The Shakespeare Mulberries – Mulberry (Morus)
Our senior Arboriculturalist Richard has recently been surveying trees over various sites in Stratford upon Avon for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and came across many a Mulberry. ‘The Shakespeare Mulberries’ as they are known around Stratford are so called as it’s believed that one of the mulberries in New Place Garden (Shakespeare’s final place of residence) was planted as a cutting from a tree that Shakespeare himself planted. Shakespeare was familiar with the staining quality of ripe mulberries and mentions them along with other trees in several of his plays. Sadly the original tree no longer exists as the then resident of New Place got so annoyed at the amount of tourists wanting to see the tree that he chopped it down!
Originally native to south east Asia, it was King James I who first introduced Mulberry trees to the British Isles in the 17th century in a bid to create a silk industry to compete with France’s. (Silk worms sole food is the leaves of the mulberry). He had 10,000 trees imported from all over Europe, but sadly ordered the black variety rather than the white and the silk worm project failed. The mulberry trees remained though and now give us mulberry preserves and gin as products of it’s dark, sweet and edible fruit.
As a tree Mulberries are fast growing when young, but rarely grow over 10-15 meters tall. An interesting fact about the white Mulberry (Morus alba) is that it’s notable for it’s rapid release of pollen, which is launched at over half the speed of sound. This is the fastest motion yet observed in biology, and approaches the theoretical physical limits for movements in plants.