Jonathan's Mistletoe Diary

March 14, 2017

Mistletoe season almost, but not quite, over

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe,Orchard — Jonathan Briggs @ 5:01 pm

Spring is just about here, which means it’s almost the end of mistletoe berrying – cutting berries for propagation projects and for the mistletoe grow-kit business – for this season.  Which is always something of a relief, after 6 months of life dominated by mistletoe queries, projects and talking, cutting, gathering, planting etc.  Though I expect, after many years experience, that this will, as usual, make for a disconcertingly directionless few weeks at the start of April.

But for the next 2 weeks the season goes on mainly, at this late stage, simply servicing the grow-kit demand, cutting berries to send out to wannabe mistletoe growers around the country. I say cutting, not picking, as we find that picked berries become, through being picked, damaged, with broken skin and oozing berry contents. And those deteriorate quickly, as well as just becoming a glutinous mess if posted en masse. So every berry is actually cut, using those tiny scissors made for florists, to retain a little bit of stalk, thereby keeping the berry intact.

This is done with bunches of mistletoe cut from the tree, so it can be done in relative comfort indoors.  But it does create an interesting new ‘leaning forward’ neck-ache, to add to the ‘craning-upwards’ neck-ache already prevalent after spending hours staring upwards and stretching to cut the mistletoe from the tree with an extending pruning pole.

The seeds in the berries are, by now, itching to germinate, with the hypocotyl primordia showing as a small but prominent bulge on the seed.  Within a few weeks any not planted will simply germinate within the berry, still on the parent plant – in a defiant final , but in their case pointless, effort to survive. By May any berries left on the parent will contain these tragic might-have-been mistletoes, their hypocotyls hopelessly extended and seeking a host branch yet doomed through being stuck, literally, within their own berry.

But this isn’t the fate of the seeds from the berries in the grow-kits – they’re the lucky ones, being sent out to be formally introduced to their new hosts…

Want to try it yourself?
Mistletoe grow-kits are available from the English Mistletoe Shop websites here: http://englishmistletoeshop.co.uk/live/ and here: http://growmistletoe.co.uk/index.html

 

December 20, 2016

Mistletoe on the radio

Filed under: Current Affairs,Media,Mistletoe,Orchard,social history — Jonathan Briggs @ 7:06 pm

Some interesting (well I think so) mistletoe coverage here and there on the radio recently – including more local radio interviews for me (today I did BBC Radio Suffolk again, for the second time this season, and Suffolk has hardly any mistletoe) and a slot on BYU Radio, a talk radio station based at Brigham Young University, Utah but broadcasting widely via satellite and the web.

The BYU interview was unusual – not simply because it was a US-based station – but because the station is so scholarly and particularly as the interview was in Julie Rose’s 2-hour long Top of Mind show which features ‘Smart, informative conversations and interviews that go beyond mere headlines and sound bites’.  Nothing as trivial as a two minute chat on a BBC local radio breakfast show – instead it is structured as extended one-to-one conversations with a guest on topical matters.

Yesterday’s edition of Top of Mind featured Is Trump Risking War with China?, The Future of US-Russia Relations, The Nativity is a Refugee Story, “Rogue One” Review, and Britain’s Rip-Roaring Holiday Theater Tradition. Plus, sandwiched between US-Russian Relations and the Nativity as a Refugee Story, Why Mistletoe Matters, featuring yours truly.

A slightly challenging interview, as I felt I should try to bring in US mistletoes as much as I could, but also to champion European mistletoe – which is, as regular blog readers well know, the real mistletoe of mid-winter tradition. The others, though fascinating, have been conscripted into a Christmas-tide role that doesn’t quite suit them. And I felt that though the issues of England’s declining apple orchards might seem a little irrelevant to an international audience, I had to mention them anyway.  Overall I think it all hung together fairly well considering.

