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Black mulberry (Morus nigra)


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Black mulberry, common mulberry, small-fruited mulberry, sycamine [English]; swartmoerbei [Afrikaans], hei sang, mûrier noir, mûrier à petits fruits [French], schwarzer maulbeerbaum [German], amoreira negra [Portuguese], moral negro, morera negra [Spanish]; Itim na moras [Tagalog]; Kara dut [Turkish]; dâu tằm đen [Vietnamese]; توت أسود [Arabic]; Թթենի սև [Armenian]; 黑桑 [Chinese]; شاه‌توت [Farsi]; תות שחור [Hebrew]; Шелковица чёрная [Russian]

Taxonomic information 

Morus laciniata Mill., Morus siciliana Mill., Morus scabra Marett (non Vidd.) (Chukhina, 2015).

Related feed(s) 

Black mulberry (Morus nigra L.) is is a small deciduous tree cultivated worldwide, mainly for its edible fruits. Its leaves, like those of the white mulberry (Morus alba L.) can be used to feed silkworms but the silk is of lesser quality. The leaves are used as cattle fodder (Alonzo, 1999; Göhl, 1982).


Black mulberry is a dark green coloured deciduous shrub, medium-sized tree, growing up to 6-9 (-15-35) m in height which has a broad, dense spreading crown. The trunk is short. The leaves are petiolate, leathery (scabrous on the upper face and pubescent on the lower), large (5-16 x 5-16 cm), variable in shape: whole or palmately lobate. The leaf blades are assymetrical, broadly ovate, deeply cordiform at the base and shortly acuminate on top, obtusely dentate along the edge. Flowers are small, unattractive, clustered in catkin-like inflorescences. Fruits are 1.5-2.5cm in length and 3 cm in diameter, black, glossy, sweetish sour, juicy, and very tasty (Chukhina, 2015; Alonzo, 1999; Burkill, 1985).

Compared to the white mulberry, the black mulberry tree is shorter, with a smaller and more regular crown. Its shoots and branches have a bright yellow colour.  The fruits of Morus nigra ripen earlier and are smaller, juicier, and tastier than those of Morus alba (Turskienè, 2013). 


Black mulberry is mainly cultivated for its edible fruits that are edible and are the best-flavoured of those produced by Morus species. The purple-black berries are large and juicy, with a good balance of sweetness and tartness. The ripe fruit contains about 9% sugar, with malic and citric acid. Berries can be eaten raw or dried, or used in pies, tarts, puddings, conserves, jams, or sweetened and pureed as a sauce; slightly unripe fruit is best for pies and tarts. The fruit is sometimes pounded to a fine powder and mixed with the flour for bread. They can be blended with other fruits like pears and apples (Orwa et al., 2009). Leaves are used as feed for silkworms, but result in coarser silk than those obtained with worms fed white mulberry. Rather, they are used to feed rabbits and cattle and small ruminants are known to browse on black mulberry (Orwa et al., 2009). The wood of black mulberry is very hard and good for woodcraft. The bark is used to produce cardboard, paper and rope (Chukhina, 2015). Black mulberry is reported to have several medicinal properties (Alonzo, 1999).


Black mulberry originates from western Asia (Iran and Afghanistan). It is cultivated in the Mediterranean area (Balkans, Italy) since ancient times (Chukhina, 2015; Alonzo, 1999). Black mulberry is now naturalized and cultivated worldwide (Alonzo, 1999). It has been introduced to Malaysia and West Africa (Alonzo, 1999; Burkill, 1985). Morus nigra is grown in Europe up to southern Scandinavia (PFAF, 2019; Turskienè, 2013). It is referred to as an invasive species in Parana state in Brazil (CABI, 2018).

