Funny, isn’t it, how some plants overwhelm you with their abundance of growth, while others are so slow they make you wonder whether they’re still alive.
My home-grown mistletoe is a case in point. Back in January, I gleefully ‘sowed’ lots of mistletoe berries all over my apple trees, squishing their disgusting slime into almost every crevice I could find.
It was not one of my most resounding successes, to put it mildly. However, one brave seedling has germinated and made it through its first summer. It has assumed the gargantuan dimensions of almost 5mm long – but, here’s the rub, it has formed its ‘haustorium’.
A haustorium, despite sounding like something the Romans might have built, is actually the mistletoe’s connection to the apple tree. As mistletoe is semi-parasitic, it takes some of its nutrients (and all of its water) from the host tree, penetrating its cell walls to steal what it needs. No need to bother with roots in the ground, with all the associated competition from weeds, and no slugs or rabbits to bother it. Clever eh?
No wonder mistletoe was seen as a magical plant by the ancient druids; its green leaves and pearly-white berries shining brightly all winter among the dead-looking brown twigs of other plants. Its use in their fertility rituals finds modern day echoes in our custom of kissing under the mistletoe.
The one berry that germinated for me was from some material I took from a local garden and sowed fresh, rather than the wizened berries that had been inside the house for a fortnight. So if you fancy having a go, keep a bit back from your decorations. Keep it outside to ripen to a nice pearly white (greenish berries are unripe) and sow in nooks and crannies in your apple or pear trees.
Good luck and happy Christmas!