You can listen for yourself via this link:

http://www.byuradio.org/episode/40a9939d-028d-4ccd-8f11-c8fe10d61959/top-of-mind-with-julie-rose-one-china-us-russia-relations-mistletoe-s-secrets-nativity-story-refuge?playhead=2163&autoplay=true

Note that this will start you at the mistletoe section, missing out the Trump/China and US-Russian Relations interviews. If you want to hear the whole show from the start, follow this link:

http://www.byuradio.org/episode/40a9939d-028d-4ccd-8f11-c8fe10d61959/top-of-mind-with-julie-rose-one-china-us-russia-relations-mistletoe-s-secrets-nativity-story-refuge

It’s all worth listening to, especially if you’re a fan of informed discussion on proper talk radio but are UK-based and usually rely entirely on BBC Radio 4.

NB I know I said I’d be covering immigrant Blackcap birds and their mistletoe-berry-habits in the next blog. But I’m leaving those until next time, again…

December 13, 2016

Mistletoe media 2016, so far…

Filed under: Biodiversity,Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe,Science,social history — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:40 am
morrisons2

Morrisons mistletoe promo – I haven’t noticed the ‘mwah-issons’ catch-phrase this year, maybe they’ve dropped it.

A quiet season so far, with Morrisons, giving out mistletoe in their supermarkets again, decisively in the lead (nothing to do with me – I helped their media campaign in 2015 but haven’t been asked back!).  Their campaign was trending all over the place yesterday – getting promoted in lots of local newspapers across the UK, plus a few national (e.g. the Mirror) and going viral on bargain-hunting websites, including Martin Lewis’ MoneySaving Expert and on HotUKDeals.  Those have a lot of followers.  But their angle is about getting free mistletoe, whereas Morrisons, by giving it out free, claim their story is about continuing the kissing tradition (they commissioned a survey last year that said only 14% of people kissed under mistletoe, and 71% under 35 never had). 

morrisons1

Another Morrisons promo pic – but do they they provide this service in all their cafes?

Morrisons story is of course also, and very much so, about getting people into their shops – so going viral online suggests significant success.

Part of the Morrisons story, as reported in the papers, is that mistletoe is very expensive this season, due to the ‘mild winter’ last year reducing the amount available.  This is, of course, rubbish.  There’s plenty of mistletoe about, with lots of berries, but the high prices at the first of the Tenbury Wells mistletoe auctions this year caught media attention, so an explanation was invented (I’m not sure by whom but I have my suspicions!) and the story has stuck.

markadamstelegraphOther mistletoe media in Britain has included the usual ‘man up a ladder’ pic in the Daily Telegraph (this year featuring Mark Adams) way back on 22nd November.  If you can read the caption (sorry, only have a low-res version) on the pic you’ll notice Mark is saying the mild spring means this could be one of the best crops ever. Compare that to the current round of nonsensical ‘mistletoe shortage due a mild winter’ mentioned above.

stunningsun1

‘Mistletoe is traditional’ says the Sun – but their picture isn’t traditional mistletoe… 

Talking of inaccuracy, what’s the Sun’s coverage been like? Well, they’ve run a big feature about mistletoe traditions, a little light-weight but in keeping with the paper, and illustrated with a big pic of berryless US mistletoe,  – without noticing that it’s not the right species and without the crucial white berries – and so missing the point entirely (ironic, as their picture caption says ‘Mistletoe is Traditional’).

The Sun, and others, have also run a story about Poundland stores selling a Christmas decoration mis-spelling mistletoe as misteltoe.  This spelling error was spotted by 6 year-old Maisie from Norfolk, not by Sun reporters.

Much more accurately, in the Times, Matthew Oates has covered mistletoe in the Nature Notebook column, referring to the abundant crop this year and discussing its interesting bird and insect associations.  I’m mentioned too, but somewhat bizarrely described as being responsible for the abundance because I’ve ‘inspired recording effort’ (i.e. promoted the spotting and recording of mistletoe for ecological databases). I assume something got lost in a sub-edit – as recording effort doesn’t make abundance, it merely records it.  And, if I was to be really pedantic, I would point out there has been no major recording effort for mistletoe since the 1990s, twenty years ago. That was certainly championed by me, but it was some time ago!

Meanwhile, across the pond, there is the usual rash of lightweight and trivial mistletoe stories.  The only one I’ll mention here is the announcment that, not surprisingly, Six Flags did establish a new mistletoe kissing record. Read all about on Fox News.

