By Mike Linn
PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University officials are fed up with the light red, dime-sized berries that fall every summer from a mulberry tree near the Golden Library.
University officials said students using a nearby sidewalk track the fruit’s pinkish juices onto carpets in the library, causing irremovable stains.
Each August, the berries become ripe and fall near the library’s south entrance, causing what ENMU grounds supervisor John Wall described as a “30-day maintenance nightmare.”
“It’s just been a nuisance for many years,” Wall said. “That berry causes like a dye, and whatever it touches it stains.”
And so on Tuesday, employees of the ENMU grounds department spent much of the day cutting and hauling about half of the tree away. Crew members said they will cut the remainder today.
“I don’t want to be known as a tree killer,” Wall said. “I’m out here to save every tree I can until they become such a nuisance, not to mention a costly nuisance.”
Wall did not know the specific age of the tree, but estimated it is likely more than 25 years old. He said there is a good possibility the university will plant another tree to account for the loss.
Originally, a male Mulberry tree — which doesn’t bear fruit — may have been grafted to the roots of the original female Mulberry now in its final days, according to library director Melveta Walker.
“You can graft a different tree onto a root, then you have the hardier plant root to establish the growth of the tree but the part on it is what you want it to be,” Walker said. “That was the plan with the original — it probably was a female root and a grafted male tree.”
But Walker said the grafted tree may have frozen one winter and the female roots overtook the male version, sprouting limbs and branches adorned with balmy green leaves and bright berries.
Walker expressed mixed emotions about the tree’s demise.
“I don’t know if it’s ever good to cut down a tree, but with this one it seemed to be the only option,” Walker said.