Imagine a Christmas without mistletoe. No longer would you be able to have a festive kiss with your partner, embarrass your children, or try your luck at the work Christmas party.
In the next 20 years conservationists are concerned that there will be a significant decline in mistletoe due to a drop in the number of host trees for the plant to thrive on. The number of traditional apple orchards is rapidly decreasing, and as apple trees are mistletoe’s preferred home this may lead to the parasitic plant disappearing. Being parasitic, mistletoe relies solely on the tree it lives on; therefore without the trees for mistletoe to grow on and the decease of trees already providing a home for the plant, it will soon slowly start declining.
This can only lead to one thing, and that’s a phenomenal price increase in mistletoe. Almost unavoidably we will have to source the plant from abroad, making it more and more expensive, and with similar falling numbers of hosting trees in other countries they will soon suffer the same rate loss we are seeing.
Having had the privilege as a young child to have an endless supply of mistletoe in the garden of our Norfolk family home, I would like to encourage everyone to attempt to grow the plant themselves. Ensuring your mistletoe comes from a sustainable British source has never been more important, and there isn’t a more British and better source than your own garden!
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I must warn you, you will have to be very patient! Mistletoe can take up to 2-3 years to start to grow properly, however the enormous and beautiful bunches you have at the first Christmas the plant is ready, are most definitely worth the wait!
The best time to start off the process is February and March. You will need ripe mistletoe berries, nothing that’s been inside all winter under a dim string of fairy lights and tinsel. The plant needs to be fresh and have pearly white berries. These are the ripe berries – the yellow/green coloured berries are not ripe and not what you will need. Make sure you have plenty of berries, being as mistletoe has separate male and female plants so you will need to apply sufficient seeds to achieve success.
Now you must find a home for your mistletoe. The trees most favorable to the plant tend to be apple trees, but mistletoe is also known to grow on hawthorns, poplars, limes and false acacia.
How to grow mistletoe
* Make sure your tree is well established and at least 20 years old. * Choose a section of the tree with a 10-20cm girth, preferably somewhere with a lot of sunlight, and avoid bigger parts of the tree such as the trunk as this will be too thick and old for the mistletoe to grow from.
* There are a number of ways to apply the seed. Some stand by the simple method of depositing the seed from the sticky viscous in the berry and merely wiping it on to the bark along with several other seeds. Another technique is to make a small incision with a knife into the tree and placing a number of seeds inside or under flaps of the bark. With high mortality rates I would suggest you try all methods! Whichever one you choose make sure you mark where you have positioned the seeds with string or cotton.
Now to play the waiting game! Should you be successful during the summer of the following year you should start to see small green shoots appearing from the trees branches. Remember that mistletoe is a partial parasite, but if maintained and looked after both tree and mistletoe can live in harmony. Good luck!
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