On young, vigorous shoots, the leaves may be up to 30 cm long, and deeply and intricately lobed, with the lobes rounded. On older trees, the leaves are generally 5–15 cm long, unlobed, cordate at the base and rounded to acuminate at the tip, and serrated on the margins. The leaves are usually deciduous in winter, but trees grown in tropical regions can be evergreen. The flowers are single-sex catkins, with catkins of both sexes being present on each tree; male catkins are 2–3.5 cm long, and female catkins 1–2 cm long. The fruit is 1–2.5 cm long; in the species in the wild it is deep purple, but in many cultivated plants it varies from white to pink; it is sweet but bland, unlike the more intense flavor of the red mulberry and black mulberry. The seeds are widely dispersed by birds, which eat the fruit and excrete the seeds. The white mulberry is scientifically notable for the rapid plant movement involved in pollen release from its catkins. The stamens act as catapults, releasing stored elastic energy in just 25 µs. The resulting movement is approximately 350 miles per hour (560 km/h), over half the speed of sound, making it the fastest known movement in the plant kingdom.
The species is native to northern China, and is widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere.
In Murcia was used in silk Industry. White mulberry leaves are the preferred feedstock for silkworms, and are also cut for food for livestock (cattle, goats, etc.) in areas where dry seasons restrict the availability of ground vegetation. The fruit are also eaten, often dried or made into wine. In traditional Chinese medicine, the fruit is used to treat prematurely grey hair, to "tonify" the blood, and treat constipation and diabetes. The bark is used to treat cough, wheezing, edema, and to promote urination. It is also used to treat fever, headache, red dry and sore eyes. For landscaping, a fruitless mulberry was developed from a clone for use in the production of silk in the U.S. The industry never materialized, but the mulberry variety is now used as an ornamental tree where shade is desired without the fruit. A weeping cultivar of white mulberry, Morus alba 'Pendula', is a popular ornamental plant.