Mistletoe Growing in Wenvoe!


The discovery of a small plant of Mistletoe growing in a front garden in Wenvoe was quite notable as it is only the second recorded for the Vale of Glamorgan. That is not to say that there will not be some growing elsewhere but if it is, it has not been officially recorded. Whilst the Wildlife Group have been trying to get mistletoe to grow on apple trees (so far unsuccessfully) this one turned up on a Japanese Maple. Mistletoe is often associated with Apple trees and therefore orchards and a drive through Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire will reveal many old orchards covered in it. A survey in the 1990s found it growing principally on Apple but also Lime, Hawthorn, Poplar, Maple, Willow and Crab apple. In fact between 70 and 100 trees and shrubs can act as host. Walking around the Brecons near Tretower we found a large area of Hawthorn heavily infested with it.

Everyone has their own theory on how birds help to spread the seeds of Mistletoe but research indicates it varies with the bird. The Mistle Thrush, hence its name, swallows the berries whole and secretes them in a half-digested berry pulp. Most fail to germinate but any landing on a branch stand a chance of getting established. By contrast the Blackcap separates the seed before swallowing and wipes it off its beak directly on to a branch making it a much more efficient Mistletoe-planter than the thrush. In London the Ring-necked Parakeets have been seen taking the berries so may play a role in spreading it around the capital.

Mistletoe was supposedly sacred to the druids and particularly when found growing on Oak although, if true, this presents something of a problem for the Welsh druids as it is not present in most of Wales, least of all in their final stronghold in Anglesey. It is also very rare on oak throughout Europe. But as the main source for this information was the Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, it may be of questionable validity.

The final question is what sex is our plant as only the female plants carry the berries – watch this space!