(So far this season I’ve heard no reports of mistletoe being hung on tube trains – so awkward for commuters last year…)

 

gyoMore Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

 

 

December 10, 2016

Growing Your Own – not yet… later!

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe,Science — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:25 pm

 

2yearIt’s that time of year again. When people (and the media, today it was BBC Suffolk’s turn) ask, how do I grow mistletoe? And expect to be told ‘how to do’ details now, at Christmas-time, as that’s when they have mistletoe.

But no, now is not the time for planting.  Planting time is a couple of months away – in February, March or even April.  When most people don’t have any mistletoe…

Now is also the time when enquiries come in from people who have started growing mistletoe and now, 10 months later, are worried the tiny growths they have are too small. But no again, tiny is exactly correct for the first 12-24 months.

germinationSo, with these enquiries in mind, and at risk of telling regular Mistletoe Diary readers stuff they’ve heard before, here’s a summary of how to grow it and what to expect in the first few years…

Firstly, as always, ignore the advice in most gardening books and from most garden ‘experts’ to cut a nick in host bark and place seeds under this or under tape.  It’s unnecessary, counter-productive and kills most of the seeds. It’s also, probably, why most of that advice is usually accompanied by a comment that the seeds rarely grow. Of course they rarely grow if you cut the bark or hide the seeds – you’re killing them

squeezeThe way to grow mistletoe successfully is to mimic bird sowings – the seeds, covered with sticky mucilage from the berry, are adapted to stick to the outside of the host bark, exactly as they would be if wiped or excreted by a bird.

And they are photosynthetic – they need light to survive – so they must be on the outside of the bark.

sowAnd er, basically, that’s it; stick the seeds, using their own glue, to the host bark.  And wait…

It’s slightly more complex than that of course – you need to choose the right sort of host and the right size of branch with, ideally, relatively thin but intact bark. But basically you just glue the seed on.  And in the right season – February to early April.

And, as above, wait…  For some time.  Germination itself, in February and March, is fairly fast, with the seed sending out one, two or even three tiny green shoots (many seeds have tripletsmultiple embryos and so give rise to twin or triplet plants).  These shoots bend round to meet the bark within a few weeks and then –  nothing seems to happen for about 12 months.  Sometimes longer.

But things are happening out of sight – the shoot has penetrated shallowly, just as far as the host cambial (growth) cells, and is busy establishing connections for water supply and persuading the cambial cells that it, the mistletoe, is a legitimate part of the tree. This takes some time.

twinsSo, after 12 months your mistletoe shoot may look just the same as it did at 3 months.  But, as long as it is still green it is doing ok.  You just have to be patient. Even when it does start to grow a little, in year 2 or 3, it may only produce a couple of leaves. But once it is really established every shoot will divide into two every year, and growth will soon seem very rapid.

gyoThere’s more advice on the Mistletoe Pages here – and, if you want more help or just don’t think you can get mistletoe in the spring, you can try using one of the Mistletoe Grow-Kits from the English Mistletoe Shop – available from the main site here, or our special grow mistletoe shop here.

And, if you want to give a kit at Christmas you could give one of the Grow-Kit Gift Cards – made for you to give at Christmas and for the recipient to redeem, for a Grow-Kit, in spring.  Full details of all these are on the main shop page here, or the grow mistletoe shop page here.

December 9, 2016

World records for Mistletoe Kisses – whose methodology?

Filed under: Media,Mistletoe,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:13 am

Last year I reported (briefly) that Six Flags Over Georgia, a theme park near Atlanta, Georgia, had just set a new World record for kissing under mistletoe  – with their record officially recognised by Guinness Book of Records.  The record involved 201 couples simultaneously kissing under mistletoe.  Each couple had their own mistletoe spring (provided by the organisers – and the American Phoradendron mistletoe, not the classic Viscum of Europe) and had to kiss, on cue, for at least 10 seconds. Here’s the promo video from last year:

It seemed a suitably novel way to promote and re-invigorate the mistletoe kissing tradition.  Though sponsorship by DenTek, who provided “minty Comfort Clean Floss Picks with fluoride” to ensure “fresh breath for the kiss” made it seem a little less romantic.

This season they’re trying again, but involving several other Six Flags Parks in other states, including Missouri, Texas and California as well as Georgia. The event will be similar, simultaneous kissing under individual sprigs, and will be synchronised over three time zones.  Kissing is due to happen tomorrow, 10th December, at 5.15pm EST.  Details, if you’re interested in more info or want to take part (you’ll need to register first), are here:

But there is a rival – last Saturday, 3rd December, back home in Britain’s Mistletoe Capital, Tenbury Wells, another mistletoe kissing record was attempted. This one, part of the Tenbury Mistletoe Festival celebrations, was completely different to the Six Flags events. Instead of simultaneous kissing under individual sprigs the Tenbury record attempt involved one large ball of mistletoe and a five-hour kiss-athon, requiring new one kiss  every 40 seconds from 11am to 4pm.

How does this record attempt relate to the Six Flags one?  It seems to bear little resemblance in methodology so is it actually comparable? And what was the result last Saturday?

The Guinness Book of Records official summary, for mistletoe records, is fairly minimal. It lists three potential mistletoe records:

  • largest bunch of mistletoe
  • most couples kissing under mistletoe (single venue) and
  • most couples kissing under mistletoe (multiple venues)

Of these three the first and last have no record-holder at all (there’s an opp there for some of those big mistletoe bunches in tall trees around here!) and the second one is, not surprisingly, held by Six Flags Over Georgia in 2015.

So this year’s Six Flags events are probably aimed at setting a new multi-venue record (easy to achieve as there’s no current record holder) and also, I guess, at improving the single venue one too.  But the Guinness description is vague – no mention that it has to be simultaneous or individual sprigs per couple, so the Tenbury Wells attempt, despite a completely different measurement system, must be a valid competitor despite differing systems.

So what happened last Saturday in Tenbury Wells?  How many people kissed under the mistletoe? I didn’t (sorry!) because I couldn’t be there and so have no first hand knowledge. And I have not yet read any feedback. The Tenbury Mistletoe Association’s facebook page reports, at 14.50 on the day, that more people are needed and, at 15.15, that the older generation seem more willing.

But what was the result….?  The Ludlow Advertiser have a report on the Festival on their website here, but are coy about the record attempt result.

Update: just spotted the Shropshire Star’s account of the Tenbury record attempt, which confirms the record was not broken at Tenbury…  but they had fun trying!

 

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

 

November 30, 2016

Frosty mistletoe auction

Filed under: Current Affairs,Media,Mistletoe,Orchard,social history — Jonathan Briggs @ 12:34 pm

img_2396redLast Tuesday in November = first mistletoe auction of the season at Tenbury Wells.

A satisfyingly frosty day, with the mistletoe bundles glistening with hoarfrost in the sun.  And excellent stock – green-leaved and fully-berried (compare this time last year when the foliage  seemed  little yellow and the berries a little under-sized).

But what’s this? Not a lot of lots? There seemed to be significantly fewer piles of mistletoe than normal.

Nevertheless, and as usual, once the auction got to the mistletoe (it starts with trees and holly) there were crowds of buyers, hangers-on (incl me) and media people, so a minor shortage didn’t seem to matter. Indeed it seemed to boost prices, with most of the good mistletoe wraps (lots) going for £30 or more, which is double what they were getting last year.

img_2407redDoes that mean mistletoe will be expensive this year, or is it merely a reflection on the limited lots available today?  I suspect the latter – as I was assuming the good condition and well-berried nature of the harvest this year would depress prices, not push them up.

We shall see whether there’s a trend, or not, next week when the second auction takes place. That might be flooded with lots brought in by orchard-owners who’ve heard about Tuesday’s prices. A scenario which would, of course, lower prices…

Media interest yesterday included PA, local BBC TV news and BBC Radio Herefordshire & Worcester (mistletoe was a main theme in their drive-time show yesterday afternoon).

Buyers and sellers included the usual suspects – people, like me, who turn up every year, local sellers but buyers from much further afield – one van was a horse box from Connemara, and another was from Fife – both areas with very little (probably none) mistletoe.

Next auctions at Tenbury will be on 6th and 13th December.  Some more pics of the first auction below:

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More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

 

 

November 27, 2016

Urban mistletoe – normal or abnormal?

