Mulberry Tree Following. 7/5/14

d2420-estherinthegarden-afterthesummer-newera-nodulesonrootsofplutoniantree20 This tree following meme involves a monthly update on the chosen tree on the 7th of the month. It is interesting to see how a tree develops over the course of the year but in the life of a tree everything moves slowly, especially if the tree is a Mulberry. The Mulberry is not a tree in a hurry.

The leaves are slowly opening though  and showing quite a bit of green. Whether they opened with an audible pop as Pliny asserted I am not in a position to say. I am intrigued by Pliny’s ideas about mulberries I have been reading his Natural History which was probably the first encyclopaedia. He was very knowledgeable but some of his facts are rather surprising. He was sure that there were strange races of men living at the edges of the world. One of them, the Sciapodae was a tribe of men with one large foot that they could handily use as a parasol.

skiapoda_ulisse.jpg skiopod












There was a dog-faced race, the Cynocephalus people.

Schedel'sche_Weltchronik-Dog_headAnd then there were the Astomi; a race without mouths which existed by sniffing things. All this has nothing to do with the mulberry tree but it does rather show that Pliny can’t be relied on when he tells us the mulberry leaves burst forth audibly.

To approach the meadow where my tree lives you walk down a cow parsley lined lane.
The meadow itself is full of buttercups, cow parsley and red campion so it is all afroth with May colour.
IMG_8255The tree is looking much more interesting than last month with its emerging leaves.
IMG_8242The opening leaves are heart shaped and at the same time that the leaves are opening the flowers are produced. They look more like stubby catkins than flowers.
IMG_8240The great thing about this meme is learning all about your chosen tree. I love doing the research and l have enjoyed finding out more about the Mulberry and its history. The Romans probably introduced the Mulberry into England but it was during the reign of James 1 that it was planted extensively. Hearing that Henri IV  of France was ordering  more than 15000 white mulberries to be planted in all the royal parks to promote the silk industry,  James decided to promote it here too. The wool trade was in decline so it seemed like a good alternative. He was also anxious to wrest the monopoly of the silk trade from the French. He wrote to the deputy lieutenants of all the counties saying that landowners were required to buy 10,000 mulberry trees at a cost of 6 shillings per hundred.  William Stallenge who was a customs official was given control of the project. He was charged with bringing out an instruction book for the growing of the trees and the breeding of silk worms and he was given a 7 year patent for the seed. He was also put in charge of the 4 acres of mulberry trees that James had planted in Westminster. In 1609 he was paid the princely sum of £935 for the job. So he did very well out of it. Nobody else did though. The whole silk making project was a failure probably because the tree chosen; Morus nigra, the black mulberry was not suitable for raising silk worms. It was probably selected because it is hardier than the White Mulberry but that is not much help if the silkworms don’t like it.

There is still a street named Mulberry Walk off the King’s Road in Chelsea which marked the boundary of the  Chelsea mulberry plantation. Following on the royal tradition, the Queen grows mulberries and she has the  only National Collection in the country in the  gardens of Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace and Windsor Castle. So if you happen to read this Your Maj. I am more than happy to pop along to Buckingham Palace and compare notes about mulberries.  I can fill you in on all sorts of interesting and irrelevant facts about Pliny too.

Thank you to Lucy at looseandleafy for hosting this tree following meme. Why don’t you pop over there and see what other peoples’ trees are doing this May?

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44 Responses to Mulberry Tree Following. 7/5/14

  1. Julie says:

    Its very interesting too Chloris to read your research, thats a really beautiful walk on the way to visit your tree. I am loving the meadows and fields this year, they seem to be more spectacular than ever before. My sister had an enormous veteran black Mulberry tree in the front garden of her last house, which bore lots of fruit each year but was reguarly scrumped by neighbours in the dark!

    • Chloris says:

      The meadows do seem better than ever this year, but then so does the blossom and our gardens. Everything is so beautiful, if only everything would slow down . It is rushing by too fast.

