Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Dr Johnson’s mulberry tree

004This mulberry (Morus nigra) which grows in Colson Way on Streatham Park estate in the London Borough of Wandsworth is reputed to be associated with Samuel Johnson.  The Estate takes its name from the home of Henry and Hester Thrale, where Johnson spent much of his time in the 15 years before Henry’s death in 1781.

Any further information on this association would be much appreciated; please send it to

1.  The garden of Christ’s College, Cambridge, has  ‘Milton’s Mulberry Tree’, associated with the poet John Milton, who was admitted to the College in 1625 [RV, 14 May 2016].

2.  On 5 December 2016 Peter Coles ( writes: ‘I have been able to geolocate the tree roughly with a corner of the mansion built by Henry Thrale in the 18th century, and adjacent to the kitchen gardens which did have fruit trees.  The question is whether it survived the demolition in the 1860s, or whether it was planted in the garden of one of the houses built on the site afterwards.  I plan to visit the site and will get a better idea of the tree’s age, 150 years seems quite possible, but 200+ seems unlikely.’

3.   At one time there was also a Dr Johnson’s elm (Ulmus sp.); according to Graham Gower, Sreatham Heritage Trail: The Tooting Commons, published by the Streatham Society in 2001, this was ‘located on Tooting Bec Common by Garrard’s Road between Prentis Road and Becmead Avenue. A “fine old stump” in 1882.  Originally surrounded by an oak fence and later by iron railings.  Stump disappeared after the first world war.’

Update:  Message from Kishor Solanki, of Emmi’s Store, Colson Way, 19 July 2017:  ‘This tree fell down yesterday, 18 July , in the afternoon; only a small trunk is left and it is hollow and soft inside, so it may fall at any time.’

Image: December 2015.

Updated 24 August 2018.

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