English Mulberries, 1829

The mulberry tree appears to have been an object of cultivation at a very early period in the Western parts of Asia, and in Europe. The attention they bestowed upon it must have been solely on account of its fruit; for the knowledge of the mode of rearing silk worms was confined to the people of central and southern Asia until the 6th century. We read in the psalms that the Almighty destroyed the mulberry trees with frost and this must have been recorded as a remarkable instance of divine displeasure, for the mulberry is known not to put out its buds until the season is so far advanced, that in the ordinary course of events, there is no more severe weather to be expected. It has therefore been called the wisest of trees. In the history of the wars of David with the Philistines, the mulberry tree is mentioned as a familiar object. Pliny says of it, somewhat questionably, that when it begins to bud, it does so in a night, and with so much force, that the breaking buds may be distinctly heard.

In this country, there are many old mulberry trees, of large dimensions, and remarkable for for the quantity of fruit they bear. It is probable that some of these old trees were planted at the latter end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries; for James I endeavoured to render the cultivation of the tree general, in the same way that Henry IV had tried to introduce it in France. The first mulberry trees of England are said to have been planted at silent House, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, in 1548; and the trees, though decade in the trunk, still bear fruit. mulberry gardens were common in the 17th century, in the neighbourhood of London; but either from the climate all the prejudices of the people, the growth of silk never prospered.

The mulberry is distinguished for the ease with which it may be propogated. A cutting from a tree which has borne fruit will soon become a vigorous plant. It is recorded that, at Bruce Castle, at Tottenham, an immense branch was torn off by the wind from an old mulberry tree about 40 years ago. The branch was thrust into the ground, and flourished. It is now a handsome tree. That part of the trunk of the old tree which lost the branch is covered with lead. But at the same time the mulberry has been also remarkable for not producing fruit until the trees have acquired a considerable age; and this circumstance has materially affected its cultivation as a fruit tree. (the same objection has applied to the walnut) Recent experiments, however, have shown that by proper culture, both the mulberry and the walnut may be made to produce fruit at three years old.

The article above was taken from "A Description and History of Vegetable Substances used in the Arts and in Domestic Economy published by Charles Knight, London, 1829.

Nigel Deacon, Diversity website.

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