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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Moraceae (fig, mulberry family)

Life > eukaryotes > Archaeoplastida > Chloroplastida > Charophyta > Streptophytina > Plantae (land plants) > Tracheophyta (vascular plants) > Euphyllophyta > Lignophyta (woody plants) > Spermatophyta (seed plants) > Angiospermae (flowering plants) > Eudicotyledons > Core Eudicots > Rosids > Eurosid I > Order: Rosales

About 38 genera and 1100 species, distributed worldwide, with eight genera and 51 species native to southern Africa, three species that are naturalised and a further six genera and 42 species that are cultivated in the region.

Genera native to southern Africa

List from Jordaan (2000) and Palgrave & Palgrave (2002).


There are 105 species distributed in tropical regions, of which five are native to southern Africa. An additional three species are cultivated in southern Africa. 

Ficus (figs)

About 755 species distributed wordwide, with 40 species native to southern Africa and an additional 31 species that are cultivated in the region.


The 11 species occur widely in the tropics, with one species native to Africa, Maclura africana (African osage-orange), which extends from Kenya down to South Africa (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal), and which is also found in Madagascar.


One species, Milicia excelsa (Iroko, Mvule), native to tropical Africa, including Zimbabwe and Mozambique. See Flora of Zimbabwe.


Morus (mulberry)

About 15 species, native to temperate and subtropical regions of the Old and New World, with one species, Morus mesozygia, native to southern Africa, three species that are naturalised and one further species that are cultivated in the region. The usual mulberry growing in people's gardens is Morus nigra (Common or Black Mulberry).


Myrianthus holstii is native to eastern Zimbabwe. See Flora of Zimbabwe.



Streblus usambarensis is native to Zimbabwe and Mozambique (see Flora of Zimbabwe). Streblus asper is native from Sri Lanka to the Philippines and is cultivated in southern Africa.



One species Trilepisium madagascariense (Valsvy) , which is native to tropical and subtropical Africa.


Other genera, cultivated in southern Africa

List from Glen (2002). The species name is provided in genera that have only one species represented in southern Africa.


Artocarpus altilis (Breadfruit - native to Indonesia and New Guinea) and Artocarpus heterophyllus (Jackfruit - native to India) are cultivated in southern Africa.


Brousonnetia papyrifera (Paper mulberry)

Native from China to Polynesia.



Two species cultivated in southern Africa: Cecropia palmata (native to Brazil and Peru), and Cecropia peltata (Trumpet tree) (native from Mexico to Venezuela).  


Chlorophora tinctoria (Fustic, Insira)

Native from Brazil to Mexico and the West Indies.


Musanga cecropioides (Umbrella tree)

Native to tropical Africa.


Treculia africana (African breadfruit)

Native to tropical Africa and Madagascar.


Cannabis (hemp, dagga) and Humulus (hops) were once included under Moraceae but are now placed in the family Cannabaceae.


  • Jordaan, M. 2000. Moraceae. In: Seed Plants of Southern Africa (ed. O.A. Leistner). Strelitzia 10: 415-416. . National Botanical Institute, Pretoria.

  • Glen, H.F. 2002. Cultivated Plants of Southern Africa. Jacana, Johannesburg.

  • Palgrave, K.C. and Palgrave, M.C. 2002. Trees of Southern Africa. 3rd Edition. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.