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Title: Mulberry tree
Original Title: Murier
Volume and Page: Vol. 10 (1765), pp. 870–10:876
Author: Pierre Daubenton (le Subdélégué) (biography)
Translator: Ann-Marie Thornton [Bilkent University, Ankara, Turkey]
Subject terms:
Original Version (ARTFL): Link
Source: Russell, Terence M. and Anne Marie Thornton. Gardens and landscapes in the Encyclopédie of Diderot and D'Alembert : the letterpress articles and selected engravings. Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999. Used with permission.

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Citation (MLA): Daubenton, Pierre (le Subdélégué). "Mulberry tree." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Ann-Marie Thornton. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2013. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Murier," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 10. Paris, 1765.
Citation (Chicago): Daubenton, Pierre (le Subdélégué). "Mulberry tree." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Ann-Marie Thornton. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2013. (accessed [fill in today's date in the form April 18, 2009 and remove square brackets]). Originally published as "Murier," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, 10:870–10:876 (Paris, 1765).

Mulberry tree, Morus. A tree of which three main species are known. The black mulberry has been found in Europe from time immemorial. [1] The white mulberry is native to Asia. [2] The red mulberry was imported quite recently from North America. [3] These trees are so different, useful, and precious that we shall endeavour to present every detail on how to raise and cultivate them successfully. I will consequently treat each tree in turn.

The black mulberry is a large tree with a broad, crooked stem, which needs to be propped in order to grow upright. It throws out many roots, which have almost no root hairs and are spreading rather than taprooted: they are strong and active, and penetrate under pavings and into walls. The bark is rugose, thick, supple, and filamentous. The dark-green leaves are large, serrate, thick, rough to the touch, downy beneath, and pointed: most are simple and some are variously lobed. They appear late in spring and begin to fall at the end of summer. This tree bears no particular flower: the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves and bears the fertilizing stamens. [4] The mulberry is a sort of berry which is largish, long, and gritty. It is at first green and bitter, becoming red and sour, then soft, black, and juicy when it ripens in August.

This tree, though hardy and long-lived, grows slowly when it is young. It does not propagate easily or take root again readily following transplantion, especially when it has been uprooted for a certain time.

Black mulberries thrive in temperate climates, open plains, and maritime habitats, as well as on the slopes of hillocks and in east-facing sites. They prefer loose, light, muddy, sandy soils which are neither too dry nor too damp. They grow well in kitchen gardens, farmyards, and especially near buildings which shelter them from west and south- westerly winds, since these blow the fruit from the trees. But they cannot tolerate tufa, clay, marl, and chalk, sustained damp, or the proximity of large meadows and stagnant water. They do not thrive in soil which is heavy, hard, arid, or too superficial, and decay in wasteland and uncultivated ground. They cannot tolerate sites which are overly exposed to the cold, the shade of large buildings, or the proximity of other trees and one never sees them prosper on mountain tops.

This tree can be propagated by various methods, of which most are long, some unreliable, and others difficult to execute. The first is from suckers separated from the bases of old abandoned trees, which usually take root so badly that they often fail or languish for a long period. The second is by separating fairly broad roots from the tree and replanting them: this method is subject to the same drawbacks as the first and is even more unreliable. The third is by preparing cuttings in the usual manner, though only a small number thrive, and these take eight or nine years to grow to six feet. Raising black mulberries from seed is the longest and most detailed method but also the most suitable for procuring a large number of seedlings. Several modes of grafting may be applied, which do not readily succeed or produce fine trees. The quickest, most reliable, and best method of obtaining fine fruit is by layering.

The branches may be layered from October to April, preferably early. One should take the precaution of making incisions in the branches: for the detail of this operation, see Layer. [5]

If the soil is good and the operation proves successful, several branches will put out fairly good roots after one year. However, it is safer to separate them only after the second year. But if one wishes to have young trees which are quite strong and healthy, one must transplant them only after three years, when the subsequent progress of the tree will compensate for the wait. If one wishes to procure a larger number of saplings using the same method, one should layer a medium- grown black mulberry entirely, laying out all of its branches and lopping them to three inches above the ground. By this means, the young trees will grow twice as rapidly and after one year will be stronger, larger, and straighter, and will have taken root more successfully than would layers made at the tree base after two or three years.

