tree of Renewal. This tree unites the Nine Sources with the Nine Heavens, and it is where yin and yang first separated to create male and female genders. The Tao, or cosmic order, all began with this sacred mulberry grove planted just outside early royal capitals’ eastern gates in China.
You can find mulberry trees near Islamic sanctuaries in Arabia, especially if you’re travelling along or near pilgrimage routes.
Mulberry Tree Meanings
Comfort amid Challenges
Despite the difficult circumstances, he found himself in while at a mental hospital, Vincent Van Gogh painted his now-famous golden-leafed mulberry tree that grew and thrived outside his window.
In an included letter to his brother, which was surprisingly positive, he wrote of the autumn days they were having and how well he was taking advantage of them.
The mulberry tree has a long and storied history in China, dating back to ancient times. Some even considered it the “World Tree” or “Tree of Renewal” at the center of the universe.
As author Fred Hageneder explains, this is because it represents Taoism -the all-encompassing cosmic order that preceded the separation of yin and yang, male and female.
Wholeness and Healing
Not only are mulberries delicious, but they’re also packed with nutrients. They contain high levels of iron, antioxidants, protein, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and resveratrol. And if that’s not enough for you, they can be eaten as a remedy for constipation! In the past mulberries have been used to heal eyes and throats too.
Even today in Traditional Chinese Medicine white mulberries are used to clear heat from the body while hydrating and enhancing yin energy throughout the system.
What does the Bible say about mulberry trees?
In Luke 17:6, the mulberry tree is mentioned as a representation of faith’s power. He replied by saying that even if your faith is as small as a mustard seed, you could tell this mulberry tree to ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.
What does a mulberry tree attract?
A mulberry tree not only adds visual appeal to a yard or garden, but it can also attract a variety of wildlife. The tree’s sweet fruits attract birds, small mammals, and even some species of butterflies.
In addition, the leaves provide a tasty food source for silkworms, so those with an interest in silk production may find a mulberry tree to be a valuable addition to their landscape.
That being said, potential owners should keep in mind that these fruits can quickly create a messy situation if not maintained regularly.
Nevertheless, for those who don’t mind the extra cleanup, a mulberry tree can offer both aesthetic and ecological benefits.
Though the mulberry tree has a long and varied history, its meaning and symbolism have largely remained the same.
The tree is seen as a symbol of protection, strength, and willpower and is often planted in areas where these things are desired.