If you can beat the birds to them, public mulberry trees—those growing in right-of-ways or whose branches extend into a public space—are one of the early summer pleasures of strolling near downtown Durham.
There used to be a mulberry tree along Pettigrew Street near the Durham County Jail, but it is gone, likely a casualty of the railroad company’s zealous pruning along the tracks.
Thankfully I found two other trees farther south, but still a stone’s throw from downtown. I nearly was bonked in the head by a berry that fell from a tree along Morehead Avenue just east of Vickers. I think technically the tree might belong to the Greystone Inn, but there seems to be plenty of berries to go around; the boughs are heavy with them and the sidewalk is purple.
Head about two blocks east on Morehead and another tree juts from the brushy area shortly before the gravel parking lot beneath N.C. 147, before you get to Blackwell Street.
I recommend washing them if you’re going to eat more than a couple. It’s unlikely the trees have been sprayed, but nearby lawns may have been, and the berries could have been exposed to pesticide or herbicide drift.
Do you have a favorite public mulberry tree? Let us know. There’s plenty for the birds and us.