In order to take cuttings from the black mulberry, young shoots are cut to a length of six or seven inches, planted upright like a leek in a shaded border, and watered frequently. However, even when they are tended closely, only a small number will grow, and these feeble productions will moreover languish and decay in part for two or three years. However, there is a more successful method of preparing these cuttings: in April, select the strongest shoots of the current season’s growth from a vigorous tree, cut them while retaining two. or three inches of old wood, and choose those which are at least 2-3 feet long. In a site of any exposure, prepare a bed of good, loose, light, pithy kitchen garden soil, mixing it with good compost and digging it over to a depth of two feet. Then, at one end of the bed, dig a ditch two feet wide and 6-8 inches deep and lay out twelve or fifteen cuttings, bending them as much as possible without breaking them, and arranging them so that they protrude from the ground by no more than about three inches and border the edge of the bed. Cover the cuttings by about six or eight inches of soil and to a certain depth on the side where the branches are bent. Then, widen the ditch and lay out a second row of cuttings, raising them up against the mound of earth. Cover them with soil in the same manner and repeat this process until all of the cuttings are laid out. The cuttings do not have to be sheltered from the sun and need to be watered abundantly each week only in dry weather. Only a small number will fail: they will even grow quite well in their first year and will make more progress in five years than would cuttings prepared according to the first method in ten. After three years, lift them, cut off the excess from the twisted roots, and plant them in the nursery. One may even replant the lopped pieces of root of over one foot in length, which will quickly form new trees. The ancients who wrote on agriculture also detail another method of making these cuttings which may have some merit: take a broad branch from the black mulberry, saw it into logs one foot long, and drive the upright logs almost entirely into the ground so that they are covered by only three digits of soil. The base of each log will put out roots and the upper part will grow several stems. This method is very suitable for forming mother plants.

In order to raise black mulberries from seed, choose the largest black mulberries from among those which are perfectly ripe, especially those which fall of their own accord. Leave them in a loft for several days to finish ripening, being careful to shake them every day in order to prevent them from fermenting and rotting. When they are quite ripe, place them in a bucket of water and rub them in order to separate the seeds, crushing them and thinning the pulp with water. By this means, the good seeds will fall to the bottom and everything which floats on the surface may be rejected. Tip the water gently out of the bucket and strain the seeds several times in order to begin cleaning them. Dry them in the shade, remove any debris, and store them in a dry place for sowing in spring. It is true that one could begin sowing immediately after the harvest, and at the earliest in our climate at the beginning of August, but one would run the double risk of seeing the young seedlings perish from either the midsummer heat or the frosts of the following winter, unless one were to take every possible precaution to protect them from these two extremes, and even then the seedlings would grow no more quickly. I have often found that seedlings which have come up from seed sown in spring have grown taller and finer than those which were sown the previous summer. The correct sowing season is 10-20 April: before then, one should sow in heat, which brings the seedlings on so well that they may be placed in the nursery after one year. Seedlings sown in heat need to be well tended and watered continually. This method is suitable only for a small number of seeds: the open ground is preferable for a more considerable sowing. To this end, select some loose, light, fresh, well conditioned kitchen garden soil in a well-exposed site, and mix it with well-rotted manure or hotbed compost. Arrange it into beds four feet wide and make four or five drills along each bed to a depth of one good inch. Sow the seeds in the drills as closely as lettuce seeds: one ounce of mulberry seeds is required for a thirty-foot bed, which may produce 4-5 thousand seedlings. If the seeds seem desiccated, soak them for twenty-four hours in order to hasten their germination. The seeds should be covered with well-rotted hotbed compost which has been passed through a fine riddle: spread the compost by hand on the drills so that the seeds are covered by a layer of no more than half an inch; this must be done carefully because it is the essential point of the operation, on which its entire success principally depends. Lastly, leave the beds in this condition without levelling them. It is useful, but by no means essential, to scatter long straw over the beds so that the seeds are only half exposed to the air and sun, and to prevent the soil from becoming hard- packed as a result of watering. Give the seeds a light, moderate watering once every two or three days, depending on the onset of drought. The seeds usually spring up after three weeks. Continue to water them sparingly according to requirements and uproot the weeds diligently by frequent hoeing, which is easier when the drills are widely spaced. Few seedlings will be sufficiently strong to be planted in the tree nursery before the end of three years, and they will need five or six more years before they are ready to be permanently transplanted.

