Black mulberry is a deciduous tree originally from southwestern Asia and a member of the mulberry family that also includes figs, Osage-orange, and banyan. It has wide spreading branches that start close to the ground and forms a open growing, round canopy. With age the plans can develop a gnarled habit that is attractive in the garden. The bark is rough and the dull green leaves are simple, toothed, and 2.5 to 8 inches long by 2 to 4 inches wide. Each leaf is variously lobed and has downy hairs on the lower surface with short stiff hairs on the upper. In spring small separate male and female flowers appear on the same self-fertile plant. In early summer the female flowers produce clusters of edible fruits that are .75 to 1 inch long and mature to dark purple or black.
The mulberry tree is mentioned several times in the Bible but scholars have identified only one as black mulberry (Morus nigra) which is common in Palestine even today.
Luke 17.6 (NIV) Jesus addresses his disciples on their journey to Jeruselem.
“He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Black mulberry likes full sun and rich, moist, well-drained soil but tolerates less and is hardy in USDA zones 5-9. Propagation is by hardwood cuttings and stratified seed. Trees are relatively disease and pest free but are susceptible to bacterial leaf spot. The berries are juicy and sweet, attractive to birds, and are can be used for jam and preserves. Trees would be beautiful shade trees if the berries did not create litter problems including staining sidewalks. A fruitless variety of mulberry (M. alba Kingan) is a better choice
The genus name, Morus, is the classical Latin name for the plant. The specific epithet, nigra, is the classical Latin word meaning black and refer to the color of the fruit.