Since March I have been joining in with Lucy ‘s tree following meme over at looseandleafy. The idea is to watch a tree and see what happens to it over the months. Last month I wrote about picking the luscious fruit. Now the Mulberry has just about finished fruiting and the wasps are lingering over the last squashed and withered fruits.
So here the tree sits, or rather lies, resting after all the effort. Its leaves are still not showing any hint of Autumn colour.
Several blogging friends have told me that the native American mulberry: Morus rubra is considered as a weed as it seeds around everywhere and becomes a nuisance. My mulberry: Morus nigra comes from Persia, although you might be forgiven for thinking that it comes from China, because like the panda it doesn’t breed in captivity. It never seeds around. You have to propagate it by taking cuttings.
The white mulberry: Morus alba comes from China and this is where silk was first produced. According to legend it was discovered by accident 5000 years ago when the wife of the Emperor, Xi Ling Shi dropped a cocoon into a cup of hot water and catching it in her finger nail, she found that the silk could be unravelled. For centuries the secrets of sericulture were closely guarded by the Chinese and it was not until 550 A.D. that two Persian monks were sent to China as spies to learn the secrets of silk production. They smuggled out some cocoons in their bamboo staves and took them to Constantinople so that the Turks were able to establish a silk industry. Silk making was no longer a secret and the knowledge spread thought the Mediterranean. The crusades helped to spread the techniques. By the 12th century Italy was the silk capital of the West. The French were keen to develop their own industry and in 1594, Henri IV subsidised the planting of mulberry orchards. Provence and Languedoc became very successful centres of the industry and France soon became the second largest producer of silk. Seeing this success, James 1 was keen to introduce sericulture into England and he contacted the deputy lieutenants of all the counties in England instructing them to make sure that all landowners should plant mulberry trees. In 1607 an English version of a French treatise on the care of silkworms was published. This was de Serre’s ‘The Perfect use of Silk-wormes and their benefits.‘ There was also a translation of Surflet’s ‘La Maison Rustique‘ which was full of handy hints on rearing ‘these prettie creatures‘. It seems they were not just pretty but demanding too. They needed constant heat to survive, so houses had to be kept very warm. They were thought to hate noise so children had to play quietly. Thunderstorms would put them off their food and so would strong smells. They were fussy about hygiene too. The worst thing from a woman’s point of view though, was the suggestion that the eggs should be hatched out ‘betwixt the breasts of women’. Just imagine getting all ready to go into silk production, planting the trees and waiting for them to mature and then being told you had to hatch the eggs out in your cleavage. You wouldn’t be able to wear low- cut dresses because of possible social embarrassment. And apart from that, I am squeamish, the thought of it gives me the horrors.
It turned out that silkworms needed more warmth than this country could provide and they needed the leaves of the white mulberry to eat rather than the black mulberry which was planted here. I should imagine any women who had read the treatise would have have been extremely relieved. I would have been.
I am afraid I am a little late with this post as I have been away. I tried to keep up with other blogs whilst I was away but I sometimes had a very intermittent internet connection. I put up a couple of posts that I had prepared before I went away but I was very surprised one evening to find that I had reblogged a post on Rudbeckia ‘Goldsturm’ written by thebikinggardener.com. I had only meant to like it so I don’t quite know how that happened. I prefer to write my own posts but the biking gardener is worth reading.
Many thanks to dear Betty for the picture of me hatching out silkworm caterpillars.
To see other tree -following posts please have a look at looseanndleafy. Thank you again for hosting this meme Lucy.