  2. pbmgarden says:

    Interesting stories about your Mulberry. The walk and meadow are very inviting.

  3. Cathy says:

    That lane leading to the tree is so very pretty with all the cow parsley each side – you could call it your very own Mulberry Walk! I have never seen/noticed a mulberry tree, so I am learning a lot from following your posts.

    • Chloris says:

      Mulberry trees are pretty with their gnarled trunks and heart shaped leaves. I am fascinated by the great age of this tree. Yes, the footpath is pretty with all the cow parsley.

  4. kate says:

    Really interesting, and I love the walk to your tree too. What a treat to have a mulberry!

  5. AnnetteM says:

    I love your photo of the lane to your tree; I just want to walk down it. Interesting facts too – thanks for the research.

  6. I do hope Her Maj reads this and you get a personal invitation Chloris 🙂
    I knew nothing of the history surrounding the Mulberry Tree and Pliny for that matter, so a great big thank you for the education. I’m truly ignorant when it comes too trees and am thoroughly enjoying all the posts in this meme.

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, I’ m looking forward to talking Mulberries with the Queen. But what does one wear for the occasion?
      It is great to read all about everyone’s trees. We tend to take them for granted, it’s wonderful to really look at them as the year goes round.

  7. lizard100 says:

    Really enjoyed this post!

  8. bittster says:

    Chloris, the mulberry is looking much nicer with a few signs of life, not quite the awkward brown jumble of twigs anymore, but the meadows steal the scene. I bet they’re filled with bird song and insects too, such a nice scene for a springtime day!

    • Chloris says:

      Yes, it is nice to see the tree with some leaves at last. The meadow is lovely at the moment. The skylarks were singing today and I saw several Orange Tip butterflies which seem quite plentiful this year.

  9. Kris P says:

    Fascinating, Chloris. Off hand, I can’t recall any American stories relating to mass plantings of trees on the order of Britain’s Mulberry campaign other than perhaps the effort by Johnny Appleseed, but that wasn’t sponsored by anyone in government.

    • Chloris says:

      I believe James1 was keen to establish the silk industry in the American colonies too. He sent seeds and silkworm eggs to Virginia and directed the colonial government to plant mulberry trees. I believe it was unsuccessful there too.

  10. Lucy Corrander says:

    Even if they’d planted the right kind of trees, wouldn’t that have been an example of exceptionally hopeful forward planning? Do you know how long they thought it would take for the trees to grow to a silk-producing age?
    But this post has brought me up with a start. I knew when I started this that I hadn’t had time to get round to all the people who might be interested in taking part but you’d have thought I’d have asked the Queen fairly early on. But I didn’t. And I’m feeling rather silly that I left her out. It’s not too late to join in and she might find it just the incentive she needs to start a blog (I don’t think she has one yet).
    I’ll have to rummage around for her email address. I must have it written down somewhere . . .

  11. Chloris says:

    Maybe you hadn’ t realised that the Queen has the National Collection of Mulberries? Don’ t worry I’ll ask her to join in with the meme when I go to have tea with her. I’ m expecting my invitation soon.

  12. “Your” mulberry is coming on well. The flowers already look like berries! And you have a very pleasant walk to check on progress. I really enjoyed reading your history of the mulberry in this country, and as for your tales of Pliny – well, his theories are definitely open to scrutiny!! Most amusing!

  13. Chloris says:

    Yes, I got a bit side tracked with Pliny. I just love the idea of his Sciopod sheltering from the sun under his giant foot.

  14. What a beautiful walk to your mulberry, and I love its flowers, not exactly a show off is it! I learnt about the silk production debacle recently, I can’t remember where, nowadays there would be such a hue and cry! I wonder if anybody got “sacked” or publicly villified over the mistake?

    • Chloris says:

      You’ d think William Stallenge would have been in trouble as he was the instigator of the whole thing and he made a great deal of money out of the scheme. But apparently he carried on getting paid and he was still looking after the royal mulberries after the king’s death in 1625.

