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Of The Mulberry

( Originally Published Late 1800's )



1. Morus, the mulberry: It may possibly be wonder'd by some why we should insert this tree amongst our forest inhabitants ; but we shall soon reconcile our industrious planter, when he comes to understand the incomparable benefit of it, and that for its timber, durableness, and use for the joyner and carpenter, and to make hoops, bows, wheels, and even ribs for small vessels, instead of oak, &c. though the fruit and the leaves had not the due value with us, which they deservedly enjoy in other places of the world.

2. But it is not here I would recommend our ordinary black fruit bearers, though that be likewise worth the propagation ; but that kind which is call'd the white mulberry (which I have had sent me out of Languedoc) one of them of a broad leaf, found there and in Provence, whose seeds being procured from Paris, where they have it from Avignon, should be thus treated in the seminary.

3. In countries where they cultivate them for the silk-worm, and other uses, they sow the perfectly mature berries of a tree whose leaves have not been gather'd ; these they shake down upon an old sheet spread under the tree, to protect them from gravel and ordure, which will hinder you from discerning the seed : If they be not ripe, lay them to mature upon shelves, but by no means till they corrupt ; to prevent which, turn them daily ; then put them in a fine sieve ; and plunging it in water, bruise them with your hand ; do this in several waters, then change them in other clear water, and the seed will sink to the bottom, whilst the pulp swims, and must be taken off carefully : This done, lay them to dry in the sun upon a linnen cloth, for which one hour is sufficient, then van and sift it from the husks, and reserve it till the season. This is the process of curious persons, but the sowing of ripe mulberries themselves is altogether as good, and from the excrement of hogs, and even dogs (that will frequently eat them) they will rise abundantly. Note, that in sowing of the berry, 'tis good to squash and bruise them with fine sifted mould, and if it be rich, and of the old bed, so much the better: They would be interr'd, well moistned and cover'd with straw, and then rarely water'd till they peep ; or you may squeze the ripe berries in ropes of hair or bast, and bury them, as is prescrib'd for hipps and haws ; the earth in which you sow them, should be fine mould, and as rich as for melons, rais'd a little higher than the area, as they make the beds for ordinary pot-herbs, to keep them loose and warm, and in such beds you may sow seeds as you do purslane, mingled with some fine earth, and thinly cover'd, and then for a fortnight, strew'd over with straw, to protect them both from sudden heat and from birds : The season is April or May, though some forbear even till July and August, and in the second quarter of the moon, the weather calm and serene. At the beginning, keep them moderately fresh (not over wet) and clean weeded, secured from the rigor of frosts ; the second year of their growth, about the beginning of October, or early Spring, draw them gently out, prune the roots, and dipping them a little in pond-water, transplant them in a warm place or nursery ; 'tis best ranging them in drills, two foot large, and one in depth, each drill three foot distance, and each plant two. And if thus the new earth be somewhat lower than the surface of the rest, 'twill the better receive the rain : Being planted, cut them all within three inches of the ground. Water them not in Winter, but in extream necessity, and when the weather is warm, and then do it in the morning. In this cold season you shall do well to cover the ground with the leaves of trees, straw, or short litter, to keep them warm; and every year you shall give them three dressings or half diggings ; viz. in April, June, and August; this, for the first year, still after rain : The second Spring after transplanting, purge them of all superfluous shoots and scions, reserving only the most towardly for the future stem ; this to be done yearly, as long as they continue in the nursery ; and if of the principal stem so left, the frost mortifie any part, cut it off, and continue this government till they are near six foot high, after which suffer them to spread into heads by discreetly pruning and fashioning them: But if you plant where cattle may endanger them, the stem had need be taller, for they are extreamly liquorish of the leaves.

4. When now they are about five years growth, you may transplant them without cutting the root (provided you erradicate them with care) only trimming the head a little ; the season is from September to November in the new-moon, and if the holes or pits you set them in were dug and prepar'd some months before, it would much secure their taking ; some cast horns, bones, shells, &c. into them, the better to loosen the earth about them, which should be rich, and well refresh'd all Summer. A light, and dry mould is best, well expos'd to the sun and air, which above all things this tree affects, and hates watery Iow grounds : In sum, being a very lasting tree, they thrive best where vines prosper most, whose society they exceedingly cherish ; nor do they less delight to be amongst corn, no way prejudicing it with its shade. The distance of these standards would be twenty, or twenty four foot every way, if you would design walks or groves of them ; if the environs of fields, banks of rivers, high-ways, &c. twelve or fourteen foot may suffice, but the farther distant, the better ; for the white spreads its root much farther than the black, and likes the valley more than the higher ground.

5. Another expedient to increase mulberries, is, by layers from the suckers at the foot, this done in Spring, leaving not above two buds out of the earth, which you must diligently water, and the second year they will be rooted : They will also take by passing any branch or arm slit, and kept a little open with a wedge, or stone, through a basket of earth, which is a very sure way : Nay, the very cuttings will strike in Spring, but let them be from shoots of two years growth, with some of the old wood, though of seven or eight years ; these set in rills, like vines, having two or three buds at the top, will root in-fallibly, especially if you twist the old wood a little, or at least hack it, though some slit the foot, inserting a stone, or grain of an oat, to suckle and entertain the plant with moisture.

6. They may also be propagated by graffing them on the black mulberry in Spring, or inoculated in July, taking the cyons from some old tree, that has broad, even, and round leaves, which causes it to produce very ample and tender leaves, of great emolument to the silk-master.

7. Some experienc'd husbandmen advise to poll our mulberries every three or four years, as we do our willows; others not till 8 years; both erroneously. The best way is yearly to prune them of their dry and superfluous branches, and to form their heads round and natural. The first year of removal where they are to abide, cut off all the shoots, to five or six of the most promising ; the next year leave not above three of these, which dispose in triangle as near as may be, and then disturb them no more, unless it be to purge them (as we taught) of dead seare-wood, and extravagant parts, which may impeach the rest ; and if afterward any prun'd branch shoot above three or four cyons, reduce them to that number. One of the best ways of pruning is, what they practise in Sicily and Provence, to make the head hollow, and like a bell, by cleansing them of their inmost branches ; and this may be done, either before they bud, viz. in the new-moon of March, or when they are full of leaves in June or July, if the season prove any thing fresh. Here I must not omit what I read of the Chinese culture, and which they now also imitate in Virginia, where they have found a way to raise these plants of the seeds, which they mow and cut like a crop of grass, which sprout, and bear leaves again in a few months : They likewise (in Virginia) have planted them in hedges, as near together as we do gooseberries and currans, for their more convenient clipping, which they pretend to do with scissers.

8. The mulberry is much improv'd by stirring the mould at root, and letation.

9. We have already mentioned some of the uses of this excellent tree, especially of the white, so called because the fruit is of a paler colour, which is also of a more luscious taste, and lesser than the black ; the rind likewise is whiter, and the leaves of a mealy clear green colour, and far tenderer, and sooner produc'd by at least a fortnight, which is a marvelous advantage to the newly disclos'd silk-worm : Also they arrive sooner to their maturity, and the food produces a finer web. Nor is this tree less beautiful to the eye than the fairest elm, very proper for walks and avenues : The timber (amongst other properties) will last in the water as well as the most solid oak, and the bark makes good and tough bast-ropes. It suffers no kind of vermin to breed on it, whether standing or fell'd, nor dares any caterpillar attack it, save the silk-worm only. The loppings are excellent fuel : But that for which this tree is in greatest and most worthy esteem, is for the leaves, which (besides the silk-worm) nourishes cows, sheep, and other cattle ; especially young porkers, being boil'd with a little bran ; and the fruit excellent to feed poultrey. In sum, whatever eats of them, will with difficulty be reduc'd to endure any thing else, as long as they can come by them : To say nothing of their other soveraign qualities, as relaxing of the belly, being eaten in the morning, and curing inflamations and ulcers of the mouth and throat, mix'd with Melrosarum, in which receipt they do best, being taken before they are over-ripe. I have ` read, that in Syria they make bread of them ; but that the eating of it makes men bald : As for drink, the juice of the berry mixed with cider-apples, makes an excellent liquor, both for colour and taste.

10. To proceed with the leaf (for which they are chiefly cherish'd) the benefit of it is so great, that they are frequently let to farm for vast sums ; so as some one sole tree has yielded the proprietor a rent of twenty shillings per annum, for the leaves only ; and six or seven pounds of silk, worth as many pounds sterling, in five or six weeks, to those who keep the worms. We know that till after Italy had made silk above a thousand years, (and where the tree it self was not a stranger, none of the ancients writing any thing concerning it) they receiv'd it not in France; it being hardly yet an hundred, since they betook them-selves to this manufacture in Provence, Languedoc, Dauphine, Lionnois, &c. and not in Tourain and Orleans, till Hen. the Fourth's time ; but it is in-credible what a revenue it now amounts to in that kingdom. About the same time, or a little after, it was that King James did with extraordinary care recommend it to this nation, by a book of directions, acts of council, and all other princely assistance. But this did not take, no more than that of Hen. the Fourth's proposal about the environs of Paris, who filled the high-ways, parks, and gardens of France with the trees, beginning in his own gardens for encouragement : Yet, I say, this would not be brought into example, till this present great monarch, by the indefatigable diligence of Monsieur Colbert (Superintendent of His Majesty's Manufactures) who has so successfully reviv'd it, that 'tis prodigious to consider what an happy progress they have made in it ; to our shame be it spoken, who have no other discouragements from any insuperable difficulty whatever, but our sloth, and want of industry ; since wherever these trees will grow and prosper, the silk-worms will do so also ; and they were alike averse, and from the very same suggestions, where now that manufacture flourishes in our neighbour countries. It is demonstrable, that mulberries in four or five years may be made to spread all over this land ; and when the indigent, and young daughters in proud families are as willing to gain three or four shillings a day for gathering silk, and busying themselves in this sweet and easie employment, as some do to get four pence a day for hard work at hemp, flax, and wooll ; the reputation of mulberries will spread in England and other plantations. I might say something like this of saffron, which we yet too much neglect the culture of ; but, which for all this I do not despair of seeing reassum'd, when that good genius returns. In order to this hopeful prognostick, we will add a few directions about gathering of their leaves, to render this chapter one of the most accornplish'd, for certainly one of the most accomplish'd and agreeable works in the world.

11 . The leaves of the mulberry should be collected from trees of seven or eight years old ; if of such as are very young, it impairs their growth, neither are they so healthful for the worms, making them hydropical, and apt to burst : As do also the leaves of such trees as be planted in a too waterish, or over-rich soil, or where no sun comes, and all sick, and yellow leaves are hurtful. It is better to clip, and let the leaves fall upon a subtended sheet or blanket, than to gather them by hand: and to gather them, than to strip them, which marrs and gauls the branches, and bruises the leaves that should hardly be touched. Some there are who lop off the boughs, and make it their pruning, and it is a tolerable way, so it be discreetly done in the over-thick parts of the tree; but these leaves gather'd from a separated branch, will die, and wither much sooner than those which are taken from the tree immediately, unless you set the stem in water. Leaves gathered from boughs cut off, will shrink in three hours ; whereas those you take from the living tree, will last as many days ; and being thus a while kept, are better than over-fresh ones. It is a rule, never to gather in a rainy season, nor cut any branch whilst the wet is upon it ; and therefore against such suspected times, you are to provide before-hand, and to reserve them in some fresh, but dry place : The same caution you must observe for the dew, tho' it do not rain, for wet food kills the worms. But if this cannot be altogether prevented, put the leaves between a pair of sheets well dried by the fire, and shake them up and down 'till the moisture be drunk up in the linnen, and then spreading them to the air a little, on another dry cloth, you may feed with them boldly. The top-leaves and oldest, would be gathered last of all, as being most proper to repast the worms with, towards their last change. The gatherer must be neat, and have his hands clean, and his breath sweet, and not poison'd with onions, or tabacco, and be careful not to press the leaves, by crouding them into the bags or baskets. Lastly, that they gather only (unless in case of necessity) leaves from the present, not from the former years sprigs, or old wood, which are not only rude and harsh, but are annex'd to stubb'd stalks, which injure the worms, and spoil the denudated branches. One note more let me add, that in first hatching the eggs disclosing (as sometimes) earlier than there is provision for them on the tree, the tender leaves of lettuce, dandelion or endive may supply, so they feed not on them too long, or over-much, which gives them the lask.

I a. This is what I thought fit to premonish concerning the gathering of the leaves of this tree for silk-worms, as I find it in Monsieur Isnard's Instructions, and that exact discourse of his, published some years since, and dedicated to Monsieur Colbert, (who has, it seems, constituted this industrious and experienc'd person, surveyor of this princely manufacture about Paris) and because the book it self is rare, and known by very few. I have no more to add, but this for our encouragement, and to encounter the objections which may be suggested about the coldness and moisture of our country ; that the Spring is in Provence no less inconstant than is ours in England ; that the colds at Paris are altogether as sharp ; and that when in May it has continued raining for nine and twenty days successively, Monsieur Isnard assures us, he proceeded in his work without the least disaster ; and in the year 1664, he presented the French King his Master, with a considerable quantity of better silks, than any Messina or Bononia could produce, which he sold raw at Lions, for a pistol the pound ; when that of Avignon, Provence, and Dauphine produc'd little above half that price. But you are to receive the compleat history of the silk-worm, from that incomparable treatise, which the learned Malpighius has lately sent out of Italy, and dedicated to the Royal Society, as a specimen and noble effect of its universal correspondence, and concernments for the improvement of useful knowledge. To this I add that beneficial passage of the learned Dr. Beale, communicated in the 12th. vol. Philos. Transactionr, n. 133. p. 816, where we find recommended the promotion of this tree in England, from its success in several Northern Counties, and even in the moist places of Ireland : He shews how it may be improv'd by graffing on the fig; or the larger black mulberry, on that of the smallest kind : Also of what request the Diamoron, or Guidenie made of the juice of this fruit, was with the Ancients, with other excellent observations : What other incomparable remedies the fruit of this tree affords, see Plin. Nat. Hirt. lib. 23. cap. 7. There is a mulberry-tree brought from Virginia not to be contemn'd ; upon which they find silk-worms, which would exceed the silk of Persia it self, if the planters of nauseous tabacco did not hinder the culture. Sir Jo. Berkley (who was many years Governor of that ample Colony) told me, he presented the King (Char. II.) with as much of silk made there, as made his Majesty a compleat suit of apparel. Lastly, let it not seem altogether impertinent, if I add one pre-monition to those less experienc'd gardners, who frequently expose their orange, and like tender-furniture trees of the green-house too early : That the first leaves putting forth of this wise tree, (sapientissima, as1 Pliny calls it) is a more infallible note when those delicate plants may be safely brought out to the air, than by any other prognostick or indication. For other species, vid. Rail Dendro. p. 12.

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