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What we never knew about mistletoe – and what we got wrong

Mistletoe growing on a cotoneaster
Mistletoe, Viscum album, growing on a cotoneaster in Northamptonshire

I’ve written a piece about mistletoe for the December issue of the Royal Horticultural Society membership magazine The Garden and also talked about it on the award winning Gardening With The RHS podcast (December 16 edition).

I dug up all sorts of interesting material and I must give due credit to a report developed by Plantlife, the wild plant conservation charity, and the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland, published in 1999. Called Kissing Goodbye To Mistletoe, it reveals how and where mistletoe spreads, which hosts it prefers and so so much more – including why our plastic mistletoe is entirely wrong (because the design of the plastic mistletoe sold in Britain is based on American mistletoe which is a different plant).

The mistletoe in the picture is growing on a mature cotoneaster, just a few minutes walk from my front door in Northamptonshire. Sadly, it has since been “harvested”.

But the research continues. Anyone in Britain an Ireland can contribute to the continuing scientific study of mistletoe, its distribution and its hosts. Just head over to to check out the results of past surveys, and to review current surveys in which you can participate.

And at the Mistletoe Directory you’ll find links to a vast wealth of other information about mistletoe.

Finally, if you’d like to see some myths debunked, check out this spikey riposte to a piece that Monty Don wrote in the Daily Mail a few years ago.