  15. Anna says:

    I’m sure that the Queen would like to meet you for a cuppa and a natter Chloris. Your mulberry may be a slow burner but it is making for some really fascinating reading. On the subject of reading matter Pliny should be taken with a pinch of salt unless you are a member of the Cynocephalus tribe.

  16. jenhumm116 says:

    Fascinating post, but I must take issue with your comment ‘handily use as a parasol’. How can this be? I’m really not sure about that Pliny chap, but I love ‘your’ mulberry.

  17. Chloris says:

    Well, obviously not ‘ handily’, but there is no such word as ‘ footily’.
    I see what you mean about Pliny, I think he made it up as he went along.

  18. Cathy says:

    And I would like to know if Pliny suggested any potential evidence for these ancient tribes or if they were just stated as ‘facts’? I have to confess that I am one of the few 🙂 who have never read any Pliny but I rather assumed that he and his brother were both classical ‘Greats’ in terms of literature. Hmmm, you can’t believe anything you read these days…. ps great post!!

    • Cathy says:

      sorry – they weren’t brothers, told you my classical education was lacking!

    • Chloris says:

      Pliny the Elder was a soldier who wrote about military history and grammar. His greatest work on Natural History was in 37 volumes and was very influential for centuries. His nephew Pliny the Younger wrote about him and told us so much about him. We learn from him that Pliny was enormously erudite and devoted his life to reading and writing. The vast body of knowledge that Pliny amassed came from historical sources and of course he was often hilariously inaccurate. But it is fascinating reading his observations on the natural world. I have the Penguin edition: Pliny the Elder.Natural History. A Selection. It is a great book to dip in and out of.

  19. Flighty says:

    A most enjoyable, and interesting post. It’s good to learn more about mulberry trees. xx

  20. Chloris says:

    Thanks Flighty. I am enjoying learning all about mulberries for this meme.

  21. Here in the US, male mulberry trees are preferred in ornamental landscapes because “fruits are messy.” (Imagine!) What folks don’t know is that the tree tops the list for highly allergenic pollen. I have an acquaintance who makes his living assessing the environmental conditions of allergy sufferers; he’s expressed dismay at the number of times he’s found a male mulberry near the bedroom window of a child overcome with acute problems.

    On another note, do you know about Jefferson’s failed attempt to destroy the West Indian sugar trade and end slavery through cultivation of the sugar maple? (If not, you can find the story on the web at When I visited Monticello last summer, I stood under one of the 60 trees planted in 1790 and contemplated the time when daring men looked to plants for hope and solutions. Though he chose the wrong mulberry, perhaps Stallenge wasn’t such a bad chap either.

    Wish I could get Pliny for a dinner party. He would be an interesting addition, don’t you think?

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you for this, I didn’t know about Jefferson’s attempts to cultivate the sugar maple. I’m not sure Stallenge was so altruistic. I think he saw a way to line his own pockets. But then it is difficult to look back from this vantage point and make judgements about people in history.
      Pliny the Elder would be interesting to have to a dinner party but he wouldn’ t stay long. He couldn’t t bear to be away from his studies. He even cut right down on his sleep in order to study.
      Pliny the Younger would probably be more fun as he liked a good gossip.

  22. lizard100 says:

    This has also given me inspiration for future posts.

  23. Hollis says:

    your photos are wonderful — lush greenery and froth May colors! I’m envious …

  24. Laurin Lindsey says:

    Brilliant post, like you I love the history of plants and I also enjoy connections and getting sidetracked! The picture of the Sciapodae with the big foot is great. Your meadow is lovely. As to Pliny the younger, I wonder if he was also in to hallucinogenics : ) And I think Pliny the Elder would have to give up sleeping all together if he had access to the internet! Should we start a letter writing campaign to get the Queen to invite you for tea and conversation. I am quite sure she would enjoy it immensely! Happy Gardening!

  25. Chloris says:

    Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it.
    I’m not really bothered about going to Buckingham Palace to have tea with the Queen. To be honest, I haven’ t got time. It’ s all right for her, she has lots of time, with all her flunkeys.

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