2011 Campus Tree of the Year

The Harper Mulberry

Morus species

The east end of campus, specifically the area between 17th and 20th Streets, has undergone much change in recent years.  Construction has demolished, graded, and rebuilt nearly every square foot of the area.  Throughout the development process, this particularly tenacious Mulberry tree has held its ground, defiantly claiming its strip of land between the California Mall and the Harper Center Visitor’s lot.  

Many members of the Creighton community hold this tree close to their hearts.  Its gently twisted, leaning trunk is said to convey feelings of peace and permanence.  Beneath its spreading canopy students participating in fall and spring break service trips capture before and after photos. The tree was said by one nominator to “reflect the maturing process that has occurred within the hearts of those that depart from and return to its roots after their service trips”.

As a genus, Mulberry is a fast-growing, deciduous tree that typically grows 30 to 50 feet tall with a wide-spreading crown.  Greenish flowers appear in early spring with male and female flowers on separate trees. Fertilized female flowers produce fruit; trees with only male flowers are non-bearing. The fruit can be eaten off the tree or used in pies, jams, wines, and other food products, but has no commercial value.  It also stains pavement, house paint, cars, and even floors if tracked indoors on the bottom of shoes.  Leaves are of variable size and shape on the same tree, ranging from lobed to entire with a coarsely serrated edge.  Fall color is yellow or a mix of yellow and green.  

Although tolerant of heat, drought, pollution, and a wide range of soil types, most people consider Mulberry to have little if any ornamental or landscape value.  It readily and extensively naturalizes sites from fields to urban areas and, once established, can be difficult to remove.