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe,Orchard,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 6:59 pm
urban2

The BBC R Glos Mistletoe Hunt – on a maple tree round the back of the Shirehall (Google Streetvew pic)

 

Last week I joined a brief, early morning, urban mistletoe hunt with BBC Radio Gloucestershire. They had spotted mistletoe on trees in central Gloucester and wanted to discuss whether this was unusual.  The short answer to that is, no, not at all unusual here in Gloucestershire where mistletoe is common, but both yes and no elsewhere in the UK.  It all depends on where you are.

[The hunt was broadcast during Mark Cummings’ show on 23rd November. You can hear the whole programme on iPlayer here – but only for a few weeks and anyway the mistletoe is scattered throughout the programme. A bootleg edit, with just the the mistletoe-laden bits, can be heard here]

urban3

BBC R Glos Mistletoe Hunt – trees with mistletoe in Brunswick Square (Google Streetview pic)

 

The first thing to understand about mistletoe in urban locations is that, in theory at least, trees in urban areas are ideal for it. You might think, like the BBC Glos reporters did initially, that mistletoe is a plant of the wider and natural countryside. But, actually, mistletoe’s need is for isolated trees – trees well-spaced away from others.  Natural woods may have a lot of trees, but those trees are close together – so woodland trees are not good mistletoe hosts.  The trees of man-made habitats – orchards, hedgerows, roadsides are much better for mistletoe as they are set apart.  And, therefore, trees in the urban environment – street and garden trees – are ideal for it.  It should not be unusual.

Nevertheless most people seem to think it is unusual in towns – possibly for one or both of two reasons.  One being that mistletoe is generally only found in quantity in the south-west midlands, so is not common enough to spot – in urban or rural environments – across most of the UK.  The other reason is observation – people don’t look up enough! In the wider countryside you can spot mistletoe from miles away – with the distinctive aerial growths showing up in tall trees across the landscape.  In towns the landscape is much closer, hemmed in by buildings, so you don’t get that wide view that will show mistletoe a long way off.  You may only be able to see it when close to it, and then only by physically looking straight up!

urban5

Cheltenham’s street trees have lots of mistletoe – obvious even in summer (Google Streetview pic)

 

Here in the Severn Vale of Gloucestershire mistletoe is common everywhere – rural or urban – and very obvious in both Gloucester and Cheltenham. Especially in Cheltenham, where there are huge amounts in many of the street trees. Probably too much actually – but that’s a story for another time.

Outside of the vale, but still in mistletoe country, there are many other mistletoe towns; one particularly favorite of mine is Malvern, where there are scattered colonies throughout. Much further afield there are thriving colonies in and around Richmond (SW London), Cambridge, parts of Oxford, and even small areas of Edinburgh (and even Dublin!) well outside mistletoe’s natural range.  Urban mistletoe thrives – and urban gardens could even become, as rural orchards decline, the primary habitat for mistletoe in Britain.


growkitmontage1If you want to try getting it growing in your garden try a Mistletoe Grow-Kit from the English Mistletoe Shop

More mistletoey links:

A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

November 15, 2016

Mistletoe in The Quercy Local

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistle Thrush,Mistletoe,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:37 pm

The French have a lot more mistletoe than we do here in Britain – their climate is better suited to it, and it is a common sight in many regions (though also, as in Britain, utterly absent from some parts).  That abundance doesn’t lessen its mysteriousness though – there are many French traditions and customs relating to le Gui. It was once (and possibly still is) especially valued as a un Porte-Bonheur, a Good Luck Charm.

But our kissing tradition, traditionally a feature of English-speaking countries, is widespread in France too these days, possibly masking some of their other traditions.  It all gets a bit confusing.

quercylocalNow that we Brits, at least à ce moment (Brexit clouds the future a little), have a tendency to go and live in France, there are, here and there, some English-language magazines.  One of which is The Quercy Local , which covers the ‘Quercy’ region of SW France (parts of the Lot, Lot et Garonne, Tarn et Garonne and Dordogne departments).

Their Winter Issue for 2016/17 has mistletoe on the cover and includes a rather good mistletoe feature, by editor Anna Atkinson, plus an article on mistletoe’s specialist berry-eating birds, the Mistle Thrush and the Blackcap, by Martin George.