Black mulberry is particularly suited for places with hot and dry summers but is also cultivated in tropical humid regions, above 1000 m and up to 2000 m altitude and in areas where annual rainfall is between 500 and 2000 mm with a dry period of 2 to 6 months (CABI, 2018; Orwa et al., 2009; Alonzo, 1999). It is less cold-hardy than other mulberry species but it requires a short chilling period and can withstand temperatures down to -10°C (CABI, 2018). Morus nigra does better on rich, well-drained soils with neutral or slightly alkaline pH, and in full-light, wind-sheltered environment (CABI, 2018; Chukhina, 2015). For cultivation, it is recommended to avoid shallow, chalk or gravelly soils. However, it tolerates infertile soils and can occur on stony and turfy slopes, and along riversides. It can escape from cultivation (Chukhina, 2015; CABI, 2018). Black mulberry is somewhat shade resitant and drought resistant (Ecocrop, 2019).

Forage management 

Black mulberry can be propagated by seeds or cuttings (Tyler, 2019). It is a fast growing species that requires light and adequate space (at least 4.5 m between each tree) (Orwa et al., 2009). It is reported to take time to fruit (15 years in the UK) (Fern, 2014). Black mulberry is prone to bleeding when it is cut, and it is recommended to avoid pruning the tree heavily except for removing dead wood and thinning branches. Pruning should be done while the tree is dormant and cuts should be of less than 5 cm in diameter since the plant do not heal over (Fern, 2014

When black mulberry is propagated by seeds, the seeds should be used immediately after fruit ripening and should be cold-scarified prior to sowing. The seedlings should be planted in late spring or early summer when the soils warms up and after the last expected frosts. Black mulberry is a long-lived tree that can be rejuvenated through careful pruning and cultivation (Orwa et al., 2009)

When black mulberry is propagated by cuttings, cuttings with one bud should be taken from half-ripe wood or mature wood and buried at 3/4 of their length in the soil, in a sheltered position so that they can root readily (Fern, 2014). It is reported that black mulberry does not propagate vegetatively as easily as white mulberry (Tyler, 2019).

Environmental impact 


Black mulberry can be used in agroforestry as a windbreak, live fence, shelter or shade tree (CABI, 2018).

Birds "trap"

Black mulberry is sometimes planted near cherry trees, so that the birds, which are fond of mulberries, do not come and eat the cherries (Orwa et al., 2009).

Invasive weed

Outside its native range, black mulberry is referred to as a weed in Spain, southeastern Australian bush land, and South Africa, and as an invasive species in Brazil (CABI, 2018) This invasiveness is attributed to several traits: longevity, rapid growth, tolerance to droughts, ability to grow on tinfertile and rocky soil, resistance to cold, easy seed dispersal by birds and other animals attracted to its sweet, edible fruits (CABI, 2018). It is prone to escape from cultivation (CABI, 2018).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Black mulberry foliage is a forage of good quality, with a moderate to high protein content (15-28% DM) and relatively low fibre content (lignin < 5% DM). The condensed tannin contents of mulberry species are lower than 1% DM (Güven, 2012).


Literature on the use of Morus nigra for ruminants is scarce. In Cuba, black mulberry was reported to have good forage characteristics and to be one of the 3 preferred tree species among Malvaviscus arboreus, and Hibiscusrosa sinensis, specially by sheep (Toral et al., 2001). In Sumatra, a comparison of 4 Morus (M. alba, M. nigra, M. cathayana and M. australis) in terms of preference by goats concluded that Morus alba was the preferred species, above Morus nigra. All mulberry species of the study had suitable forage characteristics for goat feeding (Ginting et al., 2014).

In vitro gas production was measured for black mulberry foliage and other mulberry species with cow rumen juice. It was shown that gas production from black mulberry was the highest of all species after 48h. Only Morus alba had higher gas production after 96h. ME and OM digestibilities estimated from gas production were 10.5 MJ/kg and 71% values respectively, ranking second after those obtained for Morus alba (Güven, 2012).


Though no information could be found on the use of black mulberry foliage in pig feeding, its proximity with white mulberry suggests it could also be used as a feed for pigs.


Though no information could be found on the use of black mulberry foliage in poultry feeding, its chemical proximity with white mulberry suggests it could be fed in a similar manner as white mulberry to poultry species.


