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Moraceae: Mulberry Family Identification Characteristics.

Plants of the Mulberry Family

      Have you ever seen a tree with milky sap? If so, you have likely met a member of the Mulberry family. These trees and shrubs have alternate leaves and milky latex sap. The unisexual flowers are small and usually tightly clustered, with male and female flowers appearing on the same or different trees. Male flowers have 4 (sometimes 0) sepals, 0 petals and 4 stamens. Female flowers have 4 (sometimes 0) sepals and 0 petals. The ovary is positioned superior or inferior and consists of usually 2 (rarely 3) united carpels, as indicated by the same number of styles. One carpel is usually aborted, forming a single chamber. In species with tightly clustered flowers, the fruits merge together as a single mass, creating a false fruit known as an "aggregate" or "multiple."

      Figs are highly unusual in that the flowers are borne in the hollow end of a branch, which later swells around the developing seeds to become the fruit, called a "syconium." Other members of the family produce a nut or a drupe (a fleshy fruit with a stony seed).

      Worldwide, there are about 53 genera and 1,500 species in the family. About 800 species are Ficus, including figs, the banyan tree, the Indian rubber tree, and the bodhi tree, where the Buddha became enlightened. Breadfruit and jackfruit belong to Artocarpus. Other cultivated genera (mostly tropical) include Antiaris, Brosimum, Cecropia, Chlorophora, Cudrania, Coussapoa, Dorstenia, Musanga, and Treculia. North American genera, native and introduced, are listed below..

Key Words: Trees and shrubs with alternate leaves and milky sap..

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Morus alba. White Mulberry or Common Mulberry.

Morus alba. White Mulberry, also known as Common Mulberry. Photographed near Clarkston, Washington.

Morus alba. White Mulberry or Common Mulberry.

Morus alba. White Mulberry, also known as Common Mulberry. The ripe fruits are edible and delicious.

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Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification
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