Marlborough Black Mulberry
This is one of The Tree Council’s 60 educational tree planting schemes with children that
were inspired by the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Each tree, provided by The Tree
Council, was chosen and planted by volunteers in the community.
An enthusiastic crowd of about 150 attended the Jubilee tree planting event on Sunday 28th April 2013 on Marlborough Common in Wiltshire.
Philippa Davenport of Marlborough Community Orchard described it as “the culmination of our achievements – so far.
“We chose a black mulberry tree because it is handsome, exceptionally long lived, deliciously fruitful and has such strong royal connections: the crowning glory for our Diamond Jubilee Plantation.”
Marlborough’s black mulberry is a variety called King James. It is descended from trees planted in 1608 by James I himself and by thousands of loyal supporters throughout the country.
One of the king’s own trees still bore fruit in 1931 in a site now within the gardens of Buckingham Palace. Another was felled in what is now Chelsea Physic Gardens to make way for an air-raid shelter during World War II, but not before cuttings were taken from it.
The Prince of Wales planted one of the direct descendants of this particular tree at Brogdale in 1993.
King James urged people to plant mulberry trees because he wanted to start a silk industry. Unfortunately for spinners and weavers (but happily for fruit lovers), he chose the wrong colour. Silkworms thrive on a diet of soft, easily chewed white mulberry leaves. The leaves of the black mulberry are too leathery for them to munch willingly.
A special version of the old rhyme “Here we go round the mulberry bush” was performed with gusto by 1st Marlborough Brownies as part of the mulberry tree-planting ceremony. The words “on a cold and frosty morning” were changed to “on a cool and cloudy Sunday”. New verses included: “This is the way we pick the fruit”, “This is the way we stir the jam” and “This is the way we eat our berries”, performed with appropriate actions.
Guests of honour at the event were Sue Clifford and Angela King, founders of the award-winning environmental charity Common Ground, creators of Apple Day and inspiration for the revival of the community orchard movement.
Addressing the children, Sue said, “Learning how to care for orchard trees and the wildlife they support, and how to harvest and use the fruit, is important. Be sure to teach your children and grandchildren, so this mulberry tree, which may live for 400 years or more, can delight and feed many future generations.”
She loved the idea of making mulberry jam and sending a pot to the Queen. “Maybe you should call it Marlberry jam,” she suggested.
The party then withdrew to nearby Marlborough Rugby Clubhouse to look at a display of mulberry-related exhibits, including a silk moth and some silk cocoons; and a photograph of the Queen laughing and talking with mulberry jam-makers. They also enjoyed a taste of royal scones and mulberry jam. The scones may not have been baked by the Prince of Wales’s own hands, but they were his Duchy brand (kindly donated by Waitrose), generously spread with Tiptree’s mulberry conserve.
“We’ve had a right royal time,” enthused one departing guest, “I can hardly wait for our very own jam session.”
Photographs - top to bottom:
- 1. Planting the commemorative tree with a spade provided by Marlborough Town Council Head Gardener, Richard Beale, who reported that the Queen herself had used it a few years before.
- 2. Children dance around the Diamond Jubilee mulberry tree.
- 3. Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy blesses the mulberry with holy water.