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Morus nigra, the Black mulberry, is a species of mulberry. It is native to southwestern Asia, where it has been cultivated for so long that its precise natural range is unknown. It is known for its large number of chromosomes, as it has 154 pairs (308 individuals).

Description

Morus nigra is a small deciduous tree growing to about 10–13 metres (35–45 ft) tall. The leaves are about 10-20 centimetres (4–8 in) long and 6-10 centimetres (2½-4 in) broad (up to 23 centimetres or 9 inches long on vigorous shoots), downy on the underside, with the upper surface rough with very short, stiff hairs.

The edible fruit is dark purple, almost black, when ripe, 2–3 centimetres (0.8–1.2 in) long, a compound cluster of several small drupes; it is richly flavoured, similar to the red mulberry (Morus rubra) but unlike the more insipid fruit of the white mulberry (Morus alba).

Cultivation and uses

Black mulberry has long been cultivated for its edible fruit and is planted and often naturalised west across much of Europe, including Ukraine, and east into China. Multiple fruits of the black or Persian mulberry become purplish-black at maturity.

The black (Morus nigra) and white (Morus alba) mulberries are all widespread in Pakistan, Iran, India, and Afghanistan, where the tree and the fruit are known by the Persian-derived names toot (mulberry) or shahtoot (شاه توت) (king’s or “superior” mulberry). Jams and sherbets are often made from the fruit in this region.

The black mulberry was imported into Britain in the 17th century in the hope that it would be useful in the cultivation of silkworms (Bombyx mori). It was unsuccessful because silkworms prefer the white mulberry, but has left a legacy of large and old trees in many country house gardens. Care is needed to prevent the crushed berries from staining carpets in the houses nearby.

Written on June 13th, 2012 , Fruits Tags:

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