And, in their ‘Seasonal Romantic Gifts’ section, they feature my Mistletoe Book – and Grow-Kits – both available from, as always, the English Mistletoe Shop.  Thanks, Quercy Local!

Interested in leafing through it (there’s a lot more than just mistletoe, and much inspiration if you’re a Francophile)?  You can read it online here.

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More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

September 30, 2016

Mistletoe Season looms…

Filed under: Current Affairs,Media,Mistletoe,Religion,Science,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 11:18 am

kissmenowToo early for mistletoe? Maybe.

But it’s never off the agenda here at Mistletoe Matters, and we’re already fielding all sorts of enquiries from the press, public etc. So here are a few updates, as they seem to be needed:

– It’s too early to say how good a year it is for mistletoe – there are quite a lot of berries, but they are still unripe and it is impossible to say how big they’ll get or exactly when they’ll turn white this season. There’ll be more info in a few weeks time.

– Mistletoe Auctions in Tenbury will again be at Burford House Garden Stores.  Dates are Tuesday 29th November, Tuesday 6th December and Tuesday 13th December. Further info, including links to buyers and sellers registration documents, are available from Nick Champion.

– Mistletoe websites- all our websites are due some updating – more on that when it’s done!  All are available via www.mistletoe.org.uk

– Druid mistletoe events this season include the public event at Tenbury Wells, which will be at 3pm on Saturday 3rd December at the Burgage. More details later. Though it’s worth noting that you can follow that up with an evening with Damh the Bard at the Fountain Inn, Tenbury. Tickets for Damh are available here.

druidbeer – Tenbury Mistletoe Festival – I’m no longer involved so don’t know what’s planned but you will find info on their website soon (currently still showing 2015 details)

– Mistletoe Surveys – all ongoing, particularly the management surveys. Details of those are on our survey website.

– Mistletoe Matters consultancy is open for advice, talks, media assistance etc – details of that here.

– And last but not least the English Mistletoe Shop (not be confused with similarly-named traders!) is open for grow-kit and book orders – details of all on the shop website.

That’s all for now…  more soon!

 

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

December 20, 2015

Watch it! In Datchet. An unscheduled mistletoe road trip

Filed under: Biodiversity,Current Affairs,Media,Mistletoe — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:10 pm
Mistletoe-free, despite best-laid plans

Mistletoe-free breakfast tv sofa, despite best-laid plans

Mistletoe was due to be featured, live, on Sky News’ Sunrise show this morning. But David Cameron’s announcement about police and guns changed their schedules, and so the mistletoe got dropped. Which was a tad annoying, as Dave’s announcement wasn’t exactly exciting and could (surely) have waited until Monday (should I write to Dave to complain?). Whereas I had travelled over to Isleworth (in west London, where the Sky studios are) the night before, ready to take my place on the breakfast sofa brandishing mistletoe. On my very very best behaviour and remembering my lines. All arranged as a final flourish of Morrisons mistletoe promotion of last week.

I was all wound up, ready for action. And, having pulled a muscle in my back, which makes me yelp when sitting down or standing up, I’d even been practising a yelp-free stand-up routine (geddit?) in the mirror in my hotel room, just in case I had to sit or stand live on the telly.

And then I get the call, at 0810; it’s all off. What’s a mistletoe man to do in such circumstances? Dash straight home along the M4? Or make the most of it, regaining some mistletoe focus? I decided to do the latter, and with all the leaves off the host trees now, decide to make it a mistletoe-spotting road trip…

london20thdec2015

A rough plot of the mistletoe road trip. Ignore the lettered way-marks, adding those was the only way to get the plot to work reasonably well on the RAC website! The only big error in this plot is that it says I went (centre of map) via Abingdon, but I really went via Wantage – which is a much straighter route.

