Hosts & habitats for mistletoe in Britain
Hosts in Britain
In Britain the commonest host for mistletoe is cultivated (not wild) apple trees. But it also occurs on many other tree species, with other favourites including limes, poplars, and hawthorns.
The full British host list runs to many hundreds of tree species, and our species of mistletoe (Viscum album subspecies album), is thought to have the widest host range of any mistletoe species in the world.
The graph on the left, based on data from the 1990s National Mistletoe Survey, shows relative proportions on the most common hosts – the full list is very long and so if that graph had every species included it would continue to the right for many metres.
Habitats in Britain
Mistletoe’s main habitats, other than the obvious need to be on a tree, are interesting.
Despite needing trees mistletoe is not generally a woodland or forest plant, preferring its hosts in open situations with plenty of light around the tree.
So favourite habitats include gardens, orchards, parkland (traditional and modern), churchyards etc. It is interesting to note that most of these are ‘man-made’ habitats – and that in a primeval Britain before woodland clearance mistletoe would probably have been less abundant than today.