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Morus nigra - L.

Common Name Black Mulberry
Family Moraceae
USDA hardiness 5-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Original habitat is obscure.
Range W. Asia?
Edibility Rating    (5 of 5)
Other Uses    (3 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Morus nigra Black Mulberry

Morus nigra Black Mulberry


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Physical Characteristics

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Morus nigra is a deciduous Tree growing to 10 m (32ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a slow rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 5. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant). The plant is self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. It can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Canopy; Secondary; Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Shoots
Edible Uses:

Fruit - raw, cooked or used in preserves[1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 9, 183]. A delicious slightly acid flavour, it makes an excellent dessert fruit and can be eaten in quantity[K]. The fruit is juicy and refreshing, though it must be used as soon as it is ripe (from mid-August to September) otherwise it will start to rot[200]. The fruit falls from the tree as soon as it is fully ripe. It is best, therefore, to grow the tree in short grass to cushion the fall of the fruit but to still make it possible to find and harvest[K]. The fruit can also be dried and ground into a powder[183]. The fruit is up to 25mm in diameter[200, 227]. White Mulberry (Morus alba) has edible young leaves and shoots eaten cooked[105, 183] but we have found no information for this plant.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anthelmintic  Astringent  Homeopathy  Hypoglycaemic  Laxative  Odontalgic  Purgative  Urinary

The mulberry has a long history of medicinal use in Chinese medicine, almost all parts of the plant are used in one way or another[238]. The white mulberry (M. alba) is normally used, but this species has the same properties[238]. Recent research has shown improvements in elephantiasis when treated with leaf extract injections and in tetanus following oral doses of the sap mixed with sugar[238]. Analgesic, emollient, sedative[7, 176]. The leaves are antibacterial, astringent, diaphoretic, hypoglycaemic, odontalgic and ophthalmic[218, 238]. They are taken internally in the treatment of colds, influenza, eye infections and nosebleeds[238]. The leaves are collected after the first frosts of autumn and can be used fresh but are generally dried[238]. The stems are antirheumatic, diuretic, hypotensive and pectoral[218, 238]. A tincture of the bark is used to relieve toothache[7]. The branches are harvested in late spring or early summer and are dried for later use[238]. The fruit has a tonic effect on kidney energy[218, 238]. It is used in the treatment of urinary incontinence, tinnitus, premature greying of the hair and constipation in the elderly[238]. Its main use in herbal medicine is as a colouring and flavouring in other medicines[4]. The root bark is antitussive, diuretic, expectorant and hypotensive[238]. It is used internally in the treatment of asthma, coughs, bronchitis, oedema, hypertension and diabetes[238]. The roots are harvested in the winter and dried for later use[238]. The bark is anthelmintic and purgative, it is used to expel tape worms[4, 240]. Extracts of the plant have antibacterial and fungicidal activity[218]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the leaves[9]. It is used in the treatment of diabetes[9].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Fibre  Wood

A fibre used in weaving is obtained from the bark[7]. A red-violet to dark purple dye is obtained from the fruit[168]. A yellow-green dye is obtained from the leaves[168]. Wood - used in joinery[100].

Special Uses

Food Forest

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a warm moist but well-drained loamy soil in a sheltered sunny position[1, 11]. Prefers a light soil[37]. Plants are very tolerant of atmospheric pollution[4]. Trees are hardy as far north as southern Sweden[4]. A slow growing[200] but very ornamental tree[1], the mulberry is sometimes cultivated in gardens for its delicious edible fruit[183]. The tree is not grown on a commercial scale because the fruit is too soft and easily damaged to allow it to be transported to market, and is therefore best eaten straight from the tree. There are some named varieties[183]. The mulberry takes many years to settle down and produce good crops of fruit, about 15 years being the norm[4]. Trees fruit well in southern and south-western Britain[59, 200] but they require the protection of a wall further north if the fruit is to ripen[200]. This is a good tree for growing grapes into[20]. It means that the grapes are difficult to pick, but they always seem to be healthier and free from fungal diseases[201]. Plants are late coming into leaf and also lose their leaves at the first autumn frosts though the tree in leaf casts quite a dense shade[200]. Mulberries have brittle roots and so need to be handled with care when planting them out[238]. Any pruning should only be carried out in the winter when the plant is fully dormant because mulberries bleed badly when cut[238]. Ideally prune only badly placed branches and dead wood[238]. Once considered to be a very long-lived tree, doubts are now being cast on this assumption, it is probably fairly short-lived[11]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 9 through 5. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is a standard with a non-suckering single trunk [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

