Tree Following. December. Last Look at the Mulberry.

I have been following this lovely old tree since March. I have seen its buds plump up, and watched the new leaves unfurl and then grow green and lush.
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I have looked at the tiny flowers and then watched the fruit swell up and turn luscious and black.
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I have admired the yellow autumn leaves and the lichen on the old trunks.
But now it is leafless again and I think it is time to say goodbye.

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It has been fun to watch the tree month by month and to muse on all things Mulberry. It has taken me on a historical journey, as I learnt that this tree was planted about 1550 by the grandfather of John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts.
I learnt something about the myths of the birth of sericulture in ancient China.  I found out how James 1 promoted a mulberry- planting scheme in England in a vain attempt to introduce silk production into this country. You shared with me the horrors of the idea of hatching out silkworm eggs in the cleavage as suggested in a treatise of the time.
Chloris Silkworms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In June I had a look at the myth of how the mulberry got its red colour as told by Pliny. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is familiar to us from Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but his source was Pliny.

Boch mulberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I learnt that being a man of taste and discrimination, Shakespeare planted a mulberry in his garden in Stratford which was chopped down in 1756 by the owner of the house, the Rev. Francis Gastrell who was bothered by sightseers. The wood was made into souvenirs.
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As the leaves turned yellow in Autumn, I had a look at Van Gogh’s wonderful painting of the mulberry tree in the grounds of the asylum at Arles where he was confined after the unfortunate episode with the ear.

The Mulberry tree.  Oil on Canvas. Norton Smith Museum Pasadena. California.

The Mulberry tree.
Oil on Canvas. Norton Smith Museum Pasadena. California.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
So now it is time to finish with another literary reference. There is a very old mulberry tree in the grounds of Christ’s College, Cambridge. Not quite as old as mine, it was planted in 1608 at the time of Milton’s birth. There are said to be many ghosts haunting Christ’s College, and one of them is of a tall, elderly gentleman who lingers under the mulbery tree at midnight when there is a full moon. He is said to be full of remorse because he killed the only doctor who could have saved his dying sweetheart. Why he should haunt the mulberry tree I don’t know.
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The tree attracted sightseers in Victorian times. I have explained how my tree has trouble standing up and has collapsed over the centuries. The one at Christ’s Cambridge has props to keep it upright.

The story goes that Milton composed his wonderful poem Lycidas sitting under the branches of this tree. I developed rather a dislike of Milton when I had to struggle with Paradise Lost at school. But this pastoral elegy is beautiful. And how appropriate to finish with the last lines of the poem, (often misquoted).

‘At last he rose, and twitch’d his mantle blue:

Tomorrow to fresh woods, and pastures new.’

Thank you so much Lucy at loosyandleafy bog for hosting this wonderful meme. I have really enjoyed it and I have learnt so much.

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38 Responses to Tree Following. December. Last Look at the Mulberry.

  1. Cathy says:

    I’ve enjoyed it very much too. Thank you Chloris, for all the lovely tales about mulberry trees in general and about your tree in particular. 🙂

  2. Julie says:

    I have really enjoyed following your historic Mulberry tree too, the connections you have shared have been fascinating. I hope you are on the mend now.

  3. Chloris I must say you have one of the finest trees amongst us followers…an ancient and very interesting history…I have enjoyed the stories and many references you have provided this year….it has been a pleasure following your tree!

  4. sueturner31 says:

    Fantastic stories about yours and other ancient mulberry trees, I have learned quite a lot from this. Thanks… 🙂

  5. Tina says:

    I’ve loved reading these posts and have learned so much. I look forward to your next tree–I hope you continue adding your voice to this meme.

  6. Flighty says:

    I’ve really enjoyed your tree following posts, which have been interesting and informative.
    It’s surprising how much we take trees for granted until we do do something like this and come to realise that we shouldn’t.
    I’m already thinking about what tree to follow next year and hope that you will be as well. xx

  7. rusty duck says:

    A marvellous series of posts Chloris. Long live your mulberry tree 🙂

  8. pbmgarden says:

    Nice followup to your mulberry series. Seems a big responsibility to care for such an esteemed and historic tree.

  9. Kris P says:

    I’ve greatly enjoyed your mulberry tree series, Chloris, and am rather sorry to see it come to an end. Right now, I’m wondering why the man whose ghost haunts the tree at Christ’s College killed the doctor who might otherwise have saved his sweetheart…

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Kris. I don’ t know why the man killed the doctor. All I know is that he is a tall elderly man wearing a beaver hat. Why he hangs around the mulberry tree is anybody’ s guess.

  10. snowbird says:

    I have been greatly entertained by these fabulous posts and have learnt some strange/perturbing things re the Mulberry….I’ll never be able to look at one again without thinking of silkworms hatching from the bosom and you creepiting about to gather the fruit and being caught red-handed!xxx

  11. Gillian says:

    Amazing Tree! I wish I had more room and much more time to grow one.

  12. Oh my goodness–a haunted tree! I had no idea Christ’s College had that kind of history. My image of it is as pure and perfect as can be (we have a CD of young choir children singing carols at Christ’s College, and it sounds like heaven). Thanks for all the history and knowledge about your Mulberry tree!

  13. Peter/Outlaw says:

    I have very much enjoyed the tale of your tree and those of the other fascinating mulberries you’ve shared! Thank you.

  14. Christina says:

    I’ve very much enjoyed all the posts about your mulberry and all the interesting facts about mulberries in general. It will be difficult to find a tree as interesting historically as the mulberry but perhaps you have another tree in mind for next year? thank you

  15. Always entertaining and educational Chloris! I especially love the Van Gogh painting. Thanks 🙂

  16. Anna says:

    Oh Chloris I’ve become quite fond of your mulberry tree and will so miss your monthly updates. If only it could speak the tales it would tell. I hope that it has many, many more years ahead of it. I wonder just how many young minds develop a dislike of Milton whilst battling with ‘Paradise Lost’ – definitely a poet for the more mature 🙂

    • Chloris says:

      I shall miss doing the posts but I have really run out of things to say about the Mulberry now.
      I agree about Milton, but reading Lycidas for this post I really enjoyed the language.

  17. AnnetteM says:

    Thanks so much for all the stories you have researched about mulberry trees. It has been great reading them. A lovely photo to finish of the sun shining on the branches of your tree.

  18. Hollis says:

    I’ve been inspired by your stories, chloris. If we have the chance to be tree-followers again next year, I hope to find one here rich in lore.

  19. bittster says:

    Thanks Chloris, you’ve done the mulberry well and I’ve truly enjoyed your posts!

  20. Chloris says:

    Thanks Frank. I have enjoyed doing it.

  21. mrsdaffodil says:

    Ha ha. I felt the same way about ‘Paradise Lost’: so patriarchal. The silkworm hatching picture is priceless!

  22. Cathy says:

    I have really enjoyed hearing your mulberry tales too, Chloris – I shall hopefully start to throw in some witch hazel facts to accompany my tree posts. I wonder if you plan to choose another tree… Now, not having to endure (under sufferance or otherwise) Milton, I do wonder what Lycidas was doing under that mulberry… is twitching his blue mantle significant?

  23. 1. Thanks for the great post keep up the amazing work.

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