Grafting is not a profitable means of propagating the black mulberry, because it does not readily succeed and occasions no acceleration in growth. Black mulberries are compatible with white mulberries and any mode of grafting may be applied, though cleft grafting rarely succeeds. Shield budding and flute grafting are the most suitable methods. Flute grafting is more successful when it is carried out at the beginning of June, but since this method is detailed and can be applied only to small rootstocks, shield budding, which is simpler, quicker, and more reliable, is generally preferred. Black mulberries are shield budded at the same time as fruit trees, that is, when the sap is either rising or has risen, which is referred to as shot budding or dormant budding. [6] As shot buds grow feebly and risk perishing in winter, it is advisable to shield bud using dormant buds at the end of July or in August. Although these dormant buds generally take again and are seen to grow vigorously the following spring, this method is not without risk: the rootstock and graft are not very compatible, which may cause problems; I have frequently seen excess sap from a white mulberry well up and extravasate, causing the graft to perish.

October is the most suitable time for transplanting those trees which are sufficiently broad to be permanently planted, but April is the best month for planting saplings in the nursery. These trees require no special pruning save that of having their roots shortened as little as possible during transplantation, because since the roots have few root hairs they require more volume in order to supply the trees with the vital nutritive sap. The black mulberry needs to be tended carefully only when it is young: I have already remarked that when it has been permanently transplanted, has taken root again, and is growing vigorously it should be left to grow freely, and will thrive best in sandy soil or a sanded allée.

Black-mulberry leaves are the least suitable for silkworm fodder and should be used only when there is no alternative, because they give a silk which is coarse, strong, heavy, and low priced. However, the leaves may be used as cattle fodder: they are good for livestock and fatten cattle promptly. These leaves are never subject to attack by insects, and a good depilatory may be made by soaking them in urine. They also repel bugs and clear skin rashes.

Mulberries are edible: they are flavourful and wholesome. It is perhaps the only edible fruit which does not have to be eaten perfectly ripe. Mulberries need be only red just turning black. Moreover, they should be eaten only on an empty stomach: they sharpen the appetite and are refreshing. A syrup is made from them for soothing the throat. If one wishes to procure large mulberries, the trees must be grown as espaliers against a north-facing wall.

Black-mulberry wood has yellow heartwood and whitish sapwood: it is compact, pliable, and harder than white-mulberry wood; it is durable, blackens with age, and is almost as water resistant as the oak, which makes it suitable for use in sea piloting. It is used in cartage and joinery and may be bent for shipbuilding: it has the same uses as elmwood. [7] Far from attracting vermin, black-mulberry wood repels bugs, as do the leaves. This wood polishes well, and is thus sought after by turners, cabinetmakers, and engravers. It may even be used for fuel.

The white mulberry, which is a medium-grown tree, is one of the most profitable trees which may be cultivated for the individual and the state. This tree is the foundation of the silk industry, which in France forms a main branch of commerce. After linen with which commoners are covered, and wool which is worn by people of middle rank, silk constitutes the resplendent dress of the mighty, the rich, women especially, and all who are able to procure for themselves the superfluities of luxury. Silk drapes palaces, adorns temples, and decorates the houses of the wealthy. However, it is the leaf of the white mulberry which is the source of this precious cloth: there is such a large consumption of white-mulberry leaves in this kingdom, that even though nearly twenty provinces are already planted with white mulberries and stocked with spinning silkworms, 14 or 15 million francs worth of silks must be imported. And as our silk factories are said to spend about 25 million, the silk which comes from the localities of the provinces makes up no more than 9 or 10 million. These considerations must act as an incentive for the increased propagation of the white mulberry, which will benefit both individuals and the state. Raising mulberries will therefore tend to the common good: what could be more alluring?! [8]

