Record Centre News

Mistletoe

Mistletoe Viscum album

Mistletoe photo courtesy of Landscapes of England.

Mistletoe is abundant in some areas of Sussex and it appears to be becoming increasingly common throughout England. Mistletoe is a hemi-parasite on a variety of trees; it photosynthesises using its evergreen leaves, but it supplements this by taking water and nutrients directly from its plant host. Mistletoes translucent white berries are well known to many people and in the past this plant was sometimes grown in ancient orchards so that the farmers could supplement their income by selling the sprigs of Mistletoe at Christmas.

The berries are highly attractive to many birds including the Mistle Thrush, however they have a cunning trick up their sleeve. The berries are incredibly sticky, and once they have passed through the bird it can often have problems extricating itself from the sticky residue encasing the seeds. The birds usually find a way, and this results in the Mistletoe seeds being wiped onto the top of a branch on a new host.

In Sussex you should look for mistletoe in old orchards, on Apple trees and also high up on Poplar and Lime trees with the Ditchling, Storrington and Arundel areas being particularly blessed with large numbers of this enigmatic plant.