|Panama rubber tree (Castilla elastica)|
The Moraceae -- often called the mulberry family or fig family -- are a family of flowering plants comprising about 38 genera and over 1100 species. Most are widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, less so in temperate climates; however, their distribution is cosmopolitan overall. The only synapomorphy within the Moraceae is presence of laticifers and milky sap in all parenchymatous tissues, but generally useful field characters include two carpels sometimes with one reduced, compound inconspicuous flowers, and compound fruits. The family includes well-known plants such as the fig, banyan, breadfruit, mulberry, and Osage orange. The 'flowers' of Moraceae are often pseudanthia (reduced inflorescences).
Formerly included within the now defunct order Urticales, recent molecular studies have resulted in the family's placement within the Rosales in a clade called the urticalean rosids that also includes Ulmaceae, Celtidaceae, Cannabaceae, and Urticaceae. Cecropia, which has variously been placed in the Moraceae, Urticaceae, or their own family, Cecropiaceae, is now included in the Urticaceae.
The flowers are often small, with single whorled or absent perianth. Most flowers have either petals or sepals, but not both, known as monochlamydeae, and have pistils and stamens in different flowers, known as diclinous. Except for Brosimum gaudichaudii and Castilla elastica, the perianth in all species of the Moraceae contain sepals. If the flower has an inflexed stamen, then pollen is released and distributed by wind dispersal; however, if the stamen is straight, then insect pollination is most likely to occur. Insect pollination occurs in Antiaropsis, Artocarpus, Castilla, Dorstenia, Ficus, and Mesogyne
The leaves are much like the flowers when analyzing diversity. The leaves can be singly attached to the stem or alternating, they may be lobed or unlobed, and can be evergreen or deciduous depending on the species in question. The red mulberry can host numerous leaf types on the same tree. Leaves can be both lobed and unlobed and appear very different, but coexist on the same plant..
Plant species in the Moraceae are best known for their fruits. Overall, most species produced a fleshy fruit containing seeds. Examples include the breadfruit from Artocarpus altillis, the mulberry from Morus rubra, and the jackfruit from Artocarpus heterophyllus.
Moraceae can be found throughout the world with a cosmopolitan distribution, thought to be due to the breakup of Gondwana during the Jurassic period. The majority of species can be found originating in the Old World tropics with emphasis in Asia and the Pacific islands
The Moraceae comprise: