There is something about Mistletoe. A parasite, or more accurately, saprophyte, on a range of trees and shrubs, it relies on its host for water and minerals while producing sugars in the sunlight like any other plant.
It is a traditional plant of Christmas and few homes would be without a sprig for kissing under! It seems a sign of our pleasure-seeking age that the tradition of removing a berry after each kiss has been overlooked in favour of a more liberal interpretation. In ancient times it had more serious (if less fun!) mystical purposes and there is currently much research into its cancer-curing properties.
You cannot go to your local garden centre to buy a living Mistletoe plant for the garden so the only option is to grow your own – unless Nature has done it for you. Berries are best kept in a cool place after picking but ideally are used fresh in February. The perfect host plant is an old Apple tree, but it grows well on Poplars, Limes, Hawthorn, Willow and locally, on the Robinia that invades the woods here abouts.
Now that we live in France we cannot help but notice how much more plentiful Mistletoe is in mainland Europe. While in the UK it has great value as cut seasonal foliage, landowners in France are generally delighted to see it removed from their trees. Of course, English retailers will tell you that the French version is of poorer quality.
I have grown Mistletoe several times, leaving little plants on trees all over the country, after the gardeners at Windsor Castle showed me how. The berries are simply smeared into a crack in the bark on the shady side of an appropriate tree. Germination, if it happens at all, will be fairly rapid, but real growth has to wait a full year. Our current garden now has a small clump developing in a Hawthorn .
Don’t expect to be harvesting crops to sell at the traditional November market in Tenbury Wells anytime soon, but do enjoy this traditional plant in your own garden if you can.