Mistletoe

What would Christmas be without mistletoe?

There is only one species of mistletoe native to Britain, Viscum album, but there is none growing in the reserve. We would love to see it established here but we are not sure how we would go about it.

Mistletoe is a hemiparasite which attaches to a tree with suckers and roots. It absorbs water and nutrients from its host plant but it also produces some of its own food via photosynthesis in its green leaves. Viscum album successfully parasitises more than 200 species of tree and shrub.

Mistletoe seeds are spread by birds. Depending on the species of bird, the seeds are regurgitated from the crop, excreted in droppings, or wiped from the beak onto a branch. The seeds are coated with a very sticky material called viscin; when the viscin touches a stem, it sticks tenaciously. It soon hardens and attaches the seed firmly to its future host, where it germinates and its roots penetrate the bark.

Let’s hope a bird somewhere in Southwick is feasting on Christmas mistletoe berries and will bring the seeds to the reserve.

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