His Tree or Not His Tree?

Aug 8, 2006 2:31pm

The mulberry tree in New York’s Central Park’s famed Shakespeare garden — purportedly a descendant of the bard’s own — collapsed last week, and when it did, a ring count revealed the tree was only 85-years-old. The tree was said to be the result of a graft from the bard’s own mulberry as are several other trees in Europe.  But Shakespeare’s tree, while it outlived him, had certainly expired by the mid-1700s, which makes it kind of hard for the one in Central Park to have been born of a graft. The tree, which shaded part of the garden containing only flowers named in Shakespeare’s plays, "is a graft of a white mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare himself at New Place, Stratford-on-Avon, in the year 1602. The cutting was sent to him by King James I in his attempt to introduce silk culture into England," the Central Park Conservancy said in the past.  Experts have long suspected the tale to be no more than legend, despite the effusions by the Conservancy. But the ring count by the park’s woodland management personnel made it official. "The City of New York is directing the Central Park Conservancy to change their website," said Warner Johnston, a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Parks. Johnston said that when the city contacted the Conservancy, the president of the group was surprised to learn that its literature had ever treated the Shakespeare myth as anything more than legend. "The city thanks ABC for bringing this to its attention." The tree itself was carted away after the ring count.

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