Behind Boones’ Ironmongers on Poole High Street is a rare mulberry tree, now sitting rather sadly in an island bed in the middle of a car park,circled by cars.
The black mulberry (morus nigra) was introduced into this country from the 16th century onwards and was particularly popular in the 17th century when James I hoped to make use of mulberry leaves in the cultivation of silkworms. Unfortunately, it turns out that the worms prefer leaves of the white mulberry! The trees are easy to propagate from seed or shoots and grow quickly at first and slowly later. They are also late to bear fruit and can live to a great age.
The fruit of the tree turns from red to black as it ripens and is sweet tasting, being good for jam and wine. It is also useful for making dyes. The leaves were favoured by the Romans to treat diseases of the mouth and throat and the bark is used to make paper.
Another, better known, mulberry is growing in front of the swimming pool and both trees are currently loaded with fruit. How old they are, we don’t know; probably only 50 – 100 years. Can anyone fill in more information about the High Street tree, how old it is or who might have planted it?