Scientific literature on the use of black mulberry foliage in rabbit feeding is very scarce in comparison with that dedicated to white mulberry. However Morus nigra leaves are traditionally used in the North of Italy by small farmers to feed their rabbits (Uncini Manganelli et al., 2001). In Bulgaria, leaves of the different Morus spp. cultivated locally, Morus nigra included, are used to feed rabbits (Ichim et al., 2008). In Nigeria, leaves of undetermined Morus species are used with success to feed rabbits (Bamikole et al., 2005). The situation is the same when Morus nigra leaves and those of other mulberry species are compared (Hutasoit et al., 2017). In Mozambique, using fresh black mulberry leaves in addition to a low-fiber concentrate had no negative effect on rabbit health and could be recommendable as an alternative source of fibre (Demeterova et al., 1991; Demeterova, 1998).

It can thus be concluded that black mulberry leaves can be used to feed rabbits in the same conditions than white mulberry leaves: a forage with a moderate level of fibre, a relatively high protein content, rich in lysine but poor in sulphur amino acids, and a source of calcium but not of phosphorus (Lebas, 2013; Koyuncu et al., 2014).

Other species 


Silworms could be fed on black mulberry but they produced lower quality silk  (lower maintenance yield, lower weight of cocoon, lower filament weight and lower rolling strength than in white mulberry (Sasmita, 2018).

Colobine monkeys

Black mulberry was reported to be a common forage used in in North American and European zoos to feed southeast Asian colobines, a subfamily of folivorous monkeys (Nijboer et al., 1996).

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 34.7 6.9 25.8 45 10  
Crude protein % DM 20.3 4.6 14.6 27.8 10  
Crude fibre % DM 13.4         *
Ether extract % DM 6.5   2.2 11.5 3  
Ash % DM 13.3 4.7 8.7 20.4 7  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 29.8 5.6 21.3 34.2 7  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 24.7 7.9 14.4 34.1 7  
Lignin % DM 6.5   4.1 10.8 3  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 18.2       1 *
Amino acids Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Lysine g/16g N 4.2          
Threonine g/16g N 3.9          
Methionine g/16g N 1.9          
Isoleucine g/16g N 3.6          
Valine g/16g N 5.6          
Leucine g/16g N 7.6          
Phenylalanine g/16g N 3.8          
Tyrosine g/16g N 3.8          
Phenylalanine+tyrosine g/16g N 7.6         *
Histidine g/16g N 2.2          
Arginine g/16g N 7.4          
Alanine g/16g N 5.1          
Aspartic acid g/16g N 8.8          
Glutamic acid g/16g N 8.9          
Glycine g/16g N 4.8          
Serine g/16g N 4.6          
Proline g/16g N 4.4          
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 21.5   21.5 21.5 2  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.3   1.3 3.3 2  
Magnesium g/kg DM 4.8       1  
Potassium g/kg DM 14.1       1  
Sodium g/kg DM 1.2       1  
Sulfur g/kg DM 1.7       1  
Manganese mg/kg DM 35       1  
Zinc mg/kg DM 27       1  
Copper mg/kg DM 5       1  
Iron mg/kg DM 15       1  
Secondary metabolites Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Tanins, condensed (eq. catechin) g/kg DM 7       1  
In vitro digestibility and solubility Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
In vitro DM digestibility (pepsin) % 73   54 81 4  
In vitro OM digestibility (pepsin) % 80   78 81 3  
Ruminant nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE ruminants MJ/kg DM 13.4         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 10.8         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 73.6         *
OM digestibility, ruminants % 77         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 79          

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Demeterova et al., 1991; Güven et al., 2012; Hutasoit et al., 2017; Inam-Ur-Rahim et al., 2011; Malik et al., 1967; Nijboer et al., 1996; Wilkemeyer, 2003

Last updated on 30/07/2019 19:09:10

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Lebas F., 2019. Black mulberry (Morus nigra). Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/122 Last updated on August 6, 2019, 15:58