Across the rec
Nature_Garden

 Nature Notes 

 Review of 2021  

 Robins 

 Meadow Maintenance 

 Sweet Chestnut 

 Ants 

 Butterflies 

 Pesticides 

 Stag Beetles 

 Hay Meadows 

 Goat Willow 

 Crows 

 Winter Trees 

 Ivy 

 Take it easy 

 Falling Leaves 

 Horse Chestnut 

 Bats 

 Pollinator Patch 

 Bird Song 

 Dandelions 

 Garden - May 

 Garden - Apr 

 Birch Trees 

 Rotting Wood 

 Starlings 

 Mistletoe 

 Bramble 

 Hedgehogs 

 Sowing Seeds 

Refresh page This page is regularly updated, please select here to view the latest version.

Mistletoe - Dec 2020

 

If you visit the Rec at this time of year, you can clearly see that the bare branches of a couple of the sycamore trees are festooned with large globes of greenery. It is mistletoe (Viscum Album), a plant very much associated with this festive time of year. Unlike the plants romantic associations, its common name has a very earthy derivation. Mistletoe comes from two Anglo Saxon words; ‘mistel’ which means dung and ‘tan’ which means twig, so its name roughly translates as ‘poo on a twig’. This originates from the observation that it’s birds that are responsible for spreading the seeds from tree to tree, although current thought is that it’s unlikely to be in their poo. Instead it seems to be as a result of the birds feasting on the fleshy white berries and afterwards cleaning their beaks on the bark of the tree, depositing the sticky seed in the process. One bird, the mistle thrush even gets its latin name Turdus Viscivorus from its association with the plant; the latter part meaning devourer of mistletoe. But it’s the increase in the number of overwintering Blackcaps, Sylvia Atricapilla, and their fondness for mistletoe berries that seem to be the main reason behind the recent spread in distribution of the plant.

 

Mistletoe is hemiparisitic. It sends out roots that penetrate into the host tree to draw out water and nutrients, but it is also able to photosynthesize to provide for some of it’s own requirements. It’s rarely solely responsible for killing a tree, but can be a contributory factor and if it occurs in significant quantities, it will weaken the tree and cause branches to break off.

 

Mistletoe features heavily in the folklore of many pre Christian societies such as in Norse tradition and that of the Romans and Celts. It was variously supposed to symbolise fertility, to ward off evil spirits and cure many ailments. For centuries mistletoe was known in folk medicine by the name of all-heal. As a consequence of mistletoe’s association with pagan beliefs and Winter Solstice rituals there is a suggestion that it was originally banned in churches. However, as with so many other pagan traditions, it has been absorbed into the Christian celebration of Christmas.

 

Every year in late November, the Worcestershire town of Tenbury Wells holds a mistletoe and holly auction, followed by a Mistletoe Festival in December. It has styled itself as the ‘Mistletoe Capital of England’. However back in 2002 when the conservation charity Plantlife asked the British public to choose a wild flower for their county, it was the adjoining county of Herefordshire that adopted the mistletoe.

 

As to where the tradition of kissing underneath the mistletoe originated, there are a number of theories, but whichever is true, the chance to steal a kiss under ‘the poo on a twig’ is now firmly embedded in our festive folklore.

 

 

 

 

facebook    twitter

Friends of Portswood Rec, Southampton, UK

 

 

 

 

show menu