The seed germinates best if given 2 - 3 months cold stratification[80, 98]. Sow the seed as soon as it is ripe if possible, otherwise in February in a cold frame. The seed usually germinates in the first spring, though it sometimes takes another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 7 - 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Plant out in spring. A good percentage take, though they sometimes fail to thrive[78, 113]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 25 - 30cm with a heel of 2 year old wood, autumn or early spring in a cold frame or a shady bed outside[78, 113,200]. Bury the cuttings to threequarters of their depth. It is said that cuttings of older wood up to 2.5 metres long can be readily made to strike[4]. The cuttings are taken in February and planted 30cm deep in a shady sheltered position outdoors. The stem is wrapped in moss to prevent water loss by transpiration, with only the top few buds not being covered[4]. Layering in autumn[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Morus albaWhite Mulberry, Common Mulberry,Tree18.0 4-10 MLMHSNM434
Morus alba multicaulisWhite MulberryTree18.0 4-8  LMHSNM432
Morus australisKorean Mulberry, Aino MulberryTree7.5 6-9 FLMHSNM221
Morus bombycisKuwaTree8.0 5-9  LMHSNM221
Morus cathayanaHua SangTree15.0 5-9  LMHSNM20 
Morus macrouraHimalayan MulberryTree10.0 7-10  LMHSNM212
Morus mesozygiaAfrican mulberryTree30.0 10-12 FLMHNM234
Morus microphyllaTexas MulberryTree6.0 5-9  LMHSNM202
Morus mongolicaMongolian MulberryTree7.5 4-8  LMHSNM212
Morus rubraRed Mulberry, Common Mulberry, White MulberryTree15.0 4-9  LMHSNM322
Morus serrataHimalayan MulberryTree20.0 -  LMHSNM212
Morus speciesMulberryTree10.0 0-0 MLMHSNM404
Rubus chamaemorusCloudberryPerennial0.3 2-4  LMHNMWe412

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Philip B. hunt   Sat Nov 3 2007

I need to know whether Morus nigra was introduced after or before the dissolution of the Monasteries. A number of scources give the introduction date as 1548. I take the view that if this was recorded as the date of introduction from China it is unlikely that it would have been grown in Monastery gardens before this date as it would have been well recorded and well known. I would be most grateful for views.

mrs mulberry   Sat Dec 15 2007

As far as I understand it, morus nigra was introduced to the UK by King James I. The original tree planted is Morus nigra 'Charlton House' where it was planted in the park of the same name. King James ordered that mulberries should be planted everywhere, it is said, in error, because he thought that we could start a silk industry with silkworms. However, again, this is only hearsay and you need to double check, he should have planted morus alba, as these are the ones the silkworms breed on, not morus nigra.

Erik tettelaar   Sat Feb 28 2009

please can you advise about the depth and spread of the roots of morus nigra. we have an established tree with one of the roots unlifting out tarmac drive. We need to retarmac the drive. Can we save the tree if we were to cut out that root? Or is it best to dig out the tree and roots together before we retarmac the drive. Please advise Many thanks.

J Cartwright   Sun Apr 5 2009

What is it's biodiversity rating for hosting other life?

   Aug 10 2010 12:00AM

for those interested in curing cancer - black mulberry has very high dosage of antioxidants. These in turn help cure the cancer. Forgot how exactly. The idea with curing the cancer (any form) is to cut off acidic food intake (milk, meat, cheese, eggs, sweets, honey, coffee, smoking, sedentarism) and take up a high dosage of antioxidants (or anything that makes the body of basic chemical character). For more intel (as this information is unfortunately available only in Romanian) contact me at joinantonius at(no spam please) gmail dot com

   Feb 16 2011 12:00AM

I love this tree. Ours in Manchester, UK grows wonderfully and produces a good crop despite being up north and not being in full sun. I have found it immensely difficult to propagate from cuttings though. I have had about 1 in 50 take.

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