Monty’s at it again! His annual mistletoe misinformation project is reduced to one small paragraph this year, published as usual in that bastion of misinformation, the Daily Mail. For comment on one of his longer previous efforts have a look at the the Mistletoe Diary for Dec 15th last winter.
Here’s the new article line by line – with my comments
MONTY’S PLANT OF THE WEEK (Daily Mail 28th Dec)
Mistletoe (Viscum album)
“Mistletoe is a parasite.” Almost correct – mistletoe is a hemi-parasite, as it produces its own metabolites through photosynthesis, just like non-parasites.
“The seed is deposited on the bark of a host tree and puts its root into the branch, tapping into its nutrients.” Yes the seed is deposited on the tree’s bark but it doesn’t have ‘roots’ and doesn’t grow ‘into’ the branch – it just penetrates the bark and make the tree’s growth cells grow around it. The only nutrients it takes are from the tree’s xylem system, which is just water and minerals from the soil, not the tree’s own metabolites.
“As the mistletoe grows outwards its roots are growing inwards.” See comments above – mistletoe does not have roots – and does NOT grow inwards – it makes the host grow outwards around it… (and so creates an illusion that it grows inwards – which is a remarkable phenomenon and surely worth mentioning Monty? ).
“Eventually these block the tree’s nutrient supply and the branch dies, killing its parasite with it.” No (see comments above) – though the branch and tree will be much stressed by the mistletoe and too many mistletoes will hasten tree death. For more on the actual mechanisms Monty might try actually reading it up – he could start with some of the info I reviewed here recently on mistletoe and tree mortality – it’s absolutely fascinating stuff and, again, surely worth covering truthfully Monty??
“Mistletoe loves apples, hawthorn and poplar, but no one knows why it grows in some places and not others, although air quality and humidity seem to be important, as does the migration pattern of birds such as blackcaps that excrete the seed onto suitable branches.” Where to start with this one?? Yes the tree list is accurate, but reasons why it grows where it grows are fairly well understood (though obviously not by Monty) and have nothing to do with air quality (is he getting it confused with lichens???) and whilst blackcaps have a role, their winter role in Britain is only recent, in the last few decades, so is most definitely NOT the reason for mistletoe’s established distribution.
And blackcaps wipe the berry – they don’t excrete it. That might seem a minor point but it’s not – it is fundamentally important to how new winter populations of blackcaps might be gradually changing mistletoe distribution – perhaps the most fascinating mistletoe fact of the moment – which is extremely newsworthy and gardening-relevant – though, sadly, it seems to have passed by Monty entirely.
As I said last year, though not in these words, how does he gets paid for this tripe?
If it was written by a non-specialist it would be forgivable – but such inaccurate info from a ‘gardening expert’ is not, in my view, acceptable.
Commercial break – if you want some accurate information on mistletoe…
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And try The English Mistletoe Shop for Grow-Kits, Grow-Kit Gift Cards, Books etc, and mistletoe of course.