Mistletoe is, as I’m sure you know, a western species in Britain, so there isn’t much in the London area. But just upstream from Isleworth there is the biggest mistletoe population you’ll find in greater London, all centred in the Hampton Court and Bushy Park areas. I could have gone to admire that, but I’ve seen it all before. So I thought I’d explore a little further upstream, as there is, on the Thames corridor here, quite a lot more mistletoe in scattered colonies, and it would be interesting to do a drive-by of some of these. So I headed west, on the A4, past Heathrow (with a quick pilgrimage drive through Sipson, the village being bought by BAA), to pick up the Thames again, via more minor roads, at Windsor, where there is plenty of mistletoe locally.

datchetMistletoe-spotting by car is hazardous, especially the unexpected sightings, and my first sightings, well before Windsor near Datchet were a bit of a shock. I didn’t know there were lots of mistletoe-bearing trees on the north bank of the Queen Mother Reservoir. But there are, right alongside the road and continuing into Datchet itself. A continuum of the mistletoe around Windsor, the next town along. The riverside and parkland trees in Windsor had, as expected, lots of mistletoe.  (By the way I took no pictures today, it’s difficult enough spotting and logging mistletoe whilst driving, photos would be a hazard too many, so I’m illustrating this blog with maps).

Heading west from Windsor towards Maidenhead I passed signs to Ascot and Bracknell, other places with mistletoe population outposts, but my road was due west, following (roughly) the Thames, so I ignored the temptation to stray. All these outpost populations have existed for ages – and seem natural. But they are quite likely to be the result of long-forgotten organised plantings, the main clue being that most are in historic formal parkland. And they seem to thrive best along the river corridor (or is that most of the parkland is in the river corridor?).

En route to Maidenhead I spot mistletoe in several places, including near Dorney (where the olympic rowing lakes are) and, on the edge of town, around the M4 link roundabout. Not huge populations like the Datchet/Windsor ones, but locally impressive.

From Maidenhead I head up-river to Cookham, and find some small colonies on the common near the Crown Inn, before crossing the river to Bourne End where there is more scattered here and there, again near the river but seeming to be petering out. Have I come to the end of the mistletoe?

henleyOnwards to Marlow, where I nearly decide to cut and run and return along the M40, but I go right round the A404 roundabout twice and head into town, to be instantly rewarded with mistletoe in the grounds of a school on the north side of the A4155. Plus, after driving a little randomly round the suburbs, quite a few sightings in gardens.

Thence to Henley, following the river quite closely from Mill End, where mistletoe is frequent from Henley Business School’s grounds through to Fawley Court (including a lime avenue with lots of mistletoe). Even beyond this area there were small growths in isolated trees, suggesting active spread…

On towards Wallingford, with surprise, surprise, lots of it in trees and parkland extending up the hill out of Henley, away from the river and a higher altitude, which should, on this side of the country, make mistletoe less likely.  Not much in Wallingford itself though, but a few scattered sightings, including in Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, on the way to Didcot.

Little or no mistletoe by now, but this is compensated for by frequent sightings of Red Kites, often in groups, prospecting near the road for carrion, presumably roadkill. There are so many of these magnificent and distinctive birds on this section of the route that I find myself querying my bird recognition skills. But every time I check I confirm that yes that is a Red Kite, and so is that and that. Spotting Red Kites whilst driving is, by the way, a far more dangerous occupation than spotting mistletoe.

At Didcot there are still lots of Kites, some seeming quite at home in suburbia, a real change from their one-time status as endangered.

Then it’s on to Wantage and Faringdon, eventually getting back to the Thames at Lechlade. No obvious mistletoe in any of these places, and none beyond here either, in Fairford or Cirencester. Thames Head is near Cirencester, so this is the watershed between Thames and Severn. All downhill now to home territory in Stroud on the edge of the Severn Vale.

As I come off Rodborough Common, descending into Stroud on Walkley Hill, the mistletoe starts again, by Rodborough Church. This is proper mistletoe country now – and there’s loads of it round here.

Including a few large sprigs of it that are still on the back-seat of the car, having travelled from here to London and back, hoping for a brief moment on TV. I do hope those sprigs enjoyed the journey, especially the mistletoe-themed return road trip.

(Incidentally, that return journey was almost exactly the same mileage (105 ish)as the outward trip yesterday via Swindon and the M4. Today’s route had a lot of little wiggles, but overall was a more direct line, which compensated almost exactly. Took a lot longer though – much slower roads and frequent stops to make notes)

 

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Coming soon, from Mistletoe Diary:

Mistletoe Surveys

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More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

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