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Paper mulberry

Template:Speciesbox The paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera, syn. Morus papyrifera L.) is a species of flowering plant in the family Moraceae. It is native to Asia,<ref name=fna>Broussonetia papyrifera. Flora of North America.</ref> where its range includes China, Japan, Korea, Indochina, Burma, and India.<ref name=kew>Template:Cite web</ref> It is widely cultivated elsewhere and it grows as an introduced species in parts of Europe, the United States,<ref name=kew/> and Africa.<ref name=grin>Template:GRIN</ref> Other common names include tapa cloth tree.<ref name=kew/>

Description

This species is a deciduous shrub or tree usually growing Template:Convert tall, but known to reach Template:Convert at times. The leaves are variable in shape, even on one individual. The blades may be lobed or unlobed, but they usually have toothed edges, lightly hairy, pale undersides, and a rough texture. They are up to about Template:Convert long. The species is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants. The staminate inflorescence is a catkin up to Template:Convert long with fuzzy male flowers. The pistillate inflorescence is a spherical head up to about Template:Convert wide with greenish female flowers trailing long styles. The infructescence is a spherical cluster Template:Convert wide containing many red or orange fruits. Each individual protruding fruit in the cluster is a drupe.<ref name=fna/><ref name=kew/>

Uses

This plant has been cultivated in Asia and some Pacific Islands for many centuries for food, fiber, and medicine.<ref name=kew/> It is a significant fiber crop in the history of paper. It was used for papermaking in China by around 100 AD. It was used to make washi in Japan by 600 AD. Washi, a Japanese handcrafted paper, is made with the inner bark, which is pounded and mixed with water to produce a paste, which is dried into sheets.<ref name=kew/>

Tapa cloth is a textile made from the inner bark in many Pacific Island nations. It was the main material for clothing in places such as Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Tahiti until recent times, and it is still worn ceremonially. It is also used to make bags and bedding.<ref name=kew/>

The wood of the plant is useful for making furniture and utensils, and the roots can be used as rope.<ref name=kew/>

The fruits and cooked leaves are edible.<ref name=kew/>

The fruit, leaves, and bark have been used in systems of traditional medicine.<ref name=kew/> For example, the bark and fruit of the species, known locally as jangli toot, are used as a laxative and antipyretic in rural Pakistan.<ref>Hussain, K., et al. (2008). An ethnobotanical survey of important wild medicinal plants of Hattar district Haripur, Pakistan. Ethnobotanical Leaflets 12, 29-35.</ref>

The species is used as an ornamental plant. It tolerates disturbance and air pollution, so it has been useful as a landscaping plant on roadsides. It is a pioneer species that easily fills forest clearings, and it has been considered for reforestation efforts.<ref name=kew/> It grows well in many climate types.<ref name=fl>Morgan, E. C. and W. A. Overholt. Wildland Weeds: Paper Mulberry, Broussonetia papyrifera. ENY-702. Entomology and Nematology. Florida Cooperative Extension Service. University of Florida IFAS. Published 2004, revised 2013.</ref>

Impacts

The ability of the plant to readily colonize available habitat, particularly disturbed areas, has helped it become an invasive species in some regions. It spreads rapidly when male and female individuals grow together and seeds are produced.<ref name=kew/> Seed dispersal is accomplished by animals that eat the fruits, and the plants can form wide, dense stands via their spreading root systems.<ref name=fl/>

This is considered to be one of the worst weeds in Pakistan, one of the most significant invasive plants on the Pampas in Argentina, and a dominant invasive in the forests of Uganda.<ref name=fl/>

The pollen is allergenic.<ref name=kew/> It is reportedly a main culprit of inhalant allergy in Islamabad, where the species is a very common urban weed.<ref>Malik, R. N. and S. Z. Husain. (2007). Broussonetia papyrifera (L.) L'hér. Ex Vent.: an environmental constraint on the Himalayan foothills vegetation. Pakistan Journal of Botany 39(4), 1045-53.</ref> The pollen allergy and asthma caused by this plant sends thousands of patients to hospitals in Islamabad during March. The specific variety should not be taken to other areas without extreme caution as to how the pollen will get dispersed.

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References

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