The common name mulberry is applied to certain Morus species (M. alba, M. rubra, etc.), but it can also be used for other closely-related plants that are also known as 'mulberries,' which are classified in the genus Maclura or Morotrophis . The origin of the word "mulberry" can be traced back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon word "mulberry," which itself derives from the Latin mūlus ("mulberry") and the Old English morgen ("mor").
Morus ("mulberry tree") is a genus of flowering plants containing at least 30 species of trees, mostly native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Mulberries are small to medium-sized shrubs or trees with a thick tan-gray ridged trunk and light green leaves which vary in shape depending on the variety. Leaves are arranged alternately and are lobed or unlobed, cordate (heart-shaped), dentate (toothed), and acuminate (tapering).
Mulberries can be eaten fresh or dried and used in jams, jellies, and preserves. The raw fruit is a known laxative for children if more than a few are ingested, and can cause an upset stomach if more than a few are ingested by adults due to their laxative effect. Mulberries are rich in anthocyanins (about 2-3% of the dry weight), which impart the deep purple color to fruits, e.g., blackberries.
Mulberry fruit is an important food source for both fauna and flora. The leaves provide fodder for many animals, including Lepidoptera (butterfly larvae), which are the main pest of mulberry plantations. On a single tree, about 80 or 100 pounds of leaves can fall in a day and each leaf is eaten by 1-2 caterpillars daily. Mulberry fruit is also eaten by birds such as cuckoos, waxwings, and thrushes. These fruits are called "strawberries" - a term that is often used for any juicy and fleshy red fruit (like tomatoes for example). They are particularly appreciated by yaks and mules whose diet consists of coarse grass.
The medicinal uses of mulberries are many. They have been traditionally used to treat diseases like diarrhea, constipation, rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, cancer, fever, pneumonia, and ulcers. The bark of the root is used as a diuretic. Mulberries have also been used to treat disorders of the heart. They are thought to be good for eyesight. Mulberries contain important nutrients like calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium, manganese, copper, and fiber.