Environment

The Marky Advent – Day 21

You might remember that on Saturday, on radio, I mentioned about mistletoe still being under threat (unless you didn´t listen, in which case you wouldn´t remember but trust me, I did). Well, just to prove it, I thought I would share a story from the BBC this week.

The future of English mistletoe is still at risk because of disappearing orchards, experts have warned.

A national campaign began in 2009 to try to preserve the traditional Christmas shrub.

But there are fears it could disappear from woodland within 20 years as traditional orchards decline.

Most of the mistletoe bought in Britain comes from traditional cider-producing orchards in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.

But wildlife experts say mistletoe management and harvesting techniques are being lost.

Christmas kisses

The Sussex Wildlife Trust warned that if the loss continued, there could be a threat to species linked to orchards such as bees, butterflies, moths and dead wood invertebrates.

The decline in orchards may also lead to people having to rely on more expensive European imports of mistletoe for their Christmas kisses.

Jess Price, from the Sussex Wildlife Trust, said: “Although we don’t want to stop Christmas kisses, we want people to appreciate mistletoe and the threat it faces.”

Mistletoe has long been associated with Christmas and mid-winter customs.

It is believed to date back to pre-historic times when it was used as a symbol of ongoing life during the winter months.

According to the National Trust, traditional orchards have declined by more than 60% since the 1950s, and by up to 90% in Devon and Kent.

Its disappearance is proving a concern because it helps support wildlife, providing winter food for birds such as the blackcap and mistle thrush.

It also supports six specialist insects, including the scarce mistletoe marble moth, some sap-sucking bugs and the affectionately-named “kiss me slow weevil”.

A project was started two years ago by the National Trust and Natural England to help reverse the loss of the habitat by restoring traditional orchards, supporting small cottage industries producing cider and juices and promoting the growth of community-run orchards.

A National Trust spokesman said: “Orchards remain a key area of work for the trust and mistletoe is a major part of their story and history.

“Across England, orchards have disappeared, so mistletoe has dwindled. It’s important that we support this plant for wildlife reasons.

“It needs to be harvested or will kill off trees, and to support local farmers who sell mistletoe and to maintain this Christmas tradition.

“People can also grow their own mistletoe. The best time is February to graft it on to fruit trees.”

via BBC News.