The white mulberry is native to Asia. In the temperate zones and easternmost parts of this vast portion of the globe, the white mulberry and the silkworm have been known from time immemorial. The tree grows and the insects breed naturally in China. Who can say when the Chinaman began to use the silk cocoons which he found on the mulberry? Gradually, this tree spread through India into Perisa where it became well established, and then spread into the Archipelagos where silk was spun from the third century. Greece is indebted to monks, who in the sixth century under Justinian brought precious silkworm eggs and seeds from the tree which nourishes them. [9] In time, the eggs and mulberry seeds passed into Sicily and Italy. Augustin Gallo, the Italian author who wrote on agriculture in 1540, affirms that white mulberries were only just being raised from seed in Italy, from which we may conclude that there must have been only a small number of them, since the white mulberry can be propagated on a grand scale only by being raised from seed. The white mulberry finally reached France during the fifteenth century under Charles VII, but its utility was not fully appreciated until over a century later. Henri II began to lay some foundations for the establishment of silk factories in Lyons and Tours, but it was Henri IV, this great monarch and father of the people, who first attempted to encourage large-scale silk production by growing mulberries and giving substance to the first silk factories. Then, Louis XIV, great in all things, attentive to all things, and a connoisseur in all things, appeared with éclat and chose Colbert as his minister. [10] This great genius, who without knowing it prepared the common weal for centuries to come, made the most generous offers to those who would propagate white mulberries in the southern provinces of the kingdom, for it was reasonable to begin with the most advantageous sites. However, the trees were destroyed by peasants as quickly as he had them planted. They apprehended only the privation of a strip of land and did not see the promise of future produce in the tree tops which were soon to spread their boughs. This skilful minister contrived to appeal to the proprietors’ immediate interests: he promised twenty-four sols for each tree conserved over a three-year period. Colbert kept his word and all went well. Thus, owing to the solicitude of this great man, the Lyonnais, Forez, Vivarais, lower Dauphiné, Provence and Languedoc, Gascony, Guyenne, and Saintonge provinces have been planted with mulberries. [11] Such is the history of the founding of our silk factories. It would appear that the white mulberry had thus reached its limits, but Louis XV, our wise king and fond father on whom his people dote, destroyed the mistaken belief that the rest of the kingdom was unsuitable for the cultivation of the white mulberry and for sericulture. By his orders, the Controller General the late M. Orry had white-mulberry nurseries established in the Angoumois, Berry, Maine, Orléanais, Ile-de-France, Poitou, and Touraine provinces by dint of activity and perseverance. [12] He founded a similar establishment at Montbard in Burgundy, and in 1754 the assembly of this province not only established a second extensive and well-ordered white-mulberry nursery at Dijon, but also had men skilled in mulberry growing and silk spinning sent from Languedoc. The Intendant of Burgundy M. Joly de Fleury, who overlooks nothing which may prove useful, has over the past ten years made similar arrangements in the province of Bresse. [13] Lastly, Champagne and Franche-Comté have for the past few years started to follow suit. The progress of these establishments has already surpassed expectation: what future promise do they not hold?!

The white mulberry is a medium-grown tree which forms an upright stem and a fairly regular crown: the roots are similar to those of the black mulberry but are more spreading than taprooted. The bark is lighter, suppler, shinier, smoother, and rougher than that of the black mulberry. The leaves, which are sometimes simple and sometimes lobed, are of a pleasant, nascent green: they are narrower, softer, and more delicate than those of the black mulberry and appear about two weeks earlier. The fruit appears in the same way as the black mulberry but is smaller and more precocious. It may be white, purplish, or black and is uniformly sickly-sweet, insipid, and unpleasant to eat. It often ripens from the end of June.

This tree is hardy, springs up and propagates readily, takes root again perfectly following transplantation, and may be pruned or clipped without detriment in almost any season. In the inland regions and northerly provinces of the kingdom, the white mulberry must be planted in sites of a favourable exposure, such as south- or east-facing sites, and especially in the shelter of north and north-westerly winds: white mulberries are able to withstand the baleful effects of these winds, but since they are cultivated only for their leaves on which silkworms feed, one must avoid any conditions which may cause them to shrivel or appear late in spring. The white mulberry thrives on the gentle slopes of mountains, in loam mixed with sand, in wheat lands, in black, light, sandy soils, and generally in the same soils as the vine, which is the best means of ascertaining that the white mulberry will grow well in a given region. [14] This tree makes little progress in soils which are too light, arid, or superficial and cannot tolerate clay, chalk, marl, tufa, stony ground, quicksand, and either sustained drought or permanent damp. With regard to the latter, although white mulberries grow vigorously along streams and in wet sites, their leaves lose their quality and are too unrefined for the silkworms. For the same reason, one must refrain from planting them in low-lying land, meadows, and close, shady places. Since it is essential to dig round the tree bases, white mulberries must not be planted in land sown with sainfoins, lucernes, etc. However, they may be planted in ploughable land, of which the different cultivations are beneficial to them.

