Mistletoe Viscum album

From kissing traditions at Christmas to ancient fertility rites, mistletoe has long been regarded as a magical plant.

It is often associated with the ancient Druids, whose reverence of the plant during the winter solstice was described by Pliny and Caesar. Perhaps it was the sight of its pearly white berries growing apparently rootless, high above the ground, in the largely dead months of winter. Like holly and ivy - also revered - mistletoe appears to be in its prime when other wild flowers have gone.

Mistletoe colonies are vital for six species of insect that live nowhere else. It is the County flower of Herefordshire and is often harvested as a winter crop from their cider and perry orchards.

Distribution

Found across the UK, however its heartland is in the English / Welsh border counties and Somerset. Despite this, all is not well. The loss of traditional apple orchards has hit mistletoe hard and the work of birds such as the Mistle Thrush in smearing seeds on new branches may not be enough to counteract this decline.

Habitat

Orchard trees and others, especially lime and poplar.

Best time to see

February to April when it flowers or winter when its berries appear.

More plants with a magical reputation: