Monday, December 13, 2010

Old Mulberry Trees

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These paper mulberry trees were growing in the fence row at my grandmother's house. The first one that I was ever aware of stood at the edge of the road in my aunt's yard, across from my grandmother's house. I liked it because the limbs started low enough for me to climb on and I spent many happy hours playing in that tree and playing with the leaves. It was itchy though, and when I complained of it to Aunt Thelma she told me that if I would stop climbing in that tree and playing with the leaves, I would not itch. I resolved to be more careful, not to stop playing in the tree.I was lucky to not have hay fever as the pollen from this tree plagues allergy sufferers around the world, from February to April in southeast Alabama. Eventually the tree was blown over, a fate common to paper mulberries because of their shallow root systems. The hunt then began for an Umbrella China Berry tree to replace it. I have discussed China Berry trees in another blog.
Paper mulberries (Broussonetia papyrifera )  came to Florida about 1903 from eastern Asia. It spread quickly over the southeast because it was used as a decorative tree. Decorative must have meant different, for it is not decorative to my eye in any sense. These trees have become invasive in many parts of the world, being able to out-compete native vegetation because of their efficient water gathering capability, as well as their propensity to sprout back from roots, and ability to spread readily from seed. It is certainly not a tree you would want to plant, unless you are planning to make some paper, which is it's use in some areas of the world. It would not make a good pulp tree either because the fibers of the tree dull saws at a speedy rate.
But looking at these mulberry trunks makes me admit that there is something artistic and thought provoking about them. They appear to have been through the wars and are still standing despite their scars. They appear to be very old, but mulberries do not grow to a ripe old age. These may be anywhere from 20 to 30 years old.

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