Links, downloads, Contact, FAQs

Links to some mistletoe sites and articles, papers, information sheets, books, posters, contact info. Plus, below all that, some mistletoe FAQs.

Websites:

Recent Research Papers and survey projects:

Information sheets from 2012:

Butterfly Conservation Factsheet on mistletoe marble moth:

Books:

A Little Book About Mistletoe: 

Jonathan Briggs’ little book introducing all aspects of mistletoe is available on Amazon.

There are print and Kindle editions.

Mistletoe Posters:

Posters about mistletoe imagery in Art Nouveau designs – produced for an exhibition in 2005.

Contact information:

The FAQs below answer some common queries but if you have additional queries contact: enquiries@mistletoe.org.uk

FAQs:

Note that most of these FAQs are about European Mistletoe (Viscum album). The answers here do not necessarily apply to the many other mistletoe species around the world.

What is mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a name given to a family of plants that are parasitic on branches of trees. There are about  1500 species of mistletoe around the world. The ‘classic’ mistletoe of Europe is Viscum album.

Can mistletoe grow in the ground?

No! Mistletoe can only grow on host trees. You cannot grow it in soil or compost – you need a suitable host species for it to grow on.

How can I grow my own?

If you have a suitable host tree you can sow seeds on a branch. Detailed instructions are given on this site on the Growing and Managing page. Do note that it can usually only be grown from seed – when people talk about ‘grafting’ mistletoe this is what they mean – the seed germinates and the young seedling grafts itself onto the host. Seeds (one in each berry) should be sown in February/March for best results. Kits with fresh berries can be ordered online here or here 

What host trees does mistletoe grow on?

European Mistletoe, Viscum album, grows on a wide range of host trees. Its favourite host is cultivated apple – about 50% of British Mistletoe grows on this tree. Other common hosts include poplars and willows – and a wide variety of shrubs and trees in the Rosaceae. For more information visit the Biology page here and download this information sheet: Habitats and Hosts in the UK

Some subspecies of Viscum album can grow on firs and pines – these subspecies do not occur in Britain.

Other species of mistletoe have differing host preferences.

Does mistletoe grow on Oak?

Many people associate mistletoe with oak because of the stories of the ancient druids worshipping mistletoe on oak. In reality European Mistletoe (Viscum album) is very rare on oak – which is not a suitable host. A few mistletoe-bearing oaks are known in Britain – but these are extremely rare.

Other species of mistletoe, including several in North America and one less common species in central Europe, can be found commonly on oak – but these mistletoe species are not the one used in druidic legend.

My mistletoe bough has broken off/my mistletoe tree has been felled – can I regrow it from the old plant?

No. Once the branch has been broken off, or the tree has died, the mistletoe is doomed too. It can survive for a few years on trees that have fallen over, which often still have some life, but plants cannot be moved from host to host – you need to start again with seeds.

Is mistletoe rare in Britain?

Mistletoe in Britain mostly grows in the south-west midlands – Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Somerset. In this area it is common. Outside this area it is generally scarce or very rare, occurring as small isolated populations or individual plants.

Most mistletoe in Britain grows on apple trees – and the loss of the traditional apple tree orchards is obviously having an effect on the quantity mistletoe in that habitat. This will reduce the amount available for harvesting each season, but it is not endangering the plant, as it grows on many other hosts, particularly in its main area. Indeed it seems to be spreading faster in recent years.

For more information visit the Conservation page here and download the factsheets Mistletoe Distribution in the UK  and Is mistletoe rare in the UK?

Will mistletoe damage the host tree?

Each growth of mistletoe will affect the branch it is on – reducing the tree’s own growth and development on that branch. So a few mistletoe growths on a largeish tree will not have a major effect.

But too many mistletoe growths, particularly on small trees, will reduce host growth on all branches. This will significantly affect the tree, reducing fruit crop (e.g. in apple trees), causing water stress in summer and increasing risk of wind-blow in winter. To keep both mistletoe and host healthy you need to actively manage your mistletoe (see the next FAQ below and download this factsheet Mistletoe management – the need for control).

Some other mistletoe species around the world are major economic pests – affecting forestry crops and fruit yields.

How should I manage mistletoe?

European mistletoe needs little management where it is on a large tree (e.g. tall limes) but must be actively managed on smaller trees (e.g. apple trees). Management is best done in the winter, when the host has lost its leaves and you can see all the mistletoe growths.

Basic rules are to cut back both male and female growths each season (too many people just cut the female which has berries, for Christmas, and leave the berryless male to grow unchecked). Where there is significant overgrowth substantial management and pruning may be needed – perhaps including removal of some heavily-infected branches. There is more information on the Growing and Managing page and this information sheet: Mistletoe management – the need for control.

Why do I never get any berries on some/all of my mistletoe?

Mistletoe has separate male and female plants – and if yours is a male it won’t have berries. Even some female plants don’t have berries if they grow in isolated situations, away from other mistletoe populations and therefore any male plants.

Where there are several mistletoe growths the male and female plants are readily distinguished – the male tends to be more pendulous, the female is more upright. Some growths can seem to be a mix of the two – as seeds will germinate very close to each other, and one mistletoe can grow on another, creating a mixed bunch.

Where can I buy mistletoe?

Mistletoe is (usually) readily available within the main growing areas of the UK – Herefordshire, Worcestershire, and low-lying parts of Gloucestershire and Somerset. Outside these areas Christmas mistletoe is less easy to buy – and is often imported from France or transported from the native UK areas.

For UK wholesale sales there are the traditional mistletoe auctions markets at Tenbury Wells, in North Worcestershire. Details of these are available through the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival website.

For domestic customer there are now several online mistletoe traders each Christmas, including our allied site The English Mistletoe Shop, which sells mistletoe, grow-kits and books etc.

Where can I sell mistletoe?

If you have mistletoe for sale you will find best prices are outside the main growing area. Do be aware that wholesale prices can be very low – it can be little more than ‘pocket money’ – but it is some payment towards the effort of mistletoe management.

To sell wholesale you could take your crop to the auctions at Tenbury Wells – details will be on Nick Champions Auctioneer site and on the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival page. Or you can take stock direct to wholesale markets in the London area.

To sell retail you can try via local greengrocers, florists for indirect sales – or find your own market, bearing in mind most demand is outside the ‘3 counties’ area.

Is mistletoe poisonous?

Some mistletoe species, including the European and North American species are considered toxic. European mistletoe contains many toxins, mostly complex proteins called Lectins. These are not a problem when handling the plant but in concentrated form these can be dangerous. They also have value in medicine (see below).

Is mistletoe used in medicine?

The FAQ above this one talks about mistletoe’s toxicity – a property that, for many plants, also makes them useful in medicine. European mistletoe is one of these – with a long history in herbal medicine and even as a winter fodder crop – so that toxicity is not as bad as many think. It is definitely NOT edible for humans – but it is eaten readily by livestock when they can reach it.

In traditional medicine mistletoe is widely available as a therapeutic herbal tea in continental Europe, but hasn’t really caught on in Britain. For more on other medicinal uses visit the medicine part of the Uses page here.

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