Friday, 16 December 2011


Mistletoe is a rare and mysterious thing. For most of the year it remains hidden and camouflaged amongst the leaves and branches of other trees.  But in the the darkest depths of winter it stands out as living green amongst the frozen bare branches. Its pearly berries shining out in moonlight, speaking to our ancestors of the rebirth of the year from the cold, frozen midwinter solstice.

For millennia it has been associated with those other evergreens, holly, ivy and yew in ritual celebration of the turn of year, from death into life and future fertility. We have come a long way since then but a kiss under the Mistletoe is still a powerful echo from the past.

‘Viscum album’, as it is scientifically known, is a seldom seen partial parasite usually spotted in the branches of gnarled old apple trees. It has no roots of its own, instead it steals sustenance from its host. Surprisingly, the biggest and best specimen I have ever seen is only half a mile from our house, high in the crown of a Lime tree. The most prolific and widespread ‘infection’ I sighted however was in a group of poplars.

We have tried to establish it in the orchard here at Levens, but with no success. Seed left over after Christmas, pressed beneath old bark is not the answer. This year we will try again with fresh seed smeared across younger branches in March. With luck, in ten years time we will have more than enough of mistletoe’s magic.


  1. Mistletoe is an oddity and bbecoming increasingly rare. I don't think I've even seen it for sale in recent years.Good luck with trying to grow it, Chris and Merry Christmas!

  2. Thanks Janet. We have actually tried now for a number of years, but usually after applying the sticky seeds we have hot dry conditions which I suspect doesn't do them any good.
    We will give it a go again in 2012...


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