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Et Tu, Mulberry? Arboreal Scandal

Shakespeare tree a fraud.

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Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden, planted with species mentioned in the Bard’s work, lost a major figure on August 2—and found a grifter in its midst. It’s been said for decades that the garden’s mulberry tree was a living connection to the playwright: The Central Park Conservancy’s Website labels it “a graft of a white mulberry tree planted by Shakespeare himself at New Place, Stratford-on-Avon, in the year 1602.” But a postmortem ring count put the mulberry at 80 to 85 years old; the Stratford tree was said to have been cut down by a cranky local vicar in the 1750s. (Nobody knows where this lofty lineage about our tree got started; a Times story from 1931 records when it was planted, adding that it was put there in Shakespeare’s honor.) Sara Cedar Miller, the conservancy’s historian, admits that this history is as thoroughly fictionalized as Julius Caesar’s: The word “legend” was added to the Conservancy Website, and she intends to look into the matter during an upcoming trip to England. Since the tree had been in decline for some time, park workers had taken cuttings and hope to replace the tree with a clone of its own.

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