Broussonetia papyrifera / Paper Mulberry

I worked for a period in the early 1990s in Fiji and during a stop in Hawaii I saw for the first time a large tree (picture) of Broussonetia papyrifera (Papirmorbær) which was one of the most important fiber plants in the Pacific Islands; bark fiber is used for making “tapa cloth” (picture). I brought seeds back to Norway with me, they germinated and I accidentally forgot a plant out in the garden one winter. I hadn’t remotely imagined at the time that a tree that thrived in the lowlands of Hawaii could be grown in Trondheim, but it turned out that the species has a wide native range as far north as northern China (China, Japan, Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and Assam (India)), and was potentially therefore much more hardy than one would have thought! It is also a beautiful tree with wonderful mulberry-like leaves that are very variable. I had it in the garden for maybe 7-8 years, it then flowered and mysteriously died the same winter (it was not very cold). Fortunately, I had given a plant to Ringve Botanical Garden in Trondheim and I was eventually given a tree back in 2005. In the first very cold winter 2009-2010 it was set back dramatically, but one shoot actually survived and the plant flowered (picture). It did not unfortunately survive cold winter No. 2 and Ringve has now also lost it …. Apart from use as a fiber plant, it is used medicinally (see the sign on the tree from Hawaii), the special fruits are edible and very good (picture from Kew Gardens) and cooked leaves are also apparently eaten. There are about 10 species in the genus Broussonetia. The only other species  I’ve seen is B. kazinoki (kozo), from Japan and Korea, at Kew (with fruit) and in the Cambridge Botanics.

Broussonetia kazanoki at Kew Gardens
Broussonetia papyrifera in my garden
The rather spectacular fruits are very tasty, here in Kew Gardens
I first saw this tree in one of the Botanical Gardens near Honolulu, Hawaii. The lower test says: “plant for Kapa(Tapa)making. It made the softest, finest and most durable Tapa. Medicinally the slimy sap used in compounds and as a mild laxative; plain white tapa ashes used in treating thrush; On Maui, strips of course tapa wer worn around the neck of nursing mothers to induce flow of milk. “
In Martin Crawford’s Forest Garden
I gave a plant to Ringve botanical garden where it grew for a few years before dying
Broussonetia papyrifera / Paper Mulberry 16 February 2012 · Århus Botanical Garden, Denmark
Broussonetia papyrifera in my garden
In Belgium
The male flowers appeared in my garden in 2010, but the tree finally died in 2010
Broussonetia papyrifera in my garden
Broussonetia papyrifera in my garden
The rather spectacular fruits are very tasty, here in Kew Gardens


2 thoughts on “Broussonetia papyrifera / Paper Mulberry”

  1. Intresting! I searched up if it was possible to grow Kozo mulberry in Norway. I dont plan on growing, but it is a plant used in papermaking in Japan! Maybe I’ll get my hands on a seed in the future, but i dobt know much about gardening.

    1. I don’t know if kozo mulberry is a particular cultivar, but mulberries (Morus alba and Morus nigra) can both grow in Norway. I have two trees which are about 20 years old.

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