Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are all plants that we associate with Christmas, but there is more to Mistletoe than you might think.
Mistletoe is very special as it does not grow in soil but grows on the branches of trees, it sends its roots under the bark taking nutrients from its host tree, it is often found on apple trees but it can also grow on Hawthorn, Lime, Poplar, Willow, Rowan, Quince and Whitebeam.
In European folklore Mistletoe was considered a mysterious, magical, and sacred plant, from the middle ages branches of Mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits as well as over doors to prevent witches from entering. The appearance and growing habit of Mistletoe will have added to the fascination with this unique plant, its bare symmetrical branches, with a single symmetrical pair of smooth, long evergreen leaves at the tip and its glossy, pure white berries almost suspended amongst the tangle of branches which from a distance resemble a sphere.
How to grow your own Mistletoe
If you are buying Mistletoe at Christmas, choose the sprigs of Mistletoe that have ‘ripe’ plump white berries rather than unripe green or yellow ones.
Cut off the ends of the branches and place the sprigs in water on a cool, frost free windowsill until March/April.
Select a tree with branches at least 10cm in diameter, underneath the branches or under a branch joint carefully make a scratch in the bark, this will bring the seeds into contact with the tree, and then squash one of the berries into it, mark its position by tying a piece of string or wool around the branch with a label.
Many berries will drop off or be eaten, to ensure a good success rate sow at least twenty at a time, growth is slow and it will be the following spring before any leaves appear, for your new plants to produce berries you need to have a male and female plant, it will take about four or five years for the new plants to mature and produce berries.
If you have apple trees at school or at home you can ask each child to ‘plant’ a seed and put their name on the label with the date then they will (fingers crossed) be able to watch their own Mistletoe grow.