I have heard this warning before in the last few years from conservationists but it appears now to be a more serious issue; the future supply of traditional English mistletoe is under threat. Why I hear you say; mistletoe thrives in established apple orchards and if you follow conservation then you will know that our apple orchards have been in serious decline for the past 60 years, this has great impact on our traditional mistletoe.
Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows attached to and within the branches of a tree or shrub, mainly apple trees but it will also grow within birch, hawthorn, lime and poplar. If left the mistletoe will eventually kill its host so it has to be managed, regular cutting will protect the host tree as well as ensuring a crop of mistletoe each Christmas time. Most mistletoe seeds are spread by birds; they eat the seeds and then spread them throughout the tree branches in their droppings. Mistletoe was often considered a pest that killed trees and devalued natural habitats, but was recently acknowledged as an ecological keystone species, an organism that has an excessively persistent influence over its community. A broad array of animals depend on mistletoe for food, consuming the leaves and young shoots, transferring pollen between plants, and dispersing the sticky seeds.
All is not lost however, The National Trust want you to help by buying home-grown mistletoe in the run-up to Christmas, which means asking where the mistletoe is sourced from when you buy it. Allot of our traditions we have lost over the years and it would be a crying shame if mistletoe disappeared as well.
There is so much more to mistletoe than its “romantic role”, buying mistletoe helps traditional British cider apple orchards thrive by removing mistletoe from the trees, so you are doing 2 things, helping a tradition to continue which in turn helps apple trees to flourish and let’s not forget it keeps us kissing!!