Saturday, July 13, 2019

Resilient Surprises

Early Autum (March 27) the rain came too late

RIP mulberry tree, down in the main gully. I thought of all the places you would thrive, it's where all the water flowed. You grew faithfully, like a weed, for many years. But we were about to learn something new in this landscape together. When it doesn't rain for months on end, then summer comes and we miss our usual rainfall too - well, the gully doesn't capture water. At all.

Like everything else, you dried-up like a fragile husk. I could only stand-by and watch all those years fade, as you did. First, the leaves dropped. Then the branches, snapped.

When the rain finally came, in early Autumn, I went down to the gully, to take a picture of your husk. There was no sign of life. You were gone. I had to admit defeat.  This landscape had proven, once again, how brutal it could be.

A month later (April 23)

But then life is full of surprises, isn't it? I guess your husk, was really a cocoon. It was just waiting for the right time, for you to emerge again. You surprised me, mulberry tree. I knew you were the toughest edible on our slopes. Your older, sister tree (closer to the house) had already taught me that.

But I had never seen a mulberry, come back from the dead, like you had! Your well-earned reputation, has even greater kudos now. If you can make it through this brutal summer, I think you're in the clear for making it, permanently.

2 months, back from the dead (May 12)

My hope has been rekindled, in the endurance of mulberry trees again. I was worried for a few months though! I haven't had a lot of success with anything "berry", in the landscape. Strawberries in pots can produce, but strawberries in the ground, end up dying. Forget blueberries too. There's just not enough, natural rainfall.

My fallback, was the magnificent mulberry tree. A perennial, with a thick, moisture- filled trunk. It's the only berry I've managed to cultivate, in this particular, semi-arid climate. On natural rainfall, it's proven itself a worthy candidate.

Natural pruning

On the upside, all the deadwood is above our heads. So the new growth and subsequent berries, will be easily harvested within arms length. We're planning to cut the deadwood off, and mulch the tree with it. So we should be back in business, for berry production, come this Spring.

With the enormous trunk and all that natural pruning, I'm expecting the berries to be rather large. Compared to the sister tree, which is about five times as big and hardly pruned at all.

Sister Mulberry (planted 2010)

This tree is about nine-years old now. Five-years older, than the Lazarus mulberry. I could prune it for larger, more accessible berries too, but I value it as a shade tree. Plus I don't mind the native birds, scavenging berries at the very top. As they reduce pest loads too.

So I learned a long time ago, mulberries can withstand the elements here. One thing they cannot do though, is produce berries, without moisture.  So when we got a very small berry harvest in Spring, I figured that would be it for the rest of the season. Especially after summer hit, and killed a lot of fruit trees. I considered myself fortunate, old-faithful was still standing.

Purple fingers

But life is always, so full of surprises, isn't it? Even though summer was a killer, Lazarus came back from the dead, and the sister tree, came back with a vengeance. Birds were gorging on berries, and they simply covered the ground. How was such abundance, even possible? Didn't the drought kill all my hopes of a fruit harvest?

The truly magnificent mulberry, is the most resilient edible tree, I've ever had the pleasure of growing. I do have plans for adding more! Stay tuned though, for part two, of resilient surprises. Because there was another pair of fruit trees, which totally blew me away too!


  1. Chris, I'm really happy for you, and confess that this is good news for me too. I planted mulberries several years ago because I read they are heat and drought resistant. Just the kind of fruit tree I'm looking for! I had one of my two die back as yours did, except that it was still a sapling. I was amazed and thrilled that it came back the next year. One of my mulberries is in a place where it can be watered on occasion, the other has to survive on its own. That one is slower growing but still with us. The larger one produced about a dozen berries this year. I got two, the birds got the rest. But that's a promise of good things to come. It's extremely encouraging to hear your own mulberry success story.

    1. Mulberries have simply blown me away, at how hardy they can be. But to hear a sapling did the same, in your location, is also good news to me! For I had a cutting almost die, twice, in the ground. But that final long stretch of drought we experienced, was it's ultimate demise. Where I planted it though, was a terrible position - copping the last of the Western sun, in the afternoons.

      Still, it's good to know how possible it is, for a much younger tree to come back from the dead too. I'll keep persevering with more cuttings. :)


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