Wednesday, February 5, 2020

History Blooms at Monticello - Marseilles

 ‘Marseilles’ Fig (Ficus carica cv.)
‘Marseilles’ Fig (Ficus carica cv.)

In 1809 Jefferson wrote to Dr. William Thornton, a close friend and architect of the Capitol in Washington: “I will take some occasion of sending you some cuttings of the Marseilles fig, which I brought from France with me, & is unquestionably superior to any fig I have ever seen.” 

This variety was planted in the “submural beds” at the base of the kitchen garden wall, which afforded a warm microclimate necessary to bear fruit. Jefferson had unusual success with figs and noted their appearance at the Monticello table in 1816 and 1820. He also shared ‘Marseilles’ figs with John Hartwell Cocke, owner of Bremo Plantation along the James River. Cocke sent his slave Jesse to Monticello in 1817 to collect some plants.

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