December 7, 2010

Mistletoe Could Vanish In The Next 20 Years

Conservationists said that mistletoe could vanish from British halls and doorways within the next 20 years. 

The National Trust fears that the decline of traditional apple orchards, where mistletoe thrives, may lead to the parasitic plants disappearing.

The trust is leading a campaign to prompt orchard owners and gardeners to think about nurturing the plant and wants household owners to ensure they buy sustainably sourced mistletoe.

It said that in the cider heartland traditional orchards have declined dramatically in the past 60 years.  Many that survive are not tended, hastening the death of the trees and then the plant.

Jonathan Briggs, an environmental consultant and a leading mistletoe expert, told The Guardian: "Mistletoe is doing well right now. Those older orchards are probably yielding more mistletoe than they used to because it's not being controlled."

"But because the mistletoe is not being controlled, fast forward 10 or 20 years and the orchards won't be there. The mistletoe will accelerate the trees' deaths and it seems inevitable that we will have a shortage of mistletoe in 10 or 20 years."

Briggs said mistletoe would migrate to bigger trees and become harder to reach.  He said that this could turn into a much more expensive product or prompt people to rely on cheaper foreign imports.

"A Christmas kiss could become more expensive," he told The Guardian.

Peter Brash, an ecologist at the National Trust, also told The Guardian that it would be a "sad loss" if mistletoe declined or became harder to buy. "Mistletoe is part of our Christmas heritage and has a special place in a wonderful winter landscape," he said.

Brash said people should check where their mistletoe came from. "Ensuring your mistletoe comes from a sustainably managed, British source is good news all round. You will be supporting a small, homegrown industry, while helping to ensure a future for mistletoe and the creatures that are dependent upon it."

Mistletoe provides winter food for birds like blackcap and mistle thrush.  The plant also supports six insects, including the rate mistletoe marble moth, some sap-sucking bugs and the affectionately named "kiss-me-slow weevil."


On the Net: