Before I heard the doctors tell
The dangers of a kiss;
I had considered kissing you.
The nearest thing to bliss.
But now I know biology and sit and sigh and moan;
Six million mad bacteria and I thought we were alone!
Eagle eyed readers who looked at the photos of views from my (other) kitchen window in May will have noticed this tree at Ham Farm near Dursley in Gloucestershire.
Yes, lots of mistletoe ‘clouds’, clearly silhouetted against the sky. Needless to say, once we had identified them on this tree, we saw them everywhere.
We then remembered that Mistletoe is harvested in the area for Christmas. Traditionally, it is cut from fruit trees because they are not too tall – harvesting from the trees above would be a major task!
Over the border in Worcestershire is Tenbury Wells which has an annual market in November, just for selling Mistletoe. Countryfile sent John Craven there a few years ago to film the event and then sent James Wong last year. The town has built a festival round the event, Druids included.
The mistletoe is a semi-parasite. It has green leaves and manufactures its food by photosynthesis but get water and minerals from the host. Oddly, parasitic plants have only developed nine times in the plant kingdom, and of those, the parasitic mistletoe has evolved independently five times.
This means that if you are reading this in far flung places, you may be scratching your head and muttering But, that’s not mistletoe!”
Well it is OUR mistletoe – that is European Mistletoe. You may have your own.
As for the kissing tradition, there are many theories but in ancient times, it was a symbol of fertility and probably had magical properties because of the way it grows. There is an account of some of the legends here.
So, how is it a pest?
When we first saw just how many trees had mistletoe clouds, we assumed it was because we had never noticed them before. Leaves have unfurled late this year and we have never been in the area when the trees were bare. Perhaps they had been hidden behind the foliage?
However, the farmer who owns the land we were staying on, told us that there had been a great increase in mistletoe in the past few years and it is now affecting more varieties of trees than ever and weakening them.
A short session of Googling, confirmed this and that small patches in the East of the country had started to spread as well.
Climate change? No one will stick his or her neck out but it does make me wonder how many straws in the wind it will take before the haystack of climate change will be obvious.