Growing your own... mistletoe

Lurking among the bare branches, a surprise awaits

Peter Earl with mistletoeI’ve always been intrigued to know why there was no mistletoe at Rosemoor. I guess it’s got something to do with the fact that most of the old orchards here about have been grubbed out. But you only have to cross the county border into Somerset and mistletoe abounds in the numerous remaining orchards. So I thought I would try and remedy the situation and attempt to establish some mistletoe here at Rosemoor.
Mistletoe on cider apple treeTwo years ago, I collected some nice plump berries in February from an old Somerset orchard tree and smeared them onto the young branches of some of our cider apple trees, mimicking the action of the mistle thrush as he tries to wipe his beak clean after feeding on the sticky mistletoe berries, inadvertently leaving some seed stuck onto the branches.
I had almost forgotten about this when last week I was doing the winter apple pruning I was amazed to see the green leaves of the germinating mistletoe.
You can also see some lichen on the apple tree. We have a lot of lichen here at Rosemoor, a sure sign of our clean air, and, it does no harm to the tree, as it does not feed directly off the tree. In contrast to this, the mistletoe is a definite parasite, taking nutrients and water directly from the host tree. Although it won’t kill the tree, it can weaken it, so we will be monitoring our burgeoning bunch of mistletoe and keeping it under control by harvesting some at Christmas time and who knows, maybe we will see some burgeoning romance as well!

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