I’m featuring a plant that we have not grown (yet) at RBG. The golden paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera ‘Golden Shadow’) seen in all of these photos are from multiple specimens I’ve been photographing at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (OBG) in Madison, WI for the past decade. This woody plant, while hardy and native to portions of Asia, is not normally winter hardy for us. However, with a severe cutback in late winter (or fall) and substantial mulching, this zone 6 hardy woody plant has regenerated well at OBG for many years. This plant is always a “visual beacon” for me and really catches the eye as a focal point. The leaves have an interesting “lobed” and “mitten-like” look and are fuzzy to the touch. I look forward to growing this at RBG in the near future.
Also called paper mulberry and tapa cloth tree, this plant will typically get 40′-50′ tall in its native range and has a wide range of uses. It will tolerate both full sun and part sun. There are male and female specimens (dioecious) and this featured selection is a gold form of a female. The inner bark of this woody plant has a long history of use for paper making (China and Japan) as well as for producing cloth used in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti. The fruits (female) and cooked leaves are also edible and the roots had been used to make rope. This utilitarian plant also furnished lumber to create lumber and utensils. In warmer climates (including out East), it has escaped cultivation and has naturalized in some areas. Again, in our climate, the winters will knock it back but the rebound in spring after cutback and winter mulching can equate to 6′-8′ of fresh, vivid growth. Well worth giving it a try!