paper mulberry

Broussonetia papyrifera
habit of young tree growing along a waterway in Toowong (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
pale brown bark on trunk of young tree (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
branches with alternately arranged leaves borne on long stalks (Photo: Asad Shabbir)
close-up of younger stem with paired leaves, showing the small leafy bracts at the base of each of the young leaf stalks (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
slightly three-lobed leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
deeply five-lobed leaves (Photo: Asad Shabbir)
lobed and unlobed leaves on the same branch (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of unlobed leaf with sharply toothed margins and a pointed tip (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of leaf underside (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of young leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
elongated male flower clusters (Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service)
rounded female flower clusters (Photo: J. Scott Peterson, PLANTS Database)
seedlings (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
root sucker (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
root sucker (Photo: Sheldon Navie)

A tree with milky sap and greyish-brown bark that grows up to 20 m tall. Its leaves that vary from entire to deeply 3-5 lobed. These leaves have rough upper surfaces and hairy undersides. Male and female flowers borne in clusters on separate trees. Male flower clusters are elongated (6-8 cm long) and greenish-yellow. Female flower clusters are rounded (about 2 cm across) and turn reddish-orange as the fruit mature.

Common names 
Also known as: paper mulberry, cloth plant, deer's tree, paper-mulberry, tapa-cloth tree,
Flowering time 
Native to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and south-eastern Asia.
Council declaration 
Class R – Reduce populations
Known distribution 

Sparingly naturalised in the Moreton districts in south-eastern Queensland.


A potential weed of riparian vegetation, urban bushland, closed forests and forest margins, roadsides, waste areas and disturbed sites.


A tree that usually grows 10-15 m tall, but occasionally reaches up to 20 m in height. It has milky sap (i.e. latex) and loses its leaves during winter (i.e. it is deciduous).

Impact and control methods 
Stem and leaves 

The bark on the main trunk is pale brown, greyish-brown or dark grey in colour and moderately rough in texture. Younger branches are brown or reddish-brown in colour and densely hairy (i.e. pubescent). The leaves are usually alternately arranged along the stems, but may also be paired or arranged in groups of three or more (i.e. whorled). They are borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 2.3-8 cm long and have a pair of small leafy bracts (i.e. stipules) at the base of each of these leaf stalks. These stipules (15-20 mm long and 8-10 mm wide) are egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate) with pointed tips (i.e. acuminate apices) and are quickly shed. The relatively large leaves (6-20 cm long and 5-15 cm wide) are quite variable in shape, even on the same branch. They are often somewhat heart-shaped (i.e. shallowly cordate) or egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate) with sharply-toothed (i.e. serrate) margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute apices), but they are often also three to five lobed. These leaves have rough (i.e. scabrous) upper surfaces, which are sandpapery in nature, and hairy (i.e. pubescent) undersides.

Flowers and fruits 

Separate male (i.e. staminate) and female (i.e. pistillate) flowers are borne different clusters on separate trees (i.e. this species is dioecious). The greenish-yellow male flower clusters are elongated (3-8 cm long) in shape and borne on a stalk (i.e. peduncle) 2-4 cm long emerging from the upper leaf forks (i.e. in axillary spikes). They are drooping in nature (i.e. pendulous) and have numerous tiny flowers. Each male flower has four small sepals and four stamens. The green female flower clusters are rounded in shape (i.e. globose) and are also borne in the upper leaf forks (i.e. axils). These flower clusters (1.5-2.5 cm across) have numerous small flowers. Each female flower has four small narrow sepals, that are mostly joined together, and an ovary topped with a long and narrow (i.e. filiform) hairy style. Both types of flower clusters are only produced during spring. The rounded fleshy fruit (1.5-3 cm across) are formed by the merging of numerous smaller fruit (i.e. they are syncarps comprised of numerous druplets). These fruit turn from green to yellow, orange, red or reddish-purple as they mature. They are mostly present during summer.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces by seed and also vegetatively via numerous suckers from its shallow roots.Seeds are mainly dispersed by birds and other animals that eat the fleshy fruit. Individual plants can also quickly develop into large colonies, through the production of root suckers.

Similar species 

Paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) may be confused with white mulberry (Morus alba). However, these two species can be easily distinguished from each other by the following differences: paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera) has leaves with rough (i.e. scabrous) upper surfaces and hairy (i.e. pubescent) undersides. It has separate male and female flower clusters, which are produced on separate plants (i.e. it is dioecious). The female flower clusters and orange or reddish mature fruit are rounded in shape (i.e. globose) white mulberry (Morus alba) has leaves with smooth and shiny upper surfaces and mostly hairless (i.e. glabrous) undersides. It has separate male and female flower clusters, which can be produced on the same plant or on separate plants (i.e. it is monoecious or dioecious). The female flower clusters and purplish-black mature fruit are elongated in shape (i.e. cylindric).