It was a few years ago when this particular time of year gave me an idea on attempting to grow a particular plant! Seeing bunches of Mistletoe (Viscum album) in various shops and market stalls I got to thinking on how to go about growing your own and what is involved in this. I did have some idea that Apple trees can be a host and also that it is like a type of parasitic plant but other than that I had absolutely no idea on how to go about attempting to grow it. So I did what most people do these days to suss out a bit of information and that was to look it up on the internet.

Well it turned out that the seeds had to be fairly fresh and they had to be pressed on to a host tree. The seeds themselves, once separated from the berry, are covered in a thick slimy gel type of substance and the reasoning behind this is that in the wild, birds would eat the berries and then wipe their beaks on a branch. The sticky substance ensures the seeds stay put until germination takes place after which 2 green shoots, which to me have the appearance of some alien like probe, work their way out of the seed, bend around digging in to the bark of the host tree, thereby setting off the parasitic requirements required to flourish as a plant.


This is pretty much how it stays for almost the first year, I kept checking on it for growth and suspecting it was perhaps dying off but the shoots remained green. After a period of months, there was a green sprout which unfolded 2 leaves on each seed, again this was a very slow process and was pretty much all that happened in the 2nd year. They do speed up a little, the second photo shows how they are currently this year the amount of shoots are now expanding and the amount of leaves growing in number so that it is now starting to resemble a bunch of mistletoe, but will it have berries? I am told it needs to be a female plant for that to happen and early on there is no way of telling, so fingers pretty much crossed on that subject.

Also it needs to be said that as mentioned before this is a parasitic plant so some people may not be very keen on unleashing it on to a branch of their favourite apple tree, I don’t think it will kill it as that would be defeating the object of living together in harmony! But it is said to weaken the tree, then again there should be plenty of people, friends or family willing to be recipients of bunches at Christmas time which in turn reduces the load on the host, it is after all the amount and size of the bunches that would affect the growth of a host tree.


Lastly, the obligatory warning that the seeds & leaves can be poisonous! So be careful when handling and don’t leave any lying around where children and pets play. Having said that, to me this was a fascinating thing to try and grow and to observe still growing now, taking almost no effort and what is more no compost, propagator or heat required! How many seeds can you say that about!


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