Direct growth of black Ge on low-temperature substrates, including plastics and rubber is reported. The material is based on highly dense, crystalline/amorphous core/shell Ge nanoneedle arrays with ultrasharp tips (similar to 4 nm) enabled by the Ni catalyzed vapor-solid-solid growth process. Ge nanoneedle arrays exhibit remarkable optical properties, Specifically, minimal optical reflectance (<1%) is observed, even for high angles of incidence (similar to 75 degrees) and for relatively short nanoneedle lengths (-1 mu m). Furthermore, the. material exhibits high optical absorption efficiency with an effective band gap of similar to 1 eV. The reported black Ge could potentially have important practical implications For efficient photovoltaic and photodetector applications on nonconventional substrates.