Mistletoe in Europe

Mistletoe in Europe

Mistletoe (Viscum album) distribution in Europe (from Flora Europaea) – note how the detail of distribution in Britain is lost in this zoomed out view

In mainland Europe mistletoe is much more widespread, occurring across most of the continent and spreading eastwards well into Asia.

Distribution here also depends on subtleties of climate, and the absence of mistletoe in the Netherlands, northern Germany and most of Scandinavia reflect mistletoe’s climatic requirements.  Small colonies occur in those areas but, like the isolated eastern colonies in Britain, tend to be fairly static.

A complicating factor for traditional mistletoe, Viscum album, in Europe, is the presence of additional subspecies. In Britain we have Viscum album subspecies album - a plant that only grows on deciduous hosts.  But on the mainland this is joined by subspecies austriacum and subspecies abietis which only grow on evergreens (pines and firs respectively).  There’s a little more information on these on the European Hosts page.

Plus, further south in Europe, some other mistletoe species begin to be found – these are outlined below:

Europe’s other mistletoes I: Red-berried Mistletoe

Red-berried Mistletoe, Viscum cruciatum. Picture courtesy of Chris Parker.

As well as thoses subspecies of Viscum album there is one other full species of Viscum in Europe – and that’s the Red-berried Mistletoe, Viscum album.

Apart from the berry colour this mistletoe is similar to the familiar white-berried species, and grows in similar habitats – often on Olive trees.

In distribution terms it is very limited, being found only in Iberia, and mostly in Spain.

Europe’s other mistletoes II: Yellow-berried Mistletoe

The most significant other mistletoe of Europe is Loranthus europeaus, the yellow-berried mistletoe.

This is particularly peculiar, in comparison to the familiar white-berried species because of two key factors. Firstly it likes (actually prefers) oak trees as hosts – whereas the traditional northern species is so rare on oaks that those oaks are considered special and held scared (allegedly) by the druids. But this is common on oaks.

Loranthus europaeus distribution map

Secondly, it is deciduous.  So, for this species at least, those special properties of ongoing life through the winter months, doesn’t apply – it loses its leaves at the same time as the host.

This species has a wide distribution across central southern Europe.

 

Europe’s other mistletoes III: Dwarf Mistletoe

European Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium oxycedri. This is a whole plant, growing at the tip of a host branch. You could hold this in one hand. Diagram borrowed from Arceuthobium oxycedri and Its Segregates A. juniperi-procerae and A. azoricum (Viscaceae) by F. G. Hawksworth and D. Wiens Kew Bulletin Vol. 31, No. 1 (1976)

European Dwarf Mistletoe, Arceuthobium oxycedri. This is a whole plant, growing at the tip of a host branch. You could hold this in one hand. Diagram borrowed from Arceuthobium oxycedri and Its Segregates A. juniperi-procerae and A. azoricum (Viscaceae) by F. G. Hawksworth and D. Wiens Kew Bulletin Vol. 31, No. 1 (1976)

The last of the mainland Europe mistletoes is another oddity – our only representative of the Arceuthobiums or Dwarf Mistletoes.  These are species with reduced leaves, almost holo-parasitic on their hosts and they are major forest pests in North America.

Our species doesn’t cause much damage, not least because it only grows on Juniper trees and bushes.

Arceuthobium oxycedri map

And it isn’t very widespread. occurring mainly around the Black Sea and parts of the Adriatic and Mediterranean.

 

You’re viewing the Distribution Pages of The Mistletoe Pages. Other pages within the Distribution tab include: Distribution Introduction, Distribution in BritainDistribution in Europe, Is Mistletoe Rare?