Brittany is, by tradition, where a lot of mistletoe (le Gui) grows – it is after all the land of the Druids, and the home of those indomitable Gauls Asterix and Obelix (mistletoe is the principle ingredient in their strength-giving magic potion). There are Breton mistletoe festivals, and period pictures (see left) of Breton Mistletoe Sellers – Marchants du Gui.
So why is it that on previous trips to Brittany we’ve hardly seen any Gui? Normandy has loads of it in the apple orchards, as does the rest of France. But when wandering the south western parts of Brittany a few years ago we saw very little. This time we’re in northern parts, just inland of Roscoff, though travelling via St Malo (once a great mistletoe exporting port). Will there be plus du Gui ici? (you’ll have to excuse my bad French).
Well, no, not a lot. Fair amount visible from the coast roads between St Malo and Roscoff – some splendid stands just inland of Cap Frehel, but not much really. There are several factors to consider – the two most important being season and orchards. The season is still early – most host trees still have their leaves and so not all mistletoe will be visible. But the poplars, classic French mistletoe hosts, have lost their leaves already, and there aint much mistletoe about.
The Orchard factor is more intriguing – in the UK, and adjoining Normandy, mistletoe thrives on the old apple orchards, and so would be expected to be in the orchards here. But we’re not seeing any orchards (les vergers) here, despite Brittany being famous for its Cider. More on this in next posting…