Plant a Christmas kiss: Sow the seeds of love for 2022 and make a move on merry mistletoe
用 圣诞 just a week away, let’s abandon our gardens and decorate our homes with fresh picked evergreens. According to the carol, ‘holly bears the crown’. That’s a subtle reference to the crown of thorns.
但现在, we can enjoy those glossy leaves and berries which glow like embers. Blend holly sprigs with pine or blue spruce, add a tall red candle and there’s your festive table centre. Then there’s mistletoe with mean little leaves and glutinous white berries.
Whatever your views, mistletoe is extraordinary. This botanical cuckoo is a hemi-parasite, it takes CO2 from the air as a main food source. But other nutrients are filched from the host tree.
To distribute seeds, mistletoe relies on birds, especially mistle thrushes. After feeding on the berries, they wipe their sticky beaks on a branch, often leaving seeds in the viscous residue. Each seed develops a root-like growth called a haustorium which pierces the bark of the host tree.
The white stuff: Mistletoe produces pearly berries which are favourites with birds
RAISED ON THIN AIR
Among common host trees, mistletoe grows on apple, poplar, lime and hawthorn. So if you have any of those, you can grow it. Only female plants bear fruit. So if you want your mistletoe to have berries, increase your chances by raising several seedlings.
While germinating, each seedling must plug itself into the tree’s vascular system. But if you look into the sticky insides of mistletoe berries, you’ll notice the seeds are green. That enables them to capture CO2 even before germination.
Optimum seed-grafting time runs from February to late March. So if you want to sow berries from Christmas mistletoe, keep those cold but in natural light. 即使是这样, success is far less likely than with fresh berries, placed in late winter.
If you know where reachable wild mistletoe grows, or anyone who has it in their gardens, gather seed in February.
更好的是, order seeds from a professional supplier. Jonathan Briggs, a mistletoe expert is a fount of guidance as well as seed sources, visit his website Mistletoe Pages, mistletoe.org.uk.
When placing mistletoe seeds, don’t cut into the tree. Imitate a bird, wiping each sticky seed onto the young bark. Each will stay put during germination. Development is slow, even when the seedling has tapped into the tree. So the first berries won’t appear for several years.
If your host tree is healthy, a few mistletoe plants won’t cause harm. If the tree died, so would the hemi-parasite. So it’s in the mistletoe’s interest not to kill its host. Heavy infestations, 虽然, can weaken a small or medium tree.
As children my friends and I risked life, limb and landowners’ shotguns when scrumping mistletoe. As adults, we pay iniquitous prices for those bilious green stalks and sparse leaves. As for the sticky white berries frankly, they’re rather disgusting.
So why do we hang the stuff up at Christmas? The tradition is rooted in Norse mythology. Baldur, son of chief god Odin was killed by spiteful god Hod who hurled mistletoe at him.
幸运的是, Baldur’s mum, the goddess Frigg managed to resurrect the lad using, 是, mistletoe. She then declared mistletoe to be the symbol of love and fertility. So have a lovely Christmas, but please don’t hurl mistletoe at the in-laws.