The Paper Tree is a medium-sized tree native to Asia, long since naturalized even in Europe; adult specimens can reach 10-15 meters in height; the stem is erect, with light gray bark, with fissures that reveal the underlying red-brown fabric. The foliage is broad, enlarged, quite irregular and not too dense. The leaves are heart-shaped, often lobed, with 3-5 large lobes; the color is gray-green, with thin hair on the upper page; the leaves are rough and leathery. It is a dioecious tree, the male flowers are long green catkins, the female flowers are gathered in creamy-white flower heads; bloom in late spring. In summer it produces green spherical fruits, which become red when ripe, are edible, red-orange in color. In the countries of origin the macerated bark of the Broussonetia papyrifera was used for the production of paper. This tree was introduced in Europe as a specimen used to stabilize landslides, as it is cultivated with great ease and produces numerous suckers.
The paper tree or Broussonetia papyrifera, prefers sunny or semi-shady locations, but develops without problems even in the shade. It is a plant that does not fear the cold and bears even intense and prolonged frosts. In general, therefore, it is a plant endowed with excellent resistance and rusticity that has no great problems and grows well almost everywhere. A perfect plant for so many different circumstances.
As for watering and irrigation, given that it is a very rustic plant, it can easily withstand drought or prolonged humidity. Usually no fertilizers are used, although it is advisable to bury a slow-release granular fertilizer or organic fertilizer at the foot of the stem, in spring.
Land and multiplication
As for the soil, the Broussonetia papyrifera is a plant that develops without problems in any soil, even heavy or sandy, even poor in organic substances. From this point of view the Paper Tree is undoubtedly a very rustic species with a strong adaptation. A curiosity concerning the plant is its particular use in landslides to stabilize the surface to keep the soil compact.
The multiplication takes place by seed in spring but can also occur by semi-woody cutting in summer. The plant produces numerous basal shoots, which can be removed by rooting them in a container, before planting them the following spring. However, it is a plant that is easy to grow and therefore very popular and widespread in Europe.
Pests and diseases
Although they are very resistant plants, which grow practically everywhere and never have major problems, the plants of Brussonettia fear the attack of defoliating lepidopterans, like the American caterpillar which causes a heavy defoliation during the summer.
The presence of these parasites can be recognized by checking the leaves and their integrity. Pitted and broken leaves are a clear symptom of an attack of lepidoptera defoliators. Other problems that could be encountered during the cultivation of this species are the attack of the Agrobacterium tumefaciens that causes the gall of the collar and of the Pseudomonas syringae which causes bacterial chlorosis and some fungi.