Sunday 27 November 2011


Click here for the 'Seeds of Eaden' seed shop

Viscum album, the European mistletoe, is native to the UK.  It is a parasitic plant that requires a host plant on which to feed, attaching itself to the branches of a tree or shrub. 

Mistletoe can be identified by its oval shaped, smooth edged evergreen leaves growing in pairs along a woody stem. Clusters of waxy white berries are evident during the winter, making this plant integral to Christmas. 

Mistletoe grows well on trees in excess of fifteen years old on varieties such as apple, poplars, lime, false acacia and hawthorn.  In the UK mistletoe is most associated growing on apple trees, and you can often see bunches of mistletoe growing on this host plant.

The plant is a hemi-parasite (partial parasite) and will reduce the growth of its host plant, whilst large infestations can kill them.  Growing in nooks and crannies on branches, the plant sends out roots that probe inside the host plant in order to get water and nutrients.  Mistletoe is an unusual parasitic plant because it can produce energy through photosynthesis and survive without a host plant. 

Mistletoe requires both male and female plants to produce berries, so male and female plants are often found together on the same host plant. The seeds are often spread by birds depositing them in their droppings.

Be cautious when handling the plants as the berries are poisonous and can cause gastrointestinal symptoms if ingested.

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