Kiss under the mistletoe this Christmas with a clear conscience by ensuring your supply of this evocative festive decoration is homegrown.
The National Trust is urging people to support local industry when buying mistletoe for parties this Christmas. It warns that the delicate plant, with its dark green leaves and waxy white berries, could become worryingly scarce due to the dramatic decline over the past 60 years of its favoured habitat, the orchard, especially in cider counties such as Somerset, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, and says a high proportion of mistletoe sold today is imported.
‘Mistletoe has a special place in the winter landscape,’ says the Trust’s ecologist, Peter Brash, ‘but we could end up relying on imports from mainland Europe for those festive kisses.’ Mistletoe is a parasitic plant-it needs management, so it doesn’t choke its host-which prefers the apple tree, but it can also be found entwined attractively around lime, poplar and hawthorn; it is a valuable source of food for birds, such as the mistle thrush who help sow the plant by wiping their beaks free of the sticky berries in crevices of trees-and insects, including the intriguingly named ‘kiss me slow weevil’, and is used in homeo-pathic medicine. Mistletoe should be sown in February or March.