A tree in Deptford has been shortlisted as one of the 10 best in England, and is in the running for the Woodland Trust Tree of the Year award.

Evelyn’s Mulberry in Sayes Court Park deserves its place in the top 10, according to the charity, for “remarkably surviving the industrialisation of the area to help us imagine a time when gardens and fruit trees covered this patch of London”.

A popular claim is that Russian Tzar Peter the Great planted it nearly 300 years ago during a brief visit.

Another theory is that it came from the gardens of diarist and friend of Samuel Pepys, John Evelyn, who wrote what is thought to be the first book on trees (Sylva, printed in 1664).

Seventeenth-century monarch James I is believed to have attempted to begin a silk industry in England, by sending out hundreds of mulberry saplings to estate owners, but failed because he brought in the black mulberry, rather than the white variety preferred by silk worms.

Scott Barkwith of DeptfordFolk, the park user group for Deptford Park and Folkestone Gardens, said: “This is particularly significant as we’re looking to celebrate 200 years since the publication of John Evelyn’s diaries in 2018. The tree has a rich history, but just as importantly is well loved by the local community today.”

Those who wish to root for Evelyn’s Mulberry should visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/england, and click ‘Vote Evelyn’.

The winning tree, chosen from among the winners of the England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland sections, will win £1,000 to be spent on caring for it and for the first time represent the UK in the 2018 European Tree of the Year contest.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust chief executive, said: “Once again the public has nominated many fantastic trees with truly inspirational stories, which highlight how intrinsic they can become in peoples’ lives.

“It’s a reminder of why we need to care for individual trees and that they still need true protection in law from development or mismanagement.”