I am joining in with Looseandleafy’ s tree watching meme on the 7th of every month. My ancient mulberry tree takes life at a steady pace and not a great deal has changed since last month except that the flowers have got bigger. Mulberries don’ t ripen until the end of August so there is a way to go until we have nice dark red berries.
The tree is looking summery with its large heart-shaped leaves.
The buttercups in the meadow are nearly over and the red campion has finished. But there are ox -eye daisies looking very pretty.
Down the lane the froth of cow parsley has finished but there are still some dog roses in bloom.
As it is Midsummernight’ s Eve this month it seems a good time to remind you of the tragic way the mulberry got its red colour according to Roman myth told to us by Ovid in the Metamorphoses. The version most of us are familiar with is the one acted out by the rustics in Shakespeare’ s Midsummer Night’ s Dream, with the role of the hero played by Bottom. The story of two young lovers kept apart by their parents and meeting a tragic end is a theme which Shakespeare returned to in Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps he got the idea for it from Pyramus and Thisbe.
In Ovid’ s version the young Babylonian couple who live in adjoining houses talk through a chink in the wall. As they are forbidden contact with one another they decide to escape their parent’ s vigilance and meet by the mulberry tree by the tomb of Ninus. Thisbe arrives first and is alarmed by a lion with its mouth all gory from its latest kill. She drops her veil as she runs away to hide. When Pyramus arrives on the scene the lion has gone and he sees the blood stained veil that the lion has mauled. Thinking that his beloved Thisbe has been eaten by the lion Pyramus does what any right -minded Roman would do on such an occasion and falls on his sword. Thisbe returns and finds her love dying and realising that he has killed himself because of his great love for her she takes the sword and stabs herself too. You can see why Shakespeare liked the story, he did like to end his tragedies with the stage littered with corpses.
Anyway the point of this story which you may not know from a reading of Shakespeare’ s play is that the blood of the dying Pyramus spurted all over the white mulberries dying them red. And that is how we have red mulberries today.
This lovely wood block engraving is the work of David Kandel who illustrated the Herbal of Hieronymus Bock, (not to be confused with Bosch) who was a German Lutheran minister and also a botanist. His Herbal; ‘Kreuterbuch’ first appeared in 1539. He classified 700 plants so the book was quite an achievement. The David Kandel woodblocks are charming and sometimes unintentionally funny.
Thanks to Lucy Corrander at looseandleafy for hosting this meme.