To most of us Mistletoe is the stuff you hang up at Christmas to be kissed under – or, on the other hand, very definitely not to be kissed under.! The origins of this strange custom are mostly lost in the mists of time, but it is generally agreed that Mistletoe has always been associated with good fortune and prosperity.
Mistletoe, unlike most of the plants we talk about, does not grow from the soil and does not have any true roots of it’s own. It is a total parasite and derives all of it’s sustenance from the tree on which it attaches itself to – which can have a very detrimental effect on it’s host, even to the point of killing the tree on which it is living. If you do decide to grow your own Mistletoe then be sure to thin it out regularly to avoid over infestation.
Mistletoe will grow best on apple trees, but it will also be happy on Oak, Maple and Poplar. The best time to sow the seeds is February or early March , but do not make the mistake of saving a few berries from your Yuletide sprigs and then using these to propagate with, for one thing you will probably not have enough seeds – Mistletoe is both male and female, so to ensure you get plenty of female plants, which are the ones that bear the berries, you need to sow thirty to forty seeds per tree. To acquire the seeds you will need to go to a specialist supplier. Can I suggest that you contact ‘TEME. Mistletoe House. 6 Mill Meadow. Tenbury Wells . WR15 8HX. ‘ These Mistletoe enthusiasts will, I’m sure, point you in the right direction.
The other reason not to use the left over seeds is that they may well have dried-out too much and not be very viable.
The old established way of sowing Mistletoe was to scrape a few berries into a cleft in the tree and hope for the best. Mistletoe takes ages to become established , therefore it is much better to choose some vigorous new wood to sow on :choose a branch about as thick as your middle and index finger put together . To get the seed ready for sowing press the berry gently until it pops and you can squeeze out the seed onto you finger; get about five or six seeds along your finger then smear them onto the chosen branch using the sticky goo from the berry as a glue to hold the seeds in place; repeat this process until you have all your seeds sown on the tree, and that is about it!
Mark the branches where you have sown the seeds with a label or some coloured wool so you don’t loose track of where the seeds are, and then wait until late Spring when the first signs of life will start to appear. In the first season all you will see is a tiny leaf clinging closely to the bark of the branch – it really is quite small. What the Mistletoe is doing is sending down it’s support system into the host tree so that it can firmly establish itself for the future.
Each year you will see the little shoot gain a bit more substance until about the forth year when it will suddenly burst forth with quite amazing vigour ! From that time onwards you should be able to harvest a good crop of this amazing plant each Yuletide.
And so – Let the Kissing Commence!