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Red Mulberry (Morus rubra)
excerpt from Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants
by Tom Brown, Jr.


Grandmother was on her way to a huge mulberry patch that grew near an old abandoned farmhouse. She said I could help her dig the newer plants' roots, which she would powder and make into a laxative for her patients. We dug for hours, collecting the choicest roots, still making sure that the conservation of the plants were kept in mind. During the whole process, I was eating the mulberries, not noticing whether they were ripe or not, a common fault among young boys. This continued for hours as I got lost in Grandmother's stories and the methodic collecting of roots.

When I finally got up off my knees and began to walk home, I felt strangely sick and dizzy. The landscape felt as if it were made of liquid and I was a small boat. Everything was moving up and down. Animal and bird voices sounded strange and mystical. I felt disoriented and forgot where I was and where I was going. Out of the corner of my eye I began to see things move; shadows became animated, and colors strange. The sickness continued until I fell to the ground vomiting, yet laughing at the overall hilarity of the situation. The condition worsened and I began to tremble, feeling paranoid and extremely nervous. I mistook every rustle of the brush for a wild dog, and my imagination began to run wild.

Grandmother knew instantly what I had done and helped me slowly back to her house. I did not know that the unrip berries can cause violent upset stomach and nervousness. Nor did I realize that they also contained hallucinogens. Nevertheless, I was sick and not getting any better. Grandmother put me to bed and gave me a cup of mullein flower tea to settle my stomach and calm my nerves. I awoke the next morning with Grandfather, Rick, and Grandmother sitting around the bed, waiting and watching. My vision slowly cleared, but my head pounded very badly; my stomach still remained very queasy, and I felt weak. Another day slipped by as I drifted in and out of pain and sleep.

The following day I felt much better. The events of the past few days seemed like a distant nightmare, fuzzy memories at best as if they never happened in reality. Grandmother was in the garden at her drying racks. The roots we had collected two days before were now dry. Lovingly, she scraped the bark from the root using a knife held at a right angle, a procedure which produced a coarse granular dust. This dust she would use for effective treatment of constipation in her patients or for herself. I helped her out but had to be filled in completely as to what had happened to me. The disorientation was still with me, and I felt as if I had lost two days of my life.