New Hardy Mulberry Has North Dakota Pioneer Roots

It’s truly rare when an entirely new, well-adapted fruit species is introduced into northern climates. History is in the making with the proud introduction of a winter hardy mulberry. This isn’t just any new mulberry, Trader Mulberry’s mother plant is 125 years old and still bearing sweet, delicious fruit in Barnes County, North Dakota.

Introduced in 2015 by Jim Walla and Mike Kjelland, Trader Mulberry is available for purchase, and all plants are clones of the original mulberry that is still growing after more than a century in North Dakota.

The following information about this exciting new-but-old mulberry is provided by Jim Walla. Here’s what makes this mulberry special:

  • Trader Mulberry was named for the Trader family, whose members planted the original (still living) tree about 1892 at their farmstead near Oriska, in southeast North Dakota. Family tradition indicates the mulberry was brought from Germany when William Trader immigrated to the United States. The 125-year-old mulberry is still producing berries.
  • It’s cold-hardy in Plant Hardiness Zones 4a and likely 3b, well adapted to much, if not most, of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota.
  • The original tree has formed an attractive, dome-shaped crown and is about 35 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The tree can be grown with single or multiple trunks. The original is single-trunked. Height and width can be regulated with pruning. 
  • Leaves are heart-shaped, with some leaves lobed. Fall color is lemon-yellow.
  • Begins fruiting 2 to 3 years after planting.
  • Here’s the best part: Fruits are 1 to 1-1/2 inches long, juicy with a strong mulberry flavor, being a mix of sweet and tart when first ripe and sweet a few days later. They can be eaten fresh off the tree or processed for pie, juice, wine, jelly or canning. Excellent.
  • Fruits ripen over an extended period, with ripe berries continuously present from early July to early September in true everbearing fashion.
  • Extremely long-lived, as evidenced by the original tree.
  • Trader Mulberry is quite resistant to damage from the spotted-winged drosophila fly, which plagues many fruits.

Where to get a Trader Mulberry:

  • To date, Trader Mulberry is being propagated and solely available from Jim Walla at Northern Tree Specialties, Fargo, N.D.
  • It’s propagated for first availability in the fall (early September to early November.)
  • About 100 trees will be available each year, provided in the same order that requests are received. If spring planting is preferred, trees will be held over winter. 

To order a Trader Mulberry, or for further information contact:

  • Email: Jim Walla, Northern Tree Specialties,
  • Or private messages to Northern Tree Specialties Facebook page.

Mary and I purchased a Trader Mulberry from Jim (who I’ve known for over 30 years) in 2015, planted it at our ‘old’ place, and moved it along with us, where it’s happily growing at our ‘new’ place. Happy Gardening!