Morus nigra, called black mulberry is a species of flowering plant in the family Moraceae that is native to southwestern Asia, where it has been cultivated for so long that its precise natural range is unknown. The black mulberry is known for its large number of chromosomes.
Morus nigra is a deciduous tree growing to 12 metres (39 feet) tall by 15 m (49 ft) broad. The leaves are 10–20 centimetres (4–8 inches) long by 6–10 cm (2–4 in) broad – up to 23 cm (9 in) long on vigorous shoots, downy on the underside, the upper surface rough with very short, stiff hairs. Each cell has 308 chromosomes in total, and exhibits tetratetracontaploidy (44x), meaning that its genome contains seven chromosomes, and each cell has 44 copies of each.
The fruit is a compound cluster of several small drupes that are dark purple, almost black when ripe, and they are 2.5 cm (1 in) in diameter. Black mulberry is richly flavoured, similar to the red mulberry (Morus rubra) rather than the more insipid fruit of the white mulberry (Morus alba). Mulberry fruit color derives from anthocyanins.
Sometimes other mulberry species are confused with black mulberry, particularly black-fruited individuals of the white mulberry. Black mulberry may be distinguished from the other species by the uniformly hairy lower surface of its leaves.
Black mulberries are thought to have originated in the mountainous areas of Mesopotamia and Persia-
The fruit is edible and the tree has long been cultivated for this property. Often, jams and sherbets are made from the fruit.
But let’s talk about mulberries in Brooklyn.
Whenever I’m in New York, one of my favorite things to do is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge along the Promenade. A floor above the road with an exceptional view of the New York skyline. Truly one of the most beautiful possible views of the metropolis regardless of the time, morning or evening.
And so one June day in 2001 I crossed the bridge. On the other side, I was looking for a slightly different view towards the Twin Towers. So I turned east looking for a passage to the East River. I had never explored this part of New York before and was surprised to discover that there is a park under the bridge and to the left and right – Brooklyn Bridge Park. And then I discover the Empire Fulton Ferry, Riverside park offering picnic areas, and a playground. A small green area with some bushes and two or three trees. Mulberry!
As I sit on the grass and admire the bridge and the view towards the WTC behind it, an elderly man walks by. He walks up to a mulberry tree and begins to pick and eat the fruit. I approach curiously and start a conversation. A man, small, with an unshaven beard, deep-set eyes, all wrinkled, offers me fruit. Of course I take it and eat it. At the same time, I learn a new English word – mulberry.
Not far away, a group of kindergarten children are playing. Their teacher smiles kindly at us, the children scream, laugh and enjoy the sun.
The heat is becoming unbearable and I slowly say goodbye to the old man. I return across the bridge and dive into the jungle of the metropolis.