White mulberries are propagated in the same manner as black mulberries but are always easier and quicker to propagate whatever the method followed. Indeed, it has been claimed that there is no comparison between the two trees for speed of growth, which is just, for I estimate that the white mulberry grows four times more quickly than the black mulberry.

I will recall these different methods of propagation in order to apply them particularly to the white mulberry.

1. From rooted suckers: these are usually found at the bases of old, abandoned trees. The suckers and as many of their roots as possible are uprooted, and those which are too long are shortened. They are then planted in the nursery and their tops are cut to two or three buds.

2. From roots: in areas where old trees have been uprooted, the stronger roots which have remained in the ground grow shoots. These may be tended and the following year removed and planted in the nursery in the same manner as the suckers.

3. From cuttings: for the method of preparing these cuttings, see the preceding section on the black mulberry, the only difference being that white mulberry cuttings root more easily and grow more rapidly, with the result that they may be lifted and planted in the nursery after one year.

4. By layering: for the method of layering these branches, see the preceding section on the black mulberry, from which the white mulberry differs in that it is unnecessary to make incisions in the branches and that they may be transplanted after one year, since they root far more quickly.

5. By grafting: one can propagate good trees of this species by grafting them on to inferior specimens with poor quality leaves. If the ancients who wrote on agriculture were to be believed, white mulberries could be grafted on to terebinths, figs, pears, apples, chestnuts, beeches, elms, limes, ashes, white poplars, service trees, hawthorns, and even currant bushes. These claims were first hazarded long ago by poets in order to charge their illusions with magic, and were repeated from age to age by a host of plagiarists, before being called into question by serious-minded people and finally dismissed by the bright torch of experimentation.

When white mulberries are raised from seed, they show such great variety in their leaves that scarcely two trees are identical. There are leaves of every conceivable size: some are simple rather than lobed, but the majority have small lobes with long sinuses. The latter are regarded as wild because their leaves are unprofitable for use as silkworm fodder, whereas trees with wide, simple leaves, especially those which have been grafted, are called mulberry cultivars. It is therefore necessary to select grafts from trees with good-quality leaves and shield bud them on to specimens of which the leaves are too small or lobed. See also the preceding section on grafting black mulberries, with the important difference that with white mulberries the graft takes again far more readily, especially when one shield buds using dormant buds. Moreover, one can graft rootstocks of any age, even seedlings which are only two years of age or have spent only one year in the nursery. If the seedlings are strong, they are grafted at a height of six feet, whereas if they are old and their leaves are not of the required quality, they are cut to a certain height and left to grow new shoots which are subsequently grafted.

6. From seed: if it is impossible to procure white-mulberry seeds locally, they must be sent from Bagnols or some other part of Languedoc, where they are finer and in better condition than those produced inland. One pound of white-mulberry seed costs about eight pounds on site and gives sixty thousand seedlings. For the sowing season and method, see the preceding section on the black mulberry, with the difference that the white mulberry grows at an entirely different speed: in their first year, white mulberry seedlings commonly grow to one foot and several reach 1½ feet. It is therefore possible and even advisable to remove about one third of the strongest seedlings the following spring, in April, and plant them in the nursery. However, garden tools should not be used when lifting the seedlings, since by raising the soil one would disturb a large number of the remaining seedlings. It is best to water the mulberry bed liberally in order to loosen and soften the soil, following which one should be able to uproot the seedlings with one’s hand. At the end of their second year, the seedlings are generally four or five feet tall and must be planted in the nursery without further delay, for were one to leave them for only one more year the strongest seedlings would suffocate the rest and a good half would perish. The great advantage of not planting these young seedlings in the nursery until they have gained in strength, let us say, at the age of two years, is that they then require less watering, cultivation, and far less attention than when they are only one year of age. We will assume that a suitable and well-cultivated piece of ground has been prepared for the nursery. The young seedlings, which are called ‘pourettes’, are uprooted neatly, following which their roots are shortened with discretion and their taproots cut, though the tops are for the moment left untouched. [15] They are planted at intervals of 1½ feet in aligned rows spaced three feet apart. When the ‘pourettes’ have been planted, they are cut to two or three buds and watered when necessary. The new shoots must not be pruned in their first year since this would weaken the seedlings, given that their sap flows only in proportion to the number of leaves which draw on it. However, the following spring one must remove all of the shoots apart from the one which seems most disposed to grow upright, which must be reduced by about one third or a half according to its length, in order to make it grow stronger. Whenever the trees seem too feeble they must be cut back to six inches above the ground. The seedlings must be pruned sparingly or not at all: nearly all gardeners have a mania for lopping all of the lateral branches in order to form a stem which in four years will be 8-9 feet tall by half an inch in diameter. These are wasted trees: they are feeble, thin, etiolated, and bent. One then has no alternative but to pollard and regrow them, for they will not take root again following transplantation. This inconvenience, which is considerable given the loss of time, is easily obviated: one must remove the branches in stages each year as the tree gains in strength, for the breadth of the stem alone should determine the extent of the pruning. In addition, those branches which stray too much should be shortened during the summer by one half or two thirds in order to strengthen the tree. By this means, one will in four years have trees of 9-10 feet tall by 4-5 inches round, which will be ready to be permanently transplanted. It is assumed that each year the nursery will be given a light digging in spring and two or three hoeings in summer in order to destroy the weeds, which must regarded as the first and principal object of good cultivation. I cannot overemphasize the importance of cultivating this tree continuously, for the wounds inflicted upon it during pruning do not heal readily unless the tree is enjoying a period of vigorous growth.

White mulberries are transplanted in autumn, between 20 October and 20 November. Transplanting should be delayed until spring only for a particular reason or if one is planting in heavy, damp soil, which as I have stated is unsuitable for the intended use of the leaves. The planting holes should be opened the preceding summer to at least three feet squared by 2½ feet deep, if the soil permits. One should uproot the trees carefully, prune the root tips, and remove those roots which have deteriorated or are badly positioned along with all of the root hairs. The branches should be cut to seven feet, leaving the crown with only three of the best shoots which should be cut back to three or four inches. The bottom of the hole should then be covered with about one foot of good soil and the roots covered carefully with the finest, loosest soil. Finally, one should continue to fill up the hole with well-rotted manure or some other good-quality soil, which should be consolidated by treading. However, one must avoid earthing up the trees, since this practice is detrimental. It is better on the contrary for the ground to slope down imperceptibly to the trees, so that water from rainfall and watering may be retained round the tree bases. It is difficult to determine the spacing of white mulberries, which is regulated according to the soil condition and the general layout of the plantation. The trees may be spaced at intervals of 15, 18, or 20 feet when they are planted in avenues, on roadsides, or around properties. When planting a whole area, the trees are spaced at intervals of 15 or 20 feet depending on the soil condition. It is even preferable to plant them in staggered rows. If one wishes to sow grain on the land, the trees are planted at intervals of 6 or 8 toises in order to facilitate ploughing. However, in this last case the least harmful arrangement, which moreover allows one to plant the greatest number of young trees, is to form rows 8-10 toises apart and space the trees at intervals of 15, 18, or 20 feet in the rows depending on the soil condition. Since during ploughing the plough does not approach the trees closely enough to keep them well cultivated during the first few years so that one must compensate by cultivating the trees by hand, there is an excellent means of obviating this difficulty which consists of planting young mulberries grown as bushes or hedges between the trees: the whole never occupies more than one strip three or four feet wide, which may be cultivated with a pick. These mulberry bushes or hedges have one great advantage: they produce a large number of leaves which are easy to gather and appear a fortnight earlier than those of full-grown mulberries; one can take steps to shelter them from rainfall, which is sometimes necessary in sericulture. White mulberries are apparently being grown as bushes and hedges in Languedoc because they bear more leaves than full-grown trees and their leaves appear earlier and may be picked at the end of three years without detriment to the trees or silkworms, whereas the leaves of standard trees may be picked only after five or six years. Mulberry hedges grow thick and dense so vigorously and quickly that they are soon impenetrable to cattle and may be used for enclosing land, in which case one plants a double hedge: the livestock will thicken it further by chewing it on the outside, thus thwarting their purpose. If there is sustained drought during the planting year, the new trees should be watered abundantly at regular intervals. The only cultivation which the trees require in their first year is to be hoed in order to clear weeds, which after livestock are the greatest scourge of plantations. One may also visit the plantation from time to time during the summer and remove the shoots growing along the stems with one’s hand. Each spring, some formative pruning is required, which consists of removing dead wood, short, slender branches, water shoots, and even branches which shoot too vigorously: in short, any pruning which tends to form the crowns and dispose the trees to be productive and long-lived. When the trees are eighteen or twenty years of age, the majority will be tired, languid, and decaying or will bear only small leaves, in which case they must be pollarded, but not by being lopped close to the stems, which by causing new shoots to grow too vigorously and in small number would be doubly detrimental, since the leaves would then be too unrefined for the silkworms and the crowns would take too long to form. The best method is to lop only the small branches just before the sap begins to rise and to lop them gradually, so that the quality of the leaves is not altered all at once. It is claimed that the white mulberry is full grown at 20 or 25 years and lives for 45 or 50 years, or even longer when care is taken to sustain it by pruning.

White mulberries are cultivated solely for their leaves, which are the silkworm’s only food supply. In other respects the leaves have the same properties as those of the black mulberry: see the preceding section.

The fruit of the white mulberry is used only for feeding poultry, which eat the mulberries avidly and fatten on them quickly.

White-mulberry wood has the same uses as black-mulberry wood and is of the same quality, except that it is weaker and less compact. In addition, it is used for making durable hoops and poles for garden palissades. In Provence, this wood is also used as cask wood for wine, but it must be prepared with a saw because it is resistant to splitting. One can also use the whole bark of the white mulberry, not only as rope but also for making cloth, for which the bark of the young shoots is preferable. As the white mulberry grows vigorously and is subject to frequent light pruning, the strongest and longest young clippings may be collected, retted and scutched like flax, and then tightened, spun, and fashioned like linen. This is practised in America: M. [Le] Page, in his treatise on Louisiana, states that the first job of girls of eight or nine years of age is to wait until the sap is flowing and then cut the shoots which the white mulberries grow after having been cut back. They then peel these shoots, which are five or six feet long, dry the bark, beat it twice in order to remove the dust and separate it, bleach it, and, finally, spin it as thick as a piece of string. [16] Some modern authors claim that white mulberries could be used for forming copsewood and would grow and thrive as well as hazels, elms, ashes, or maples, but I have no reliable information on the subject to date.

The Spanish mulberry is a perfect white-mulberry cultivar produced in Spain. It forms a fine tree with an upright stem and a regular crown of which the leaves are much larger than even the finest white-mulberry leaves: they are thicker, firmer, and fleshier and are always simple, without lobes. The fruit is grey and larger than that of the white mulberry, on to which it can be shield budded. The graft takes again readily but the leaves are not always suitable for silkworms: it is claimed that if these were the only mulberry leaves given to silkworms the silk spun by them would be coarse; however it is generally admitted that the silkworms can feed on these leaves a few days before they begin to spin their cocoons, which will make the silk stronger and just as fine.

The Virginian mulberry with red fruit. [17] This is a large, fine, rare, and precious tree. Formative pruning is required in order to make it form a fairly regular crown because the branches grow too vigorously. The bark is smooth, even, and of pale, ashen colour. The leaves are broad and from 9-10 inches long: they are coarsely serrate with tapering points; their surface is rough and uneven, and they are pithy, soft, of a nascent green, and generally extremely beautiful. They appear twelve or fifteen days earlier than those of the white mulberry. From mid-April, the tree bears catkins up to three inches long. The fruit appears at the end of April and ripens at the beginning of June: it is pale red, slender-conic, tart rather than sweet, and less succulent than the black mulberry. The red mulberry bears catkins after three or four years but produces fruit after only eight or nine years. This tree is as hardy as the other species when it is planted half way down a slope on high ground, but when it is planted in low, damp ground its tops are prone to freeze in harsh winters. It grows twice as quickly as the white mulberry and takes root again readily following transplantation, but is not easy to propagate. My specimens have been raised from well- preserved seeds sent from America. The seedlings which sprang up from them grew to 15 feet by 7-9 inches round in three years. In the full vigour of youth, these trees often grow branches 8-9 feet long. The fruit which they produced in Burgundy, which I twice attempted to sow, failed. Were the seeds somewhat lacking in fertility or were there some errors of cultivation? This can be established only by trial and error. The red mulberry cannot be propagated from cuttings or by grafting: although it takes again when grafted on to other species of mulberry, the graft makes the same progress as the white mulberry grafted on to the elm, of which Palladius remarks: ‘parturit magnæ infelicitatis augmenta’, meaning ‘it steadily decays’.

Layering is, therefore, the only means of propagating the red mulberry, and even then one must use every possible resource, making incisions in the branches and squeezing them with an iron wire, and even then they throw out good roots only after three years. When cutting the young branches of this tree and stripping them of their leaves, I have observed that a milky sap flows from them quite abundantly, which is somewhat caustic and quite different from the sweet sap of other mulberries. It is apparently this difference in the sap which prevents the graft from taking on the subject. We do not yet know whether silkworms could feed on the leaves of this mulberry and in what manner they would affect the quality of the silk. The sap flows in this tree for the whole summer and until late autumn, with the result that leaf fall occurs only after the first frosts.

Downy Virginian mulberry: this tree has not yet been imported to France and is extremely rare in England. Most of our information on it comes from the sixth edition of The Gardener’s Dictionary composed by the English author Mr Miller, who reports that the leaves of this tree closely resemble those of the black mulberry but are larger and rougher, that the bark of the young shoots is blackish like the twigs of the nettle tree, that it is very hardy, that there is a large specimen at Fulham near London, that the tree sometimes bears a great number of catkins which resemble those of the hazel tree but have never borne fruit, that attempts to graft it on to white and black mulberries have failed, and that since the tree is tall it cannot be propagated by layering. [18] According to Linnaeus, the new leaves of this mulberry are extremely downy beneath and sometimes lobed, and the catkins are the same length as those of the silver birch.

Variegated black mulberry: this is a fine variety and the only one which is of ornamental interest. It may be planted in the corner of the bosquet which is reserved for variegated trees and has the additional merit of rarety. It can be propagated by being grafted on to the black mulberry.


1. Morus nigra, the black mulberry, may have originated in the Caucasus, or in the mountains further east. It was cultivated in Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt and was spread throughout Europe by the Roman armies (Huxley et al., 1992, iii.263).

2. Morus alba, the white mulberry, may have originated in China, where is has been cultivated for 5,000 years, its leaves providing food for silk-worms (ibid.).

3. Morus rubra.

4. The flowers are pale-green catkins, the fruit being formed from a cluster of individual flowers (Huxley et al., 1992, iii.264).

5. Article ‘Marcotte’, in which it is further stipulated that the bends of some branches should be plunged into pots and buried in the ground in order to faciliate eventual transplantion.

6. See articles: Graft; grafting, Eye, latent bud.

7. Elmwood is also water resistant: see article Elm.

8. On sericulture and its history, see also above, pp. 137-40.

9. Justinian ( c. AD 482-565) was emperor from 527-65. He strove to impose orthodoxy, built churches on pagan sites, and closed the school of philosophy at Athens (Howatson and Chilvers, 1996, pp. 300-301).

10. On Colbert, see above, p. 113. Daubenton’s support for the government’s steps to promote cultivation of the white mulberry, and his unflinching support for the monarchy, are here clearly evinced (Kafker and Kafker, 1988, p. 92).

11. These former provinces were replaced by départements in 1790.

12. Philibert Orry, comte de Vignory (d. 1747) occupied this post from 1730-45, which was a considerable period of service for his day. He was also director of royal buildings, arts, and manufactures. In 1737, he introduced the corvée royale, or forced road maintenance, which could be avoided only by a cash payment ( Biographie universelle ancienne et moderne, 1842-65, xxxi.413; Jones, 1990, pp. 2, 409).

13. Omer Joly de Fleury, the Jansenist avocat général at the Parlement de Paris from 1746, was responsible for ordering the seizure of Voltaire’s Candide and pronouncing condemnation of Rousseau’s Emile in the Parlement, where he also delivered a speech condemning the Encyclopédie.

14. Cf. article ‘Grains (Economie politique)’ by the physiocrat Quesnay, in which the progress of commerce and luxury at the expense of agriculture is lamented: ‘it is forbidden to plant vines; instead, the cultivation of mulberries is recommended’ ( Encyclopédie, vii.812).

15. The term ‘pourette’ was used in the South of France to refer to dwarf mulberry seedlings being raised in nurseries (Larousse, 1866-78, xii.1555)

16. Le Page, 1758.

17. Morus rubra, the red mulberry.

18. Article ‘ Morus ’: 6. Morus virginiensis, Miller, 1752. This is